Diesel Exhaust Linked to Cancer
Since the end of World War II when railroads shifted to diesel engines, it has been widely acknowledged that diesel exhaust contains harmful substances that can lead to cancer. Diesel exhaust includes chemicals like arsenic, dioxin, benzene, and chromium, all of which are known to be cancer-causing agents. So, it was common knowledge, even among railroads, that the smoke from diesel locomotives was loaded with cancer-causing agents. However, it wasn’t until 2012 that The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared diesel exhaust itself as a confirmed cause of cancer.
WHO specifically stated that exposure to diesel exhaust can lead to lung cancer and/or acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This declaration makes it challenging for railroads to dispute claims from their employees who have developed lung cancer due to their exposure to diesel exhaust in the workplace.
Railroad Work Linked to Cancer
Workers such as diesel mechanics and carmen, responsible for maintaining diesel engines and railcars, often labor in poorly ventilated shops and roundhouses where engines run in confined spaces. In addition to diesel exhaust, these areas are often filled with harmful substances like dust, fumes, and vapors stemming from activities like welding and metal cutting. To exacerbate matters, asbestos-insulated pipes, brakes, and gaskets were frequently modified and reshaped in these locations, making the air quality even more hazardous.
Many of the most harmful toxins found in diesel exhaust stick to the soot, which consists of tiny particles that can be easily inhaled and deposited into the lungs. Besides causing damage to lung tissue, these substances can trigger mutations in lung cells, ultimately leading to the development of lung cancer and/or acute myeloid leukemia (AML).