Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fumes and solvents affecting train shop workers

Hazardous chemicals and toxins may be to blame for
former workers' ailments.
The railroad in Burlington has been an important employer for many family men, but years of chemical exposures and hazardous substances are taking their toll.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe train stops (BNSF) have been handing out settlement checks to workers in the last 10 years for alleged asbestos exposure and other chemical exposures at the shops.

Many former workers have been diagnosed with asbestosis and respiratory diseases, including lung cancer.

The train shops used many organic and chemical industrial solvents, and even though BNSF has been closed since 2003, the site is still contaminated with those.

Train shops have been a fixture in Burlington since the 1850s and were used to repair a lot of locomotives before BNSF moved operations to Illinois and Kansas.

Now all that remains is overgrown old rails and a lingering presence of lead, arsenic, diesel, silicates, PCB-1260, trichloroethylene, chloro-benzene, xylene and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) from the mineral spirits, degreasers, paint thinners and other solvents that were used for decades.

The workers say they handled these industrial chemicals on a daily basis without knowing the risks until in the 1980s a safety officer was hired.

Cleanup of the site has been difficult, since neither the EPA nor the DNR say they have been involved for decades, and confusion reigns over which agency is responsible.

Despite the settlements given to former workers, BNSF maintains it is not responsible for the illness of any workers in Burlington.

Source: The Hawk Eye

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Occupational health and safety has become a hot topic, and litigation and settlement payments can be quite expensive for companies.

Prevention is always better than having to react to health problems, and a good preventative management program includes protective equipment whenever necessary, educating workers about hazards, implementing strategies and reducing exposure as much as possible.

Electrocorp has designed powerful air cleaners for industrial and commercial applications that feature a multistage filtration system to improve the indoor air quality in plants, shops and other facilities.

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For more information, contact Electrocorp today.

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