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Potential Diseases Caused By Diesel Exhaust Exposure

Apr 3, 2008
Every day at work, employees working with diesel engines are exposed to diesel exhaust. Further, exposure to diesel exhaust is chronic. Failure to protect from diesel exhaust combined with chronic exposure will very likely result in a chemical disease. Although the harmful effects upon railroad workers of exposure to diesel exhaust has been the subject of several studies and has been known for many years, most of the railroads have done little or nothing about taking preventive measures, or informing their employees of the hazards.

There are two chemical diseases one can contract from diesel exhaust exposure: obstructive lung disease and cancer. In addition to entering the body through the respiratory system, harmful diesel exhaust components can enter the body through the eyes, possibly causing permanent damage to the optic nerve, and possibly even to the brain and central nervous system.

Diesel Exhaust and Obstructive Lung Disease

A recent study determined that between 40 percent and 50 percent of train service workers suffer from the effects of obstructive lung disease as a result of their chronic, unprotected exposure to diesel exhaust. Railroaders who work in the shop crafts, as well as the maintenance of way and signal departments, have also suffered the effects of chemical disease when exposed to diesel exhaust in the workplace.

The effect of obstructive lung disease is shortness of breath. Diesel exhaust exposure causes obstructive lung disease by the deposit of diesel soot into the lungs. Diesel exhaust's ultra-fine particles lodge in the lungs where the particles cannot be easily removed by the lung itself (mucociliary escalator). Eventually, these fine particles clog the lumen in the lungs and gradually the lungs lose their elasticity and become less and less able to expand and contract with each breath. Each day of exposure to diesel exhaust results in accumulation of the particles that restrict breathing.

Another common outcome of obstructive lung disease is diesel asthma. Diesel asthma is commonly mistaken for an allergy. Sufferers of diesel asthma notice that once exposed to diesel exhaust there is a sudden shortness of breath or quick on-set hypersensitivity to diesel exhaust, both of which occur without warning. This reaction to diesel exhaust becomes increasingly severe and persists long after exposure has ceased. Over years, obstructive lung disease may cause the loss of fifty percent or more of the lung's capacity.

Compared to chronic, unprotected, diesel exhaust exposure, cigarette smoke is innocuous. Further, modern diagnostics are capable of distinguishing between the lung damage cause by diesel exhaust as opposed to cigarette smoke.

Diesel Exhaust Exposure and Cancer

There is medical evidence that exposure to diesel exhaust causes cancer in humans. Medical studies of workers chronically exposed to diesel exhaust show that diesel exhaust causes cancer of the lung, urinary tract, bladder, stomach, prostate, mouth, larynx, esophagus, and colon. Further, the type of cancer caused by diesel exhaust typically metastasizes--the cancer spreads to other locations in the body.

Diesel Encephalopathy

Lastly, medical professionals have recently made a connection between diesel exhaust and diesel encephalopathy. A recent study of workers tied diesel exhaust exposure to memory deficits, sensory losses, equilibrium imbalances and mood swings. Diesel encephalopathy is a relatively new discovery, but some claim it can be detected.
About the Author
For more information on diesel exhaust exposure use LegalView's information portal at http://www.LegalView.com/. LegalView offers an array of legal topics ranging from mesothelioma lawsuits to the Heparin recall, http://baxter-heparin.legalview.com/.
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