Solvents, Leukemia, and Railway Shop Workers

Solvents are widely used on railways. Workers use solvents to break up the grease and grime that accumulate on railcars and locomotives. Most of the more commonly-used railway solvents are petroleum-based, meaning they contain benzene. Due to their repeated and prolonged exposure to petroleum solvents, a lot of car department workers, locomotive shop employees, and engineering and track department employees are subject to increased odds of developing leukemia or other illnesses than affect the bone marrow or blood. 

What makes petroleum solvents so dangerous?

As attorneys with decades of experience in handling railroad worker injuries and illnesses, we know the unfavorable conditions railway employees work in and the occupational injuries and illnesses they tend to cause. The Virginia railway injury attorneys from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp advocate for railway workers in every line of work. Our attorneys have won several multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts in significant railway injury cases. 

What are Petroleum Solvents?

Petroleum solvents are a large group of solvents derived from petroleum or a petroleum by-product such as petroleum distillates. Examples of commonly used petroleum solvents include naphtha, mineral spirits, diesel fuel, and gasoline. 

Most products that are advertised as solvents, such as carburetor cleaners, degreasers, strippers, thinners, and brake cleaners are all petroleum solvents. These solvents are also an essential component of numerous other railway-related products like lubricants, coolants, pesticides, and paint.

Petroleum solvents have been used in abundance since the early days of the railway industry. They are not, however, the only hazardous form of solvent regularly used by railways. Other hazardous solvents, like chlorinated solvents, are widely used throughout the industry as well. 

Why are Petroleum Solvents a Danger to My Health?

Petroleum solvents pose a serious health risk due to the fact that they contain benzene. 

Benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon that is also carcinogenic. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, benzene is a Group One carcinogen. Other carcinogens classified as Group One include tobacco, plutonium, and asbestos. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration all categorize benzene as a well-known carcinogen.

When someone is regularly exposed to benzene, it can interfere with the normal production and function of their blood cells. Benzene can have such a serious impact on genes that tests can actually reveal long-term genetic damage caused by exposure to benzene. When benzene exposure is occupational, it can quickly result in the development of leukemia along with other illnesses and cancers.

Specifically, benzene exposure can lead to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndrome, and acute myeloid leukemia.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma, kidney cancer, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia have also been associated with benzene exposure. 

How Much Benzene Do Petroleum Solvents Contain?

Even though every petroleum distillate is going to include some degree of benzene, there are certain petroleum solvent products that have achieved special notoriety due to their extremely high concentrations of benzene. Some of the biggest brand-name products that are often found in railway shops, such as Gumout, Liquid Wrench, SafetyKleen Parts Washers, Champion Brake Cleaner, Kutzit, and CRC are all known to contain extremely unsafe amounts of benzene.

Was My Exposure Harmful?

Benzene exposure, no matter the level, is inherently unsafe. Dangerous exposure to petroleum solvents and therefore to benzene can happen via ingestion, dermal absorption, or inhalation. The innumerable trackmen, car department workers, and railway shop employees who were forced to use petroleum and other dangerous solvents on a routine basis face the highest level of risk for developing one or more benzene-related illnesses, such as leukemia.

If you were required to work with petroleum solvents and recall a sweet smell, similar to that of gasoline, you have probably been exposed to benzene. Drowsiness and dizziness are also signs of acute benzene exposure. 

Our Law Firm Can Help

If you have been diagnosed with an illness associated with exposure to railroad solvents, contact the Virginia railroad worker injury lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp for a free case review. Call us today at (833) 997-1774 or reach out to us online. 

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