Silica dust that causes silicosis can come from ballast operations, chipping and in tunnel and track construction, sandblasting, painting, rock drilling and repair. Maintenance of way workers and other railroad workers, especially those who regularly operate machinery such as brooms, scarfires, tie tampers, undercutters ballast regulators and related machinery are especially at a high silica dust risk. Ballast are often granite and sometimes limestone. Ballast made of granite contains high quantities of silica (quartz). As the ballast rock is crushed and leveled during maintenance of way operations, great amounts of silica dust is generated and often inhaled by the workers.
Silicosis is the chronic fibrosing disease of the lungs produced by the prolonged and extensive exposure to free crystalline silica dust. When workers inhale crystalline silica (dust), the lung tissue reacts by developing fibrotic nodules and scarring around the trapped silica particles. This fibrotic condition of the lung is called silicosis. If the nodules grow too large, breathing becomes difficult and death may result. Silicosis victims are also at high risk of developing active tuberculosis. Silicosis is scarring of the lung due to breathing silica (quartz) dust. Silicosis is one of the most common forms of pneumoconiosis (lung diseases caused by inhaling certain mineral dusts). Exposure to silica (quartz) dust causes changes on a chest x-ray which can be evaluated by a doctor trained in diagnosing silica-caused diseases.Silicosis is a latent disease, that is, it develops slowly over many years. Silica-caused diseases often do not appear for 10-15 years after a railroad worker’s exposure to silica (quartz) dust. However, once you have inhaled silica (quartz) dust, it cannot be removed from your lungs.
A railroad worker exposed to silica dust may develop any of three types of silicosis, depending on the concentration of airborne silica:
Early stages of silicosis may go unnoticed for the railroad worker. Continued exposure to silica dust at work for the railroad may result in a shortness of breath on exercising, possible fever and occasionally bluish skin at the ear lobes or lips. Silicosis makes a person more susceptible to infectious diseases of the lungs, such as tuberculosis. Progression of silicosis leads to fatigue, extreme shortness of breath, loss of appetite, pains in the chest, and respiratory failure, which may cause death. Further the diesel fumes and other types of smoke and fumes only make the workers ability to breath even harder and should be avoided.
It is generally recognized that some railroad workers have the high risk of being exposed to silica dust and contracting silicosis:
If are you or a loved one was railroad worker and you have been diagnosed with silicosis and you believe that due to your railroad employment that you have been exposed to free silica dust, then call us to discuss what can be done to protect your legal rights and whether or not you have possible silicosis based lawsuit under the FELA. Often our clients do not know when or where they were exposed to the silica dust.
However after careful investigation and discussions with the worker about their job history, work duties and the types of products and materials that they worked with, the workers often are able to discover and understand their silica exposure history. Contact us and let us help you evaluate your FELA / Silicosis case.