For over 100 years, asbestos materials have helped enable success of 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 insulation protection against heat generated by steam and coal-powered engines.
The railroad industry used asbestos to insulate machinery and pipes throughout the train system, and lined entire passenger cars with asbestos – within walls, ceilings, and in the form of floor tiles.
Many of the parts required for trains to function were also composed of asbestos, including brake shoes and gaskets. The gaskets were often custom cut-to-size by railroad workers, and when asbestos products are cut into, small asbestos fibers are released into the air. These fibers were not only inhaled by the worker doing the cutting, but also by anyone who happened to be in the area.
Research conducted over the past two decades shows that railroad workers have a considerably higher chance than the general population of developing diseases associated with asbestos exposure including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Given the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases, there remains a very good possibility that thousands of mesothelioma cases have yet to emerge for those who worked within the railroad system of America.