Within the OSHA asbestos regulations, there is a particular rule that requires employers to educate workers about the “relationship between smoking and exposure to asbestos producing lung cancer.” 1910.1001 (j)(7)(iii)(B). What is this “relationship?”

Cigarette smoking combined with asbestos exposure has a synergistic relationship. This means that a railroad worker with asbestos exposure has a certain risk of getting cancer. If that worker also was a cigarette smoker, the risk is even greater than if you just add the risk from cigarette smoking. The combined exposures create a risk that is many times that of either risk factor alone.

A thorough asbestos training program must include this warning to workers, so that they understand how cigarette smoking may be even more dangerous than in someone who has never worked around asbestos. OSHA also requires employers to provide information to employees about public health resources available to assist in smoking cessation. (1910.1001(j)(7)(iii)(I)). If employees request it, employers must also provide information from the National Institutes of Health on self-help smoking cessation programs.

If you are a railroad worker who was exposed to asbestos at the railroad, and smoked cigarettes or currently smoke cigarettes, please talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening programs. Early detection can be key to the effectiveness of cancer treatment.