Welding Fumes

Many railroad workers are at elevated risk for cancer and other serious illnesses as a result of being occupationally exposed to welding fumes.

Why are Railroad Workers Exposed to Welding Fumes?

Welding is integral to many of the maintenance and construction activities that are required for the normal operation of the railroads. Unfortunately, the railroads historically failed to implement basic precautions necessary to protect their employees from welding fume exposure. Consequently, many railroad shop workers, car department employees, and track department workers have suffered needless exposures to significant amounts of toxic welding fumes.

welding fumes exposure

What are Welding Fumes?

The term “welding fumes” refers to the toxic mixture of metal oxide, silicate, and fluoride particulates released into the air during welding. [1] The exact composition of welding fumes depends on the metal that is being vaporized during the welding process. Metals commonly found in welding fumes include aluminum, antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silver, tin, titanium, vanadium, and zinc. [2]

Is Exposure to Welding Fumes Dangerous?

Yes. Exposure to welding fumes can cause permanent damage to your organs and nervous system. Chronic exposures over time can lead to the development of long-term and potentially fatal illnesses.

Do Welding Fumes Cause Cancer?

Yes, exposure to welding fumes is known to cause cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies welding fumes as a Group 1 carcinogen. The IARC also classifies many of the common constituents of welding fumes as Group 1 carcinogens. Examples of other group 1 carcinogens include asbestos, benzene, plutonium, and tobacco.

Which Cancers are Caused by Exposure to Welding Fumes?

Exposure to welding fumes is known to cause lung cancer and is strongly associated with other cancers such as kidney cancer. Welding fumes exposure can also lead to the development of neurological disorders and life-threatening pulmonary conditions. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with one of the following conditions, you may be eligible for compensation under the FELA.

How Do Dangerous Exposures to Welding Fumes Occur?

Inhalation is the primary route for dangerous exposures to welding fumes. Anyone nearby to where welding occurs risks inhaling air that is contaminated with welding fumes. The worst exposures tend to occur in unventilated environments; however, a significant exposure to welding fumes can occur even in well ventilated areas. Welding fumes can hang in the air for hours. Consequently, adequate ventilation systems and respiratory protection are necessary to protect workers from persistent exposure to airborne welding fumes. Working outdoors or in wide open spaces does not guarantee adequate ventilation.

How can I Tell if I Suffered a Dangerous Exposure to Welding Fumes?

Common symptoms of an acute exposure to welding fumes include eye, nose, and throat irritation; dizziness; and nausea. If you suffer any of these symptoms after being exposed to welding fumes you should immediately leave the area, seek fresh air, and obtain medical attention. [2] Intense exposures to welding fumes can also result in metal fume fever which is characterized by flu-like symptoms such as chills, low-level fever, fatigue, nausea, sore throat, and body aches.

Unfortunately, significant welding fume exposures often occur without the afflicted individual developing any symptoms. As a result, it can be difficult to know when you are being exposed and even low-level exposures can result in long-term illness over time. If you have worked in an unventilated environment without respiratory protection near welding operations, you were likely exposed to potentially dangerous levels of welding fumes.

How Often Were Railroad Workers Exposed to Welding Fumes?

Many railroad workers are exposed to welding fumes on a daily basis. Those working in locomotive and railcar maintenance facilities are particularly at risk for dangerous exposures. Our mechanical department clients typically start with welding fumes when describing their most consistent, everyday exposure. At any given time, someone was welding in the shop. Ventilation systems were either non-existent or poorly maintained, allowing the welding fumes to linger in the air. Respirators were sparsely available. Sadly, these conditions inevitably resulted in dangerous exposures to welding fumes.

What can I do if I was Exposed to Welding Fumes?

If you or a loved one was exposed to welding fumes while working for a railroad and have been diagnosed with a related disease, the attorneys at Hughes Law Offices may be able to help. These are complicated cases that require experienced attorneys. While you and your loved ones focus on recovery, let us do the work needed to prove your case. Contact Hughes Law Offices today at 312-877-5588 for a free attorney consultation.

Railroad Welding Fumes Verdicts & Settlements

$175,000 settlement (Illinois, 2007)

A railroad car department welder had been employed by the Springfield Terminal Railway Company since 1985. In 2002, he was hospitalized and diagnosed with metal fume fever. The plaintiff filed suit against his employer alleging that he had been hospitalized on numerous other occasions with metal fume fever and other illnesses. Throughout his employment, the Plaintiff had not been provided with respiratory protection and frequently worked in unventilated or poorly ventilated environments. The parties agreed to settle the case. (LaFountain v. Springfield Terminal Railway Company)

$19,170,000 verdict (New Jersey, 2005)

A railroad carman worked for Central Railroad of New Jersey, Conrail, and for New Jersey Transit. During his employment he was exposed to welding fumes, metal dust, silica, sawdust, and asbestos. As a result of his exposures, he developed pulmonary fibrosis and passed away at the age of 50 while awaiting a lung transplant. His estate brought suit for negligence under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Prior to trial, Conrail settled for $500,000. The Jury held New Jersey Transit 50% liable, Conrail 35% liable, Central Railroad 7% liable, and the Plaintiff 7% liable. The net reward was adjusted to $11,430,000 accordingly. (Fuccilli v. New Jersey Transit)

Hughes Law Offices is providing railroad case histories to inform visitors about actual case fact patterns and rulings. Unless specifically noted, the cases summarized herein were not handled by attorneys at Hughes Law Offices.



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