Railroad Workers, Asbestos Exposure, and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a very rare – but aggressive and incurable – type of cancer that develops in the mesothelium, and due to the railroad industry’s major use of asbestos insulation in various equipment and engines, it has stricken railroad workers hard for many decades.

The mesothelium acts as a protective membrane that covers the lungs, abdomen, and heart. The most frequent cause of mesothelioma is inhaling asbestos fibers. The fibers can travel into the organs and lodge in the mesothelium. This inflames and scars the DNA in cells, which results in the development of tumors. The process takes 10 to 40 years, sometimes longer.

The different types of DNA damage from asbestos fibers include:

  1. The asbestos fibers detach from insulating products, often invisible to the naked eye, and enter the cells, causing irritation and inflammation. This results in irreversible damage to the cells, scarring, and cancer.
  2. The asbestos fibers enter cells in the mesothelium, causing disruption to the life cycle of the cells that result in genetic changes. These genetic changes eventually lead to cancer.
  3. Asbestos fibers cause free radicals to produce in the cells. Free radicals damage the cells’ DNA, causing the cells to mutate.
  4. Asbestos fibers cause oncoproteins to begin producing. These proteins block the genes that protect the cells from turning cancerous and forming tumors.

Unfortunately, because the primary cause of mesothelioma is from asbestos exposure, certain occupations put people at a much higher risk of developing mesothelioma than the general population. Railroad workers are at a particularly high risk of mesothelioma because of the asbestos that was used in the equipment they worked with every day, such as on engine heating pipes, insulating sheets, gaskets, pipes, and brakes, and it was used for insulation in older railroad buildings as well.

Even though asbestos has been replaced with other insulation materials, railroad workers are still suffering the illnesses caused by asbestos exposure since it can take decades, even 50 years after exposure for mesothelioma symptoms to appear. Brakemen, conductors, engineers, and track maintenance workers all regularly came in contact with asbestos in the daily course of their work duties. Now, years later, many are being diagnosed with the terminal and debilitating asbestos caused cancers.

Types of Mesothelioma

There are three different types of mesothelioma that railroad workers can develop:

  • Pleural Mesothelioma: The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural, which develops in the lining of the lungs. It is the most common type, responsible for about 75 percent of all diagnoses. Railroad workers who have pleural mesothelioma are often misdiagnosed as having pneumonia or lung cancer.
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdomen, affecting about 25 percent of victims who develop asbestos-related mesothelioma.
  • Pericardial Mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma develops in the lining of the heart. Because it is so rare, railroad workers who have pericardial mesothelioma are often misdiagnosed as suffering from heart disease or heart failure.

Because mesothelioma is not a common disease, it is not a condition that primary doctors come into contact with often. Unfortunately, this also means that it is not a condition that doctors consider when a patient comes to them with early symptoms. This frequently leads to a delay in diagnosis, wasting valuable time that victims do not have. Even more tragic is that there is no known cure for mesothelioma. Railroad workers who are diagnosed with the disease have little to no options for curative therapies, so chemo and radiation can prolong life but do not “eliminate” the cancer. After decades of unknowingly living with a ticking time bomb, most victims have a very low life expectancy once they are finally diagnosed, usually only one to two years.

Contact a Virginia Mesothelioma Attorney Today

If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma and worked for a railroad corporation like Norfolk Southern, CSX, Amtrak, Burlington Northern, Union Pacific, or a short line railroad, contact a Virginia asbestos cancer attorney immediately to find out what legal options you may have. It is imperative that you do not delay because, under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), victims (or their families) only have three years from the time they know or should have known that their disease or death was connected to their work with the railroad.

Due to the complexity of these cases and the stringent requirements under FELA, you and your family should contact a Virginia railroad asbestos cancer attorney who is skilled in litigating these types of injury cases. The legal team at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn have extensive experience with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illness cases, and we have handled mesothelioma and related asbestos cancer cases throughout the eastern half of the USA. Call our office today for a free and confidential consultation.




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