If you worked in the railroad industry, you may have been exposed to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral fiber that may cause cancer. Asbestos use has significantly declined due to safety concerns, but that change came too late for many who worked with it.
If you or someone you love suffers an asbestos-related illness in Kentucky,contact our office in Louisville toll-free at 855-385-9532. You may be eligible for compensation for the harm done to you and your family.
How Were Asbestos-Containing Products Used on Trains and Locomotives?
Some of the asbestos-containing parts in locomotives and trains included:
- Brake Pads and Brake Shoes: Asbestos was commonly used as a brake lining and shoe component to improve their heat resistance and friction properties. This allowed for better braking performance, particularly in heavy-duty and high-speed trains
- Gaskets and Seals: Asbestos gaskets and seals were used in various engine components and equipment to prevent fluid and gas leaks while providing heat resistance
- Thermal Insulation: Asbestos-containing materials were used for heat insulation in locomotive engines, boiler systems, and steam pipes to reduce heat loss and improve energy efficiency
- Electrical Insulation: Asbestos was used as electrical insulation to protect wiring and electrical components from heat and fire
- Soundproofing: Asbestos was occasionally used for sound dampening and noise reduction in certain parts of locomotives and passenger compartments
The asbestos industry actively hid the health dangers of asbestos in thousands of products it sold to a wide range of industries, including those involved in transportation. In addition to trains, asbestos products were in cars, trucks, planes, ships, and even spacecraft.
Why Were Asbestos-Containing Products Used on Trains and Locomotives?
Asbestos was used primarily due to its unique properties, making it well-suited for specific applications in the railway industry. The key reasons were:
- Heat Resistance: Asbestos is highly heat-resistant. That made it attractive to use on locomotives and trains because some of their equipment generates significant heat. Asbestos-containing materials were used on engine components, boiler systems, and steam pipes to prevent overheating and fires and protect those working near them
- Fire Resistance: Asbestos is a fire-resistant material, so it was used to prevent fire, stop its spread, or slow it down. Locomotives and trains were susceptible to fires due to flammable fuels and hot surfaces. Asbestos-containing materials, such as brake linings and insulation, were also used to reduce the risk of fires
- Friction Properties: Asbestos fibers are extremely strong and durable, so they have excellent friction properties, making them ideal for use in railroad brake linings and brake shoes. Asbestos-containing brake materials provided reliable stopping power and improved braking performance, essential for the safe operation of trains, mainly when trains carried heavy loads or traveled at high speed
- Electrical Insulation: Asbestos was used as electrical insulation in specific components of locomotives and trains to protect wiring and electrical systems from heat-related issues and potential fire risks
- Soundproofing: Asbestos materials were occasionally used for sound dampening and noise reduction in locomotive engines and passenger compartments, providing a more comfortable ride for passengers and crew
Federal safety regulations forced many asbestos-containing products off the market in the late 1970s. Older equipment still in use may have asbestos-containing products in or on them.
Who Was Exposed to Asbestos-Containing Products Used in Trains and Locomotives?
Many were exposed over time, mostly:
- Railway Workers: Maintenance, repair, and construction workers involved in the railway industry, including locomotive engineers, mechanics, boiler operators, and maintenance personnel, were at a high risk of asbestos exposure. They came into contact with asbestos-containing materials during the inspection, repair, or replacement of locomotive parts, such as brakes, gaskets, insulation, and seals
- Railroad Car Builders and Repair Workers: Employees involved in building and repairing railroad cars could be exposed to asbestos, especially when working with brake systems, insulation, and other components that might contain asbestos
- Train Conductors and Crew: Train conductors, engineers, and other crew members who frequently worked near locomotives and trains might have been exposed to asbestos fibers released during routine operations or maintenance activities
- Station and Depot Workers: Personnel working in train stations, depots, and maintenance facilities could be exposed to asbestos particles released during the handling, storage, or disposal of asbestos-containing materials
- Family Members of These Workers: Those working with asbestos-containing products often returned home with fibers on their work clothes. When this happened, they could come loose when the person walked into the home, took them off, and when they were washed, exposing family members to asbestos
- Passengers: While the primary risk of asbestos exposure was associated with occupational settings, passengers on older trains might have been exposed to low levels of asbestos fibers if certain materials in the passenger compartments or brake systems contained asbestos
The newer the equipment, the less asbestos should be used. But it’s still possible for a railroad worker to be exposed to asbestos.
Why is Asbestos Dangerous?
Asbestos is a health threat because of its unique physical and chemical properties. Fibers are extremely light, so when they’re liberated from products, they can float through the air, where they’re inhaled or swallowed. They can’t be broken down or destroyed by the immune system, so they could be in people for the rest of their lives.
Over decades, fibers can trigger changes in the body that result in various cancers, including mesothelioma. They are tough to treat and usually fatal. If enough fibers are inhaled, they and the scar tissue they cause clog the lungs and cause asbestosis.
Call Us Today For A Free Consultation
If you or a loved one worked in the railroad industry and are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, Satterley & Kelley, PLLC attorneys are here to help. To reach our Louisville office, call 855-385-9532. You may also complete our contact form for a free initial consultation.