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| Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn

TCE, PERC and CCL4 just sound bad for a person. Given their full chemical names of trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene and carbon tetrachloride, the widely used solvents prove no healthier than would be imagined.

A study reported in the November 14, 2011, issue of the Annals of Neurology has linked workplace exposure to the chemicals to increased risk for developing Parkinson’s disease. TCE had the worst risk profile, giving people who work with the solvent regularly a six-times higher chance for the degenerative neuromuscular condition.

The research findings troubled me for two reasons. First, it turns out that TCE is literally everywhere. According to the authors of the Annals article, the chemical is found in dirt, water and air, as well as in degreasing agents, “dry-cleaning solutions, adhesives, paints and carpet cleaners.”

In addition to knowing that TCE and the rest threatened my own health to some extent, I knew that many of the railroad workers and my Virginia personal injury attorney colleagues and I represent could truly be in trouble. Solvents are everywhere on trains and in rail yards and machine shops. Degreasers are used by shop workers, maintainence crews, trackmen and other rail workers. Just as regularly, some type of toxic exposure is injuring or sickening a rail employee.

Parkinson’s disease can develop as long as 40 years after a person was overexposed to a harmful chemical such as TCE. I strongly recommend that anyone who retired from a railroad and later began showing symptoms of the condition consult with his or her doctor about working with or around solvents. Discovering that workplace exposure to a toxic substance ncreased disease risk can lay the groundwork for filing a FELA claim. The same principle is at work in asbestos/mesothelioma lawsuits, but a plaintiff does have to file the proper paperwork within a specific time after being diagnosed.

Moving forward, regulators and employers such as Amtrak, CSX and Norfolk Southern should do as much as possible to limit workers’ use of TCE, PERC, CCL4 and other toxins.

About the Editors: The Shapiro & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits articles on The Legal Examiner on a pro bono basis to help inform the general public on important health and safety issues.

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