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Asbestos Risks in the Transportation Industry

In the past, many areas of transportation used asbestos. This includes the railroad industry, road construction and maintenance, and air transportation. While today dangers of asbestos are well known, this wasn’t always the case. Risks of asbesots exposure remains in the transportation industry in spite of a decrease in its usage. Risks remain high for those involved in maintenance, repair, and renovation of older trains, buildings, and roads.

Industry workers exposed in the past are now at risk of becoming sick, decades after working. However, recent industry workers may still be exposed to asbestos in older materials. If you face either of these situations, let an asbestos lawyer advocate on your behalf. He or she can help you get compensation if you have gotten sick from asbestos exposure.

mesothelioma and transportation industry

Asbestos in Roadbuilding

Construction workers have long been at risk for asbestos exposure, including workers who construct roads. One way workers, as well as people living near road construction, may be exposed to asbestos in asphalt. Asphalt is a common road material made from petroleum products.

Asphalt presented significant risk to workers prior to the 1970s when asbestos was commonly added to asphalt used to construct roads. Asbestos added strength to asphalt which was especially important in colder climates where roads break down more easily. Workers who constructed those roads were put at risk of inhaling asbestos fibers. Today, workers and residents may be at risk as older, asbestos-containing asphalt roads are broken down for repaving.

Another source of asbestos exposure in roads is the dust created on dirt and gravel roads. Depending on the location of the source, dirt and gravel may contain asbestos fibers. When these roads are dry, driving and construction activities can cause plumes of dust to be kicked up, potentially exposing those nearby to asbestos. In California, a rock called serpentine often contains asbestos. A study discovered that asbestos fibers were found as far as 200 feet from dirt roads where serpentine is abundant. For this reason, California began paving dirt roads to prevent asbestos exposure.

Other states continue to put residents and workers at risk. For example, Alaska recently passed a bill allowing construction companies, including those building roads, to use gravel known to contain asbestos. Because gravel is cheaper than other alternatives, workers and residents continue to be put at risk of asbestos exposure.

Railroads and Asbestos

Railroads that now crisscross the country were once a novelty, an exciting vision of the future. They enabled faster movement of people and goods, expanding the economy and western migration. While railroad travel has been beneficial, it has also been an industry causing harm to workers and nearby residents. One of the dangers railroads have posed is exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos was used in components in the railroad industry. Insulation made with asbestos was commonplace. Asbestos was used to insulate engines and boilers, electrical panels, pipes, and even the walls of railroad cars and depots. Asbestos could also be found in several materials used to build trains including sealing cement, gaskets, brake pads, clutches, and ceiling and flooring tiles.

Those most at risk of asbestos exposure were railroad employees. Anyone who worked with maintenance and repair, or who made components and assembled trains were risk of inhaling asbestos dust. Even workers who did not directly handle asbestos materials were at risk. Those who worked in the area were likely exposed to the dust created by other workers.

A survey conducted in the 1980s found disturbing facts about railway workers and asbestos. Results showed nearly a quarter of workers over the age of 50 had been exposed to asbestos. However, a significant number of young workers had also been exposed. There have been several lawsuits over this exposure, including a 2006 case involving a former railway worker exposed for decades and then developing mesothelioma. In that case, the worker won $7.4 million from CSX Transportation.

Asbestos in Airports and Aircraft

For decades, both airplanes and airports have contained asbestos materials. While those materials are now regulated, workers exposed in the past may now suffer with illnesses like mesothelioma. There are also risks associated with current repairs and renovations of aircraft and airport buildings. Past and current workers are still at risk of developing asbestos illnesses from exposure.

Aircraft long contained asbestos in many components, including insulation in the engine and around electrical components, brakes and heating systems, cargo bay insulation, gaskets, torque valves, and other parts. Mechanics working on aircraft also used equipment, like epoxy and adhesive, that contained asbestos. Workers who constructed and maintained planes were put at risk of asbestos exposure. Those who currently work on older military and civilian planes are still at risk.

Many lawsuits over exposure have been filed. In one current unsettled case, the widow of a former aircraft mechanic filed suit after her husband died from mesothelioma. He worked as a mechanic, specifically handling aircraft brakes. He did this work for decades in the 1960s before being diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009.  The mechanic died a year after his initial diagnosis.

Airports were also constructed with asbestos. These facilities often contained asbestos in insulation, ceiling and flooring tiles, and other components. Construction workers who built these facilities were put at risk of asbestos exposure. However, today people are still at risk as older airports are renovated. For example, Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) recently underwent renovations requiring unexpected abatement of asbestos. In Austin’s international airport, more than 100 workers were exposed to asbestos during a construction project.

If You Have Been Exposed to Asbestos in the Transportation Industry

If you have ever worked in the transportation industry, there is a chance you were exposed to asbestos. Be sure to tell your doctor that you should be screened for mesothelioma and other asbestos illnesses. An early diagnosis increases chances of survival.

If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be able to win a settlement to help cover medical expenses. Many employers in this industry knowingly put workers at risk without adequate warning. If you think you may have a case, contact a lawyer to help you navigate this often confusing process.


Page Edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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