Occupational Disease & Toxic Exposure

For decades, railroaders unknowingly worked in toxic environments, exposed to carcinogens, chemicals, and airborne particles that the railroad industry knew caused cancer and other ailments known as occupational diseases.

When railroad workers become ill and the railroad failed to maintain a reasonable safe working environment, the workers or their families are entitled to compensation under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA). The experienced railroad attorneys of Bolt Hoffer Boyd have handled a wide range of occupational disease and toxic exposure cases, including:

  • Cancers and mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos
  • Cancers and respiratory diseases caused by diesel exhaust
  • Benzene, creosote, and other sources of exposure
Diesel Exhaust

Diesel exhaust contains chemical compound particulates, chemicals, and hard metals such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and benzene. Individually, these chemicals and metal particulates have long been known to cause cancer. Combined, they create a high risk of occupational disease for those in frequent contact with diesel exhaust and smoke.

The railroad industry knew or should have known that exposure to diesel exhaust could cause disease, but did not ventilate cabs, replace equipment, or even warn workers. Often the risk was compounded when rear-facing locomotive units blew exhaust and emitted fumes directly into the trailing locomotive, or when locomotives were sent into insufficiently ventilated tunnels or facilities.

Scientific studies and medical literature illustrate the connection between diesel exhaust and occupational diseases. Diesel fumes are particularly dangerous, as microscopic particulates and chemicals, not visible to the eye, lodge deep into the lungs when breathed in. They remain lodged in the lungs because the body is unable to clear the particles.

Railroaders in many different crafts were exposed, including those in the operating departments such as engineers, conductors, fireman, and brakeman, and those in yard towers, shops, and maintenance facilities, among others. Workers with diseases caused by diesel exhaust, or families of those who died from these diseases, are entitled to compensation if the railroad knew or should have known about the dangers of diesel exhaust.

Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure created another significant risk for railroad workers. For many decades, materials containing asbestos, including insulation, brake and friction products, and gaskets, were widely used in the railroad industry. Asbestos manufacturers and the railroad industry were aware early on that asbestos could cause disease and deadly cancers like mesothelioma. But neither industry warned of the hazards of exposure to asbestos dust, provide safety equipment, or abate asbestos from the workplace until decades later. Today many workers suffer from asbestos-related disease.

The three-year FELA statute of limitations begins at the time that you knew or should have known that the railroad’s failure to provide a safe workplace caused an occupational disease such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, or lymphoma. It can be difficult to identify this exact date and the clock starts ticking immediately.

Contact the knowledgeable, experienced FELA attorneys of Bolt Hoffer Boyd as soon as you’re aware of the diagnosis and you or your doctor suspect that exposure occurred on the railroad. We find the root cause of occupational diseases and move quickly to protect your rights. Call us today for your initial consultation.


Our Railroad and Train Accident Attorneys

Call us today for a free consultation: 763.406.7000

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