Diesel exhaust is a complex mixture of different cancer causing substances. One of the many components of diesel exhaust is benzene, a substance that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies as a group 1 carcinogen (a cancer-causing substance).

As discussed in an earlier blog researchers have already linked benzene to Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Another type of cancer caused by benzene is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in the lymph system and disrupts the body’s ability to fight off infections. There are more than 60 subtypes of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but the most common is Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma. Other notable subtypes are Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), and Follicular Lymphoma. For a list of the many different subtypes of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, visit the American Cancer Society’s website here.

The link between someone developing Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma due to previous benzene exposure is not always easily identified. In part this is due to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma’s ability to remain dormant in someone’s system for years and, as a result, go undetected. For example, a study published in September of 2017 concluded that benzene exposure was the cause of a 45 year old man’s development of Splenic Marginal Zone Lymphoma, a subtype of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The worker in the study developed this lymphoma 19 years after leaving a job where he cleaned instruments with a solvent containing benzene for 6 years. The study concluded that the high concentration of benzene in the solvent was enough to cause the man to develop Splenic Marginal Zone Lymphoma even though he was exposed to it 19 years before being diagnosed.

There are many crafts that exposed railroad workers to benzene from diesel exhaust: engineers, conductors, brakemen, track and signal department workers, and diesel shop and car shop workers. In addition, many different jobs at the railroad exposed workers to benzene-containing solvents. These include: electricians, laborers, boilermakers, machinists, and carmen, as well as other railroad shop workers. If you were exposed to benzene while working and believe your Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was caused by occupational exposure contact us today for a free consultation.