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Railroad Workers - Mesothelioma Risks

The railroad boom hit the United States around the same time that asbestos was starting to be used in building and construction. Naturally, asbestos was then used to build railroads and the trains themselves. The qualities of the material lent themselves nicely to the purposes and needs of railroads and trains. It kept the trains insulated and fireproof, it kept the brakes, wheels and clutches much stronger and able to withstand lots of pressure, and kept people safe. Best of all, it was inexpensive and plentiful, which aided in the making of these machines. For decades, asbestos worked its wonders and helped in the growth of the railroad industry. However, it was also doing great harm in the process, putting workers at risk for asbestos exposure on a daily basis. Asbestos is a known cause of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that has affected hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

Mesothelioma develops from prolonged exposure to asbestos, but can also occur from a single exposure. It is usually not diagnosed until decades later, due to its long latency period. People who have been exposed to asbestos on the job, as railroad workers are, have a much higher risk of developing mesothelioma than the average person does. In fact, insulation workers who used asbestos products have die due to mesothelioma at a rate 344 times higher than the general population.

Asbestos fibers are easily released from the material or product they are contained in just from being disturbed. On a railroad or train, disturbance happens quite often. For railroad workers, just repairing something for a few minutes can release billions of asbestos fibers into the air. These fibers become trapped in the lungs and the membrane lining the chest cavity called the mesothelium. Over time, they can build up, leading to harmful effects on the lungs and other health problems down the road. Many people fail to recognize the link between asbestos and their health problems, and neglect to inform their doctor as well. Without this vital piece of information, a doctor can easily overlook symptoms of mesothelioma and mistake them for a number of other respiratory diseases that share similar traits. It is because of this reason that people are typically in the later stages of mesothelioma when they are finally diagnosed.

Even today, railroad workers can be exposed to asbestos. As the material gets older and the products it is in start to decay, asbestos becomes even more dangerous. It can linger in the air for weeks, putting workers at risk. Mains, steam pipes, and steam cylinders are all parts of a rail train that can contain asbestos. In addition, boilers, boiler pipes, carriages and boxcars all contain asbestos as well. It is important for railroad workers to take safety measures when working on or around a train or railroad. Masks and protective clothing should be worn, as the asbestos can stick to the clothing and cause exposure later on.

Current and past railroad workers should also see a doctor frequently, to monitor health and have tests done to determine the presence of asbestos fibers or a developing mesothelioma tumor. Early action can make a big difference in a person's life, determining the difference between a long fulfilling life and another mesothelioma stat like the ones mentioned above.

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Workers at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Below are a list of occupations and trades that were at risk for asbestos exposure:

Last Edited: Thu November 14, 2013