Mesothelioma and Subway Workers
Subways and commuter trains are the lifeblood of many American cities. They make it possible for those living in and outside of a city to travel without the gridlock that would result if everyone drove. This critical mission comes at a cost for many working for the country’s transportation authorities – mesothelioma due to on-the-job asbestos exposure.
What Do Subway Workers Do?
A subway is a passenger railway line that may travel under and above ground. They’re electrically powered and frequently stop so city and suburban residents can reach their destinations as efficiently as possible.
Those working on subways do everything from ticket sales and customer service to law enforcement, repairs and maintenance, engineering, and professional roles. Given how vital transportation is to a city’s survival, keeping these rail lines open and running is a top priority.
What are the Dangers of Asbestos to Subway Workers?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber. It’s dug up in open pit mines, refined, and used in thousands of products during the height of its popularity. It was in textiles made by the ancient Greeks, in spacecraft as a fire retardant, and it’s still used for limited purposes despite decades of medical research finding asbestos exposure can be fatal.
From the Industrial Revolution until asbestos was largely regulated out of the marketplace in the late 1970s, it was heavily used in just about every industry in some way. Asbestos didn’t corrode or conduct electricity. It was heat and fire-resistant. During its peak use, it was also plentiful and cheap.
Asbestos fibers are microscopic and light, so it’s impossible to see one floating in the air. Fibers are released into the air when asbestos-containing products are installed, repaired, removed, or replaced. Anyone nearby can inhale or swallow them.
The fibers can make their way into the:
- Digestive tract
- Membranes covering the lungs, heart, abdominal organs, chest, and abdominal cavities
Once they’re in the body, asbestos fibers will probably never leave. The body would probably recognize fibers as foreign and dangerous, so white cells attack them. The fibers are unaffected, and the white cells are destroyed instead. They spill enzymes into nearby tissue, causing harm, scarring, and inflammation.
If enough fibers are in the lungs, this process can severely restrict breathing and cause asbestosis. Over years or decades, affected lung cells mutate, become malignant, and cause cancer. This process is more likely if the person smokes.
Fibers that work their way into membranes covering organs and parts of the body over decades can cause a different kind of cancer – mesothelioma. There are several types, and they impact different parts of the body:
- Pleural mesothelioma afflicts the lung and chest cavity lining (the pleura)
- Pericardial mesothelioma impacts the membrane surrounding the heart (the pericardium)
- Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of abdominal organs and the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum)
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly cancer that usually isn’t successfully treated.
How are Subway Workers Exposed to Asbestos?
Asbestos-containing products were used widely on trains and subways. Over time employees not directly working with these products could ingest fibers during their regular duties. Steam pipes in subway tunnels could be covered in asbestos insulation. Electrical equipment might contain asbestos too.
Those most at risk maintained and repaired subway cars. They often sanded, cut, and smoothed asbestos-containing materials. Subway cars’ brake pads, linings, and clutches had asbestos. Brake parts slowly ground down, liberating asbestos fibers and leaving behind asbestos-filled dust.
Workers would breathe in and swallow these fibers. They could cover their work clothes, which could spread inside workers’ homes, and be ingested by spouses and children.
How Harmful is Mesothelioma?
Treatment probably won’t cure you. It may improve your quality of life and extend it, but the condition is most likely fatal.
- The average overall survival rate for those with pleural mesothelioma five years after diagnosis is 12%, according to the American Cancer Society. If the condition is found early, that figure improves to 20% but falls to 8% if you’re diagnosed when it’s in an advanced stage and spread to other parts of the body
- A study of patients with pericardial mesothelioma states they survived, on average, two months after their diagnosis
- A 2013 article in the European Journal of Cancer reporting the outcomes of 108 patients with peritoneal mesothelioma states 43.6% lived seven or more years after their treatment ended
Your prognosis depends on your age, overall health, and type of mesothelioma.
Call Us Today for A Free Mesothelioma Lawsuit Consultation
Call our Louisville, KY office at 502-589-5600 or toll-free at 855-385-9532. If you worked as a subway worker and suffered an asbestos-related injury, it’s essential to know about your rights to compensation and how to defend them. Complete our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation today.