Creosote Exposure and Early Detection

by: Jay A Kaplan
Did you know...
that there is a substance so toxic that it has only one "legal" use left in the United States? Let me give you a hint - the company that makes the "plugs" that repairs the last legal use isn't allowed to use the substance because its too dangerous to their workers. Let me give you one last hint - it took an exception to an act of Congress to allow the last legal use. Give up? It's creosote and the last legal use is railroad ties and the company that makes tie plugs can't legally use creosote in the plugs because the risk posed by creosote to their company's workers is just too great. What's more when the EPA banned creosote, the rail carriers got together to lobby Congress for a "hardship" exception to use creosote in spite of EPA's ban. And you know what, Congress gave the carriers their "hardship" exception.

But guess whose "hardship" it really is to use creosote? You guessed it, the BMWE members who each and every day are negligently and unmercifully exposed to creosote through skin contact with railroad ties and through lung contact by breathing in creosote fumes. Unlike the law that granted the carriers' exception - there is no exception to the biomedical findings that creosote exposure causes dermatitis, permanent allergic reactions and, worst of all, in all too many cases, cancer. Now keep in mind that when it comes to serious skin disorders, the carriers are quick to tell you that your skin rash is just your brand of soap or that the red patches of eczema or psoriasis are there because of your family history. But the truth is that creosote, in all probability, is the cause of it all. Further, if you don't get checked by a competent and unbiased doctor experienced in occupational medicine, you are likely to suffer from permanent, skin diseases. This may not sound too serious to you, but, in actuality, the skin is the largest organ of your body and it's out there in front getting all the creosote exposure it doesn't need.

Unfortunately, of much greater concern is cancer. If you listen to the carriers or their company doctors, your malignant melanoma is the result of too much "sun". That's just plain wrong. Creosote causes skin cancer quicker than any sun exposure. If you can say anything "positive" about malignant melanoma it is that it's clearly visible on the skin. It appears as a black, uneven patch of skin, or like a mole that suddenly turned "black" or bleeds. If you have anything on your skin like we just described, run, don't walk to your doctor or contact us for a referral to a Board Certified occupational oncologist skilled in detecting malignant melanoma.

In addition to the aforementioned risks to trackmen that have been described, another serious concern that must be addressed is to BMWE members who off-load ties from gondola cars. The creosote fumes permeate the air breathed by the workers and wind up in their lungs where the creosote is metabolized and then may result in cancer. Now if you ask the carriers, claims people, or supervisors about the cause of your lung cancer, they are only too quick to blame cigarettes. But creosote's ability to cause lung cancer is much more potent than cigarettes. Creosote has many more carcinogens than cigarettes. But of course the railroads will never tell you this.

Tests have shown that even more serious cancers are found among the BMWE workers who work with creosote all day and then are made to eat their lunch or dinner without adequate facilities to wash up. The creosote from their hands gets onto their food then "down the hatch" goes everything, including a "day's worth" of creosote. Once creosote gets into the stomach, it's absorbed into the bloodstream where it's metabolized into potent, human carcinogens. These carcinogens are shown by medical studies to cause stomach, colon and prostate cancer. Even some brain cancers are associated with creosote carcinogens in the bloodstream. However, once again the railroad will never voluntarily inform you of this.

All of these cancers are much more serious than malignant melanoma and lung cancer if only because these cancers are invisible and not typically tested for by your HMO or personal physician, let alone a company doctor. Keep in mind that doctors don't look for that which you don't complain about. Also, you can't look at someone's belly and tell if that person has stomach or colon cancer as opposed to being able to look at someone's black, skin patch and have a good idea that the person has malignant melanoma. To make matters worse, these are serious cancers that may become fatal, especially if not detected early.

There is one last hazard I would like you to know about. If any of you have been on the tracks when the weed-spraying train went by then you may well be at particular risk for nervous system disorders. The weed-killers used by the carriers have been found to cause serious nervous systems problems such as memory loss, loss of motor skills and depression. If you feel that you may have experienced such exposure, please again, feel free to contact our law firm for a referral to a Board Certified specialist.

The purpose of this article is not to scare you, but to inform you and your family of potentially devastating, if not fatal health problems, caused by the railroad's failure to inform their workers of the risks they are exposing them to, as well as to any preventative measures that can be taken.

If you are in need of further assistance, please feel free to call us at 1/800-5-KAPLAN for whatever legal or health concerns you may have. If necessary we will assist you in a referral to a highly qualified and competent occupational medical care provider that can make all the difference to you in, literally, these potentially life and death situations. Lastly, Kaplan Law Corporation has attorneys who collectively have about 200 years of legal experience, not to mention one attorney on our staff who was a practicing toxicologist for several years before earning his law degree and is thereby able to offer this expertise to our clients.

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