Mesothelioma is a kind of cancer that attacks the protective lining of the body’s vital organs. In most cases, malignant cells form in the outer lining of the lungs and the inner chest wall, but the disease can attack the heart and other organs as well. Most people who contract mesothelioma are those who have worked with asbestos, and may have been exposed to asbestos fibers, dust, or particles. For more than a century, asbestos was a material for use in the construction industry. It was fire-retardant, inexpensive, and had high electrical resistivity. Now, asbestos is almost synonymous with the cause of mesothelioma.
Railroad work is one of the industrial settings where asbestos was used and exposed workers to being at risk for this kind of fatal cancer. Some railroad workers came into contact with asbestos in the course of their regular work day, creating the risk. Workers who dealt with engines, engineers who ran the trains, and shop workers like machinists also came into contact with the train engines. Often, asbestos was used in the shoes covering a train’s brakes. Boilers and boiler pipers were also insulated with asbestos. As recently as the 1980s, many railroad companies and manufacturers of train carriages still purchased and used materials made from asbestos.
Although the railroad industry knew of the dangers of asbestos, it was not until 1989 that the EPA issued a final rule that banned new use of asbestos. The fact that the railroad industry continued to use asbestos materials until the ban has led to a high percentage of rail company employees with this occupational illness which is unlikely to decline any time soon. In fact, locomotives using asbestos insulation may have been in use as late as the 1990s. This means that we will continue to see railroad related mesothelioma cases for many years to come, as mesothelioma doesn’t develop right away. The symptoms of the disease include shortness of breath, painful breathing, infections, and ultimately death. The cancer’s effects can be treated (but not cured) with surgery, chemotherapy or other radiation, drugs, draining of fluid, and sometimes even lung removal.
The railroad employers, like Norfolk Souther and CSX, may be liable under the FELA law for workers who get this terrible disease from their careers on engines or in repair shops. Sadly, many FELA mesothelioma clients do not live to get to court and the injury cases become wrongful death cases for their families.
For additional information about railroad worker mesothelioma cancer, take a look at this article written by a FELA lawyer with over two decades of experience handling asbestos-related mesothelioma cancer claims.