When diesel fuel is burned by a 200-ton locomotive engine, the air pollution that results can cause severe health effects to workers, bystanders, and the public. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has operated or ridden in the cab of a diesel locomotive. There is little question this toxic mixture of fine particulate and chemicals causes disease in humans. The diseases caused by diesel exhaust-related air pollution are well known. Diesel exhaust can cause heart disease and lung diseases including Reactive Airway Disease (RADS), airway inflammation, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma, lung cancer, bladder cancer, and other cancers.

The EPA has recently lowered the federal air quality standard for fine particulate. The recently announced standards are the EPA’s attempt to improve air quality by restricting the amount of fine particulate that can be spewed into the atmosphere by industries, power plants, and gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles, including diesel locomotives. According to the EPA, the new standard – lowered for the first time since 2012 – will save lives, perhaps saving as many as 4500 premature deaths that result from fine particulate air pollution.

There is, of course, disagreement on both sides of the new standard. Industry sources complain the new standards will stifle industry, destroy economic growth, and cost jobs. Public health officials, on the other hand, claim the new standards do not go far enough. The American Lung Association and the World Health Organization would both reduce the standards to an even lower level. The EPA’s recent action is a compromise between these viewpoints. In enacting the new regulation, the EPA hopes to “better protect workers, families and communities from the dangerous and costly impacts of fine particulate pollution.

For individual workers suffering from lung cancer, bladder cancer, or other diesel exhaust-related cancers, these new regulations may be too little, too late. If you or a railroad worker you know has had cancer-related to his or her railroad exposures, contact us today to discuss the options.