It is well established that many of the chemicals and substances railroaders are exposed to can lead to different types of cancer. The most common cancers railroaders experience due to work related exposures are lung related, such as lung cancer or mesothelioma. More and more studies, however, have revealed a connection between similar exposures and different types of leukemia.

Leukemia is a type of cancer that starts in the bone marrow and then affects different types of blood cells depending on the type of leukemia. Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), for example, most commonly starts in the bone marrow and then develops in cells that would turn into white blood cells. For more information on the development of AML visit the American Cancer Society’s website.

The most common chemical exposure that causes AML is benzene. Benzene is a clear and flammable liquid with a sweet odor. Benzene has been an ingredient in different solvents used by railroads and is also a component of diesel exhaust. Despite being classified as a known carcinogen by the American Cancer Society, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the World Health Organization it is still widely used in the United States. Most railroaders come into contact with benzene through diesel fuel exhaust. As a result railroad machinists, engineers, conductors, electricians, and laborers are commonly exposed to benzene in their day to day work.

This is a potentially life threatening issue for many railroaders as a 2016 study found as little as five years of benzene exposure significantly increases a person’s chances of developing AML. The study also found a close association between benzene exposure of less than five years and developing AML.

Benzene is not the only common substance that railroaders come into contact with that may cause AML. As early as 1988 researchers have been looking at the potential link between asbestos exposure and AML. However, to date only a few studies have looked at the link. But, despite the low number of studies conducted, the ones that have shown a connection between asbestos exposure and AML.

AML is a fast moving cancer and may be fatal in as little as a few months if left untreated.
Common symptoms of AML are weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, and loss of appetite. Of course you should contact your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms. Typical types of treatment associated with AML are chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and in an increasing amount of targeted therapies.

Railroad workers who develop cancer through occupational exposure may bear a considerable financial burden. While many cancers have an unknown source, cancers due to occupational exposures have known sources and compensation may be available. If you would like to consult with a railroad cancer lawyer, please contact us today.