If you are on this page, it is likely because you or a loved one was recently diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome(MDS). This serious medical condition used to be referred to as "preleukemia." Many railroad workers exposed to benzene diesel exhaust fumes during their careers may wind up being diagnosed with MDS. If that is the case, our team of experienced railroad disease attorneys are here to help.
MDS is an extremely rare disease affecting roughly 4 in 100,000 people. The average age of an individual diagnosed with MDS is about 65 years old. That is such a cruel age to receive this type of diagnosis since it means someone who is in their proverbial "golden years" or just starting to enter those sought-after retirement years is suddenly afflicted with this terrible disease.
Approximately 10,000 to 20,000 new MDS diagnoses occur each year in the United States. Though, an exact number is difficult to determine since MDS can go undiagnosed for years. The incidence is probably increasing as the age of the population increases.
Studies have shown that many patients diagnosed with MDS have a history of being exposed to radiation and/or toxic fumes like benzene diesel exhaust. Railroad workers are particularly at risk since numerous rail employees have been exposed to benzene while working in and around the rail yard.
How Railroad Workers May Develop MDS
Benzene can be absorbed into the human body through your skin or if you inhale it. For most railroad workers, they likely developed MDS by breathing in benzene diesel exhaust fumes. This is because benzene is highly evaporative and anyone working in an area where this toxic chemical is being used is susceptible to inhaling the harmful, disease-causing vapors.
In addition to MDS, benzene exposure can cause anemia and damage your immune system. Benzene exposure has also been linked to an increased risk of leukemia, lymphomas/Hodgkin's disease and other forms of occupational cancers, including bladder cancer.
Did the Railroads Know?
Benzene has been widely used as a solvent, especially for the purposes of degreasing locomotives, as well as being present in diesel exhaust. Did the railroads - like Norfolk Southern (NS), CSX, Amtrak, Burlington Northern, etc. - know that they were exposing their workers to potentially deadly toxic chemicals? Well, concerns over workplace chemicals and fumes were raised back in the 1950s, but many railroads decided to roll the dice and not take the steps necessary to improve workplace safety. The consequences of this inaction are still being felt today. Thousands of workers, including trainmen, switchmen, conductors, engineers, etc. have developed life-threatening diseases such as MDS, mesothelioma, lung cancer, bladder cancer, and so forth.