Railroad industry workers are increasingly filing lawsuits
against their employers for the effects that toxic chemicals
encountered on the job have had on their health.
The Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper spent ten months investigating claims and found that at least 80 such lawsuits are pending. Suits against Norfolk Southern Railroad, Union Pacific Railroad and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad claim the companies are responsible for brain damage
caused by chemical exposure.
, a condition characterized by short-term memory loss
, equilibrium difficulties
, and diminished mental functioning, is becoming common among railroad workers. Exposure to diesel exhaust
and certain solvents used to clean cars and locomotives are believed to cause the condition. Over 600 railroad workers have been diagnosed with Toxic Encephalopathy over the last 15 years.
The railroad industry has long used toxic cleaning solvents to degrease locomotives. Documents discovered during the investigation prove the industry knew of the danger toxic cleaning solvents posed to workers as early as the 1950s. Most railroads took steps to protect workers from the dangerous chemicals beginning in the 1960s, but CSX, a railroad based in Jacksonville, Florida, continued using the toxic solvents into the 1990s.
To date, CSX has paid over $30 million to settle lawsuits involving these solvents.
Railroad workers injured on the job are protected by the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA). Enacted in 1907, FELA provides certain benefits to injured railroad employees. The law, however, differs from workers' compensation-to recover damages, a worker must prove negligence on the part of the railroad.
There are several requirements that an injured railroad worker must establish to obtain benefits: the injury must have occurred in the course of the worker's employment with the railroad, the employer's negligence must have contributed to the worker's injury and the injury must have occurred while the worker and railroad were involved in interstate commerce between two or more states.
See your doctor if you have experienced serious health problems because of exposure to these toxic substances. In addition, it may be important to contact an attorney
who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits
within which you must commence suit.
- Workplace Injuries & Discrimination: Overview
- Allergies: Overview
- Balance Problems: Overview
- Birth Defects
- Depression: Overview
- Encephalopathy: Overview
- Fatigue: Overview
- Lung & Airway Disorders
- Memory Loss
- Miscarriage: Overview
- Nausea: Overview