It is well known that people who work in the railroad industry tend to face a wide range of occupational hazards on a regular basis due to the nature of their work. Exposure to toxic chemicals, in particular, is one of the most dangerous hazards they face on the job, as a result of which they are at a significantly higher risk of developing cancer compared to the general population.
Exposure to Toxic Chemicals in a Rail Yard
Railroad workers regularly handle and come into contact with the following materials that are known to contain toxic chemicals.
- Diesel exhaust
- Industrial grade solvents
- Locomotive coolants
- Heavy metals
- Brake and hydraulic fluids
- Paint thinners
Exposure to diesel exhaust – in particular – can be extremely harmful to your health. Diesel exhaust consists of a number of chemicals – the most harmful of which are benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Risks Associated with Exposure to Benzene
Accidental exposure to benzene – even if it is for a brief period of time – can result in the following symptoms.
- Irregular heartbeats
- Loss of consciousness
Benzene can affect the ability of your bone marrow to produce red blood cells, as a result of which you might develop severe anemia. Similarly, it can also cause the loss of white blood cells in your body and weaken your immune system.
Research shows that long-term exposure to benzene can cause acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which is a type of cancer that primarily affects your bone marrow and blood. While AML can be cured with chemotherapy, it can recur after a period of time and the long-term survival rate of people with relapsed AML is generally very low.
Long-term exposure to benzene is also known to increase the risk of other types of cancers like myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
Risks Associated with Exposure to PAHs
Short-term exposure to PAHs can result in the following symptoms.
- Irritation in the eyes
Long-term exposure to PAHs, on the other hand, can lead to the following complications.
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
Why Railroad Workers Are Exposed to Toxic Hazards
Diesel-run locomotives, forklifts, and cranes and diesel-powered generators can be commonly found in rail yards. This is one of the main reasons why many railroad workers are constantly exposed to diesel exhaust fumes.
Similarly, railroad workers tend to handle cargo containing hazardous materials on a regular basis. The most common classes of hazardous materials that are transported through railroads include:
- Corrosive substances
- Heavy metals
If a package containing hazardous materials is not properly secured, it can result in a hazmat accident, during which workers might come into contact with toxic chemicals.
Negligence of Railroad Employers
Employers are required to inform and educate their workers on the hazards associated with toxic chemicals and train them to handle these substances properly. Unfortunately, many employers fail to do it, as a result of which workers are not aware of the dangers associated with the materials they handle or come into contact with constantly.
Employers are also required to reduce the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals at the worksite by providing their workers with high-quality personal protective equipment. Many employers fail to do it as well, as a result of which workers are completely unprotected against these hazards.
Long-Term Consequences of Exposure to Toxic Chemicals
Long-term exposure to diesel exhaust, heavy metals, and asbestos can affect the liver and kidneys severely. It can lead to lung-related diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. It can also increase the risk of other types of cancers including throat cancer, bladder cancer, colon cancer, and leukemia.
The treatment for the aforementioned diseases can be expensive. What is even worse is that in some cases, you might notice any symptoms until the cancer spreads to other areas of the body.
Even if you are cured of the disease, you might not be able to work like you used to do before you were diagnosed with the disease. Your earning capacity might be reduced significantly, as a result of which you might struggle to make ends meet and take care of your family.
How Our Railroad Injury Lawyers Can Help You
At Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, we know that exposure to diesel exhaust and other such toxic substances can have serious, long-term consequences. If you have been diagnosed with a health problem, we can take legal action against your employer on your behalf for failing to provide you with a safe work environment.
We can collect the evidence needed to hold your employer accountable for their negligence and fight hard to recover the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).
We have 30 years of experience in handling railroad injury claims and have a track record of obtaining multi-million dollar damages for our clients. We can help you get justice and the financial restitution you deserve. Call us today at 800-752-0042 or contact us online for a free review of your case.