Between the years of 1990 and 1999, the fourth most frequently listed industry on the death certificates of individuals over 15 years of age who had died from asbestosis was the railroad industry. Much research has shown that those afflicted with asbestosis – a scarring of the lungs due to asbestos fiber inhalation that makes breathing increasingly more difficult – have a greater risk of developing malignant mesothelioma cancer as well. This frightening statistic about asbestosis deaths so late in the twentieth century for railroad workers is not surprising given the history and nature of the railroad industry – an industry that has routinely utilized asbestos products for heat shielding and insulation.
For over 100 years, starting at the dawning of the age of the steam locomotive, asbestos materials have helped to enable the success of trains and the railroad industry. Like any other industry that required heat protection for machinery and human life, the railroad industry relied on asbestos for the production of carriages and engine parts and for the insulating protection against the heat generated by steam and the coal-powered engines. The railroad industry, however, also used asbestos to insulate machinery and pipes throughout the train system, and even lined entire passenger cars with asbestos well into the diesel age of locomotives – within walls, ceilings, and in the form of floor tiles.
Brake shoes for trains were also covered with asbestos, and the many gaskets required for the functioning of trains were often composed of asbestos, and custom-cut by train workers to size since customized gaskets were not standard within the industry. All these applications of asbestos within locomotives exposed workers of many kinds – engineers, train yardsmen, brakemen, train builders, repairmen and inspectors – to asbestos on a daily basis for the lengths of their careers, making railroad work particularly deadly in regards to asbestos exposure.
Research conducted over the past two decades shows that railway workers have a considerably higher chance than the general population of developing diseases associated with asbestos exposure – asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma lung cancer being the big three – and just as the first statistic on this page points to the lethality of asbestos for individuals within the railroad industry, there are other sources that claim that locomotives using asbestos insulation were still in use by the late 1990s. Given the long incubation and dormancy period required for mesothelioma lung cancer, there remains a very good possibility that many thousands of mesothelioma cases have yet to emerge for those who have worked within the railroading system of America.
If you feel you have been exposed to asbestos during your work history within the railroad industry, particularly if you know of others who have contracted mesothelioma lung cancer with whom you once worked, it is recommended that you seek counsel about your health condition and options. The Simmons firm cares and wants to help you with guidance and information. For the past decade we have been assisting clients afflicted with mesothelioma – we understand the pain a mesothelioma diagnosis can cause and truly desire to be of assistance to victims and families struggling with this disease. Contact us today to learn more about treatment and diagnosis options.