Information about Railroad Worker Cancers and Mesothelioma Caused by Asbestos in the Railroad Workplace

Update: For additional information about railroad worker mesothelioma cancer caused by asbestos, take a look at this article written by a lawyer who has decades of experience handling mesothelioma cancer claims.


The nation's railroads were one of the largest users of asbestos insulating products beginning as early as the 1930s, if not earlier. Every steam locomotive engine had a massive blanket of asbestos wrapping it entirely under its metal train body. On top of this, every pipe and steam line was covered in asbestos insulation because it was so hot inside steam locomotives and also workers needed to feed the steam engine itself. Many types of gaskets were made of asbestos, and even into the 1980s and 1990s diesel railroad engines also included asbestos insulating materials, one of the big cover ups is that the nation's railroads were contending for years that diesel locomotives did not have asbestos.

Lately, the industrial safety experts hired by the railroads realize they cannot say there was no asbestos on diesel locomotives, so the current argument is that there was no asbestos that got airborne, according to their "experts."

Why did the nation's railroads not remove the known asbestos insulation from diesel locomotive engines? Because removing all of the stuff costs money. Many of the railroads knowingly chose to only remove asbestos when other major repairs were being done on the engines, or other railroads simply delayed removal of asbestos from diesel engines. This is despite one of the railroad's prominent medical doctors arguing that all asbestos should be removed from engines and other places by the late 1970s, in a memo to his colleagues that is attached. Already by this time railroads including the Chessie system (which later became CSX), had workers contracted terminal mesothelioma and  importantly the workers did not even have extensive asbestos exposure.

In delaying any action to remove asbestos from diesel locomotive engines, the railroads played russian roulette with its own railroad workers knowing that even an invisible amount of tiny asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer or mesothelioma, decades after the minimal exposure to asbestos.

Also, the railroads were knowledgeable by the 1960s and 1970s that railroad workers who smoke cigarettes were especially facing high risks of cancers. Medical researchers learned that for reasons that are not completely understood, workers that are exposed to asbestos, and who also smoke cigarettes, had about 83 fold relative risk increase whereas there was only a 10% relative risk increase in asbestos workers who were not smokers! In other words, the relative risk for smokers of over a packet day compared to non-smoking asbestos workers was a difference of about 73 fold relative risk increase. This is called the synergistic effect of combining asbestos fiber exposure and cigarette smoking and sadly the railroads never notified railroad workers who smoke about this increased relative risk, but let's remember the railroads never told workers about the asbestos being in the engines either.

Also, any asbestos disease process has a latency period. This means that it may be decades after exposure that a railroad worker contracts a lung cancer, bladder cancer, colon cancer, or other type of cancer such as mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is caused exclusively by exposure to airborne asbestos. The disease affects the lining of the lung and there can be no underlying asbestos related lung disease prior to contraction of these types of cancers either. These types of cancers have been known to affect engineers, brakemen, conductors, switchmen, car repair workers and carman and anyone working around the asbestos exposures on the railroad.

If you'd like additional information about asbestos and mesothelioma cancer, please check out these articles...

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
my husband case has been going o for 13 years with southfork railroad i live in knoxville
by gloria andrewa January 21, 2013 at 05:55 AM
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