Leukemia, Myelodysplastic Syndrome, Blood Cancers Caused by Railroad Engine Diesel Exhaust Fumes | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Diesel locomotives replaced steam engines in the 1930s and have since been a mainstay in the railroad industry. If you were employed with a railroad company as a conductor, engineer, electrician, mechanic, or other type of laborer, you were likely exposed to significant amounts of diesel exhaust fumes. Unfortunately, scientists have gathered a large body of evidence over the last 50 years that indicate chemicals contained within diesel exhaust fumes are known carcinogens. 


Railroad workers exposed to diesel exhaust fumes have an increased risk for various types of cancer, including leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, multiple myeloma, and other blood system disorders. At Shapiro & Appleton, we are dedicated to helping workers suffering these types of diseases in seeking compensation from the railroad to cover expenses they incur as a result. Under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), railroad companies can be held accountable for failing to warn you about the dangers of diesel exhaust. As experienced railroad accident/FELA lawyers, you can count on us to provide the trusted guidance and professional legal representation you need in filing your FELA claim. 


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Diesel Exhaust Fumes and Blood Cancers


During the diesel engine combustion process, an exhaust is produced that contains a mix of gases and soot. The gas portion is comprised primarily of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur oxides, and hydrocarbons, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The soot is made up of microscopic particulate matter that also contains PHAs, as well as carbons, organic materials, and trace amounts of metallic compounds.  PHAs are known carcinogens, as is benzene, an aromatic hydrocarbon contained within diesel exhaust particles (DEP) and gasses.   


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are clear links between occupational exposure to benzene and blood cancer. Benzene damages the bone marrow and decreases the amount of circulating blood cells. This can cause low red blood cell levels, resulting in anemia.  It can also cause mutations of the DNA within the blood cells, resulting in leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, or other potentially life threatening blood cancers.  


Leukemia, Myelodysplastic Syndrome, And Other Blood System Disorders 


Benzene is derived from petroleum, which is used extensively in gasoline. Industrial and transportation workers are routinely exposed to it, as is the general public through pollution and other products containing smaller amounts of benzene, such as household cleaners, detergents, glue, and paint.  However, studies on the harmful effects of diesel exhaust conducted during the 70s and 80s show that particulate matter containing PAHs and aromatic hydrocarbons, including benzene, is 50 to 100 times more concentrated in diesel exhaust fumes. This puts railroad workers at an increased risk. 


The easy transmission of benzene through microscopic diesel exhaust particles (DEP) mean that it is not only engineers, conductors, carmen, switchmen, and other railroad laborers in or near engine rooms who are at risk. These particulates can spread easily throughout the area, impacting dispatchers, mechanics, rail car loaders, and other train or rail station employees. The high levels of exposure to benzene among these workers has an adverse effect on bodily systems and blood forming organs, resulting in various types of blood cancers. Conditions common among railroad employees exposed to benzene through diesel exhaust soot and gases include: 


  • Leukemia, a type of cancer that impacts the body’s ability to produce blood cells needed to fight infection;
  • Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a group of cancers that prevents the bone marrow from producing mature, healthy blood cells;
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, in which white blood cells invade the lymph nodes, resulting in potentially cancerous tumors;
  • Multiple Myeloma, which causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, impacting the production of blood plasma. 


Railroad Worker Compensation For Leukemia, Myelodysplastic Syndrome, and Other Blood Cancers Caused By Diesel Exhaust Exposure


After years of faithful work in the railroad industry, getting a diagnosis of leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, or other types of blood cancer as a result of your exposure to diesel exhaust fumes is devastating. It is even more dismaying to find out that the railroad company was aware of the risks and failed to warn you or take the steps needed to protect your health. As a railroad worker, when your employers negligence is clearly to blame for injuries or illnesses you suffer, you may be entitled to benefits through the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). 

At Shapiro & Appleton, we can guide you in seeking compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering. As a nationally renowned law firm, we have successfully obtained settlements and jury awards for sick and injured railroad employees totaling millions of dollars. To discuss your rights in filing a claim and how we can help, call or contact our railroad worker/FELA claims attorneys online to request a consultation today.