Monthly Archives: February 2012
Asbestos related illnesses such as mesothelioma are particularly insidious because people often do not realize that they have the disease until decades after their exposure to asbestos. The severity of illness depends on how long the person was exposed and the amount inhaled.
Last week, the estate of a former New Mexico railroad employee sued BNSF Railway alleging wrongful death, due to asbestos exposure, of locomotive repair shop worker Santiago Riley. During 13 years of employment from 1942-1955 at railroad facilities in New Mexico and Arizona, Riley made locomotive repairs, performed various shop duties and swept floors around dusty asbestos-containing substances without any respiratory protection.
This exposure caused permanent injury and contributed to his eventual death, according to the lawsuit filed by his children. The estate seeks damages for mental and physical suffering, lost wages, medical bills and other financial losses.
An important takeaway of Santiago Riley’s story is that he and his family did not learn about his mesothelioma for years after this employment at BNSF.
Mesothelioma patients generally do not demonstrate symptoms of this disease until 20 to 50 years after their initial exposure to asbestos. Fibers that embed in the tissue surrounding the body’s internal organs, the mesothelium, usually must be present for many decades before the development of cancer. These fibers gradually accumulate and cause scarring, which leads to inflammation and cancer. Although these fibers are most often introduced into the body through inhalation, the material can also be introduced through ingestion as well. Initially, symptoms may be mild and an individual might not find them cause for alarm. However, as the cancer spreads, these symptoms become more severe and debilitating.
In today’s Tri-City Herald, an article reported that the Department of Energy (DOE) is taking additional measures to protect Hanford workers from asbestos. It is heartening to see that the DOE responded to the many workers’ questions and concerns about their safety in Central Hanford.
This past Thursday, union officials and top Hanford officials communicated to all Hanford staff, explaining the steps that they have taken and will take to protect workers from additional asbestos exposure. Hanford employees had expressed worries over materials that containued asbestos but were not yet demolished during the environmental cleanup.
A number of the buildings at Hanford were built with asbestos laden materials pre 1976. Workers, however, voiced concerns about breathing in asbestos fibers that could cause cancer, lung diseases, and other serious illnesses that could go undetected for decades after exposure.