Engineers who spend long shifts in locomotive cabs filled with electronic devices experience chronic electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure in the same way that, several decades ago, dirty, old diesel engines filled engineers’ lungs with damaging smoke. EMFs are generated by all electronic devices including radios, computers, and electric motors.
A new study indicates a possible link between long-term exposures to extremely low-frequency EMFs and two specific forms of railroad workers’ cancer.
Railroad Workers’ Cancer Risk
Scientific researchers analyzed the health records of over 20,000 retired Swiss railway workers over a period of 30 years and discovered strong connections between EMF exposures and myeloid leukemia, a blood cancer, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The study was published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine (OEM).
The study, led by Dr. Martin Roosli of the University of Berne, reports that train drivers had a five times higher chance of developing a specific blood cancer called myeloid leukemia than other railway workers, possibly because of long exposure to mechanical devices in the train engine cab. In addition, the study found that drivers were more than three times more likely to develop Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The researchers conclude, “Train passengers spend considerably less time in trains than the people with the occupations studied and their exposure levels and potential health risk are therefore negligible.”
Personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are actively reviewing potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been injured or became ill due to negligence in the workplace.
Railroad employees are in danger of developing occupational cancers in various ways, due to the many known carcinogens that are in the workplace environment. Asbestos, benzene exposure, chemical solvent exposure and exposure to welding fumes are typical examples of conditions which may lead to the development of railroad workers’ cancer.
Benzene is a known carcinogen and was banned for over 20 years in the United States. However, there are railroad products that still contain benzene. Also, some of the most dangerous forms of benzene are created by the burning of diesel fuel, which is then released into the environment. Benzene can be inhaled and absorbed through the skin. Previously, it was believed that benzene could only cause lung cancer, but benzene exposure has since been linked to many forms of cancer. Benzene is a chemical that is has a sweet odor and is highly flammable.
Benzene is a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. The air around hazardous waste sites or gas stations can contain higher levels of benzene than in other areas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) people working in industries that make or use benzene may be exposed to the highest levels of the chemical. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air may cause leukemia, cancer of the blood-forming organs, the CDC reports.
Aside from benzene, creosote is another carcinogen that railroad workers may be exposed to. There is evidence that creosote may cause skin cancer and cancer of the scrotum. Chemical solvents may cause chronic toxic encephalopathy (abnormal brain function) and other brain diseases.
It is unfortunate that these diseases often are not diagnosed in their early stages, thereby making them harder to treat and likely to lead to serious injury and even death.
Types of cancer commonly linked with railroad workers’ occupational exposure to known carcinogens include: lung cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, colon cancer, bone cancer, leukemia, multiple myeloma, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
Railroad Workers’ Legal Coverage
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) is a law covering railroad workers who file claims against a railroad employer in case of injury, disease, or death. Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act to allow railroad workers who may be injured on the job, a means of legal recourse and protective rights. Under FELA, complaints can be filed directly against the company by injured railroad employees if they can prove negligence as the cause of injury.
Railroad companies may be deemed negligent in cases where they: do not provide a safe work environment; do not provide proper tools or equipment; do not perform frequent inspections and maintenance; do not adequately train their employees.
Railroad workers who developed cancer have the legal right to seek compensation because their disease may have been caused by exposure to asbestos, benzene, radioactive materials or other hazardous substances.
Legal Help for Workers who may Develop Cancer
Parker Waichman LLP has years of experience representing clients in lawsuits involving personal injury in the workplace. If you or someone you know has been affected by negligence in the workplace, you may have valuable legal rights. For information or a free, no-obligation consultation, we urge you to contact the Parker Waichman lawyers at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).