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Shapiro & Appleton

California Rail Yards Increase Cancer Risk

Posted on Jun 07, 2007
A recent Los Angeles Times article reported that recent studies by California air regulators indicated people living near Southern California rail yards face cancer risks from soot as much as 140% higher than other residents. “Cancer risk rises for those near rail yards,” Wilson, J., LA Times 5/25/07. The study’s findings are at http://www.arb.ca.gov/railyard/hra/hra/htm. The risk assessments were done as a part of a voluntary agreement by the two major railroads, Union Pacific and BNSF, with the California air board. Local residents were disturbed that the health assessments do not include the risks of respiratory disease, asthma and impaired lung function, all of which have been noted in numerous studies to increase with exposure to locomotive diesel soot. The exclusion of the risks of non-cancerous respiratory diseases was because the state regulations do not call for non-cancer health risks to be included. Materials included in the studies showed that low levels of soot spread miles from the railroad yards. The UP Los Angeles facility, less than a mile from downtown, spread a fine blanket of soot up to four miles east and north of the yard, increasing the cancer risk for 1.2 million residents. Post studies indicated that ports that feed rail yard present the highest cancer risks. Such studies raise serious questions about lung cancer and injuries from soot in Hampton Roads, Virginia (VA). The coal piers and railroad yards in Newport News, Portsmouth, and Norfolk, Virginia (VA) likely give off similar air problems. Virginia may not be as progressive at testing for cancer as California (CA). As an attorney who sues the major railroads in Virginia, Norfolk Southern, and CSX, on behalf of employees hurt by the rail carriers’ negligence, I do not trust that they always put public health before profits. I know the black soot that lands on my law partner, John C.’s, porch in the Larchmont section of Norfolk, Virginia. I don’t know what its long term health effects are.
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