In a recent workers’ compensation case, a bus mechanic who was diagnosed with lung cancer was told his illness was caused by exposure to diesel exhaust. The ruling in that case sent alarms out that the burning of diesel fuel has caused widespread worker injuries to those breathing diesel fumes.
Diesel fuel, also known as No. 2 oil, is a heavier product of the refined crude oil. It is widely used in machinery, small engines, trucks, forklifts and buses.
Those exposed to diesel fumes include children on school buses, as well as employees working in confined spaces in warehouses.
According to a Wall Street Journal article, roughly 12 million U.S. workers are exposed to diesel exhaust in the nation’s mines, ports, construction sites, farms and other places where heavy equipment is used. In 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warned that short-term exposure to diesel fumes on a job could cause dizziness and respiratory irritation. It also reported that prolonged exposure to diesel fumes could raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.
Surprisingly, the federal government limits diesel fuel exposure in only the mining industry. The Environmental Protection Agency considers diesel exhaust a likely, rather than a known, human carcinogen.
In one study done by the National Institute of Health, it was found that miners and truck drivers, both heavily exposed to diesel fumes, had an estimated 6% chance of lung-cancer deaths annually due to diesel-exhaust exposure in their workplaces.
Those on the other side of the argument, the American Trucking Association as one example, says diesel engines have become cleaner in the past decade, and there are many ways workers could be exposed to exhaust, from railroads and trucks to lawn mowers.
In June 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated diesel exhaust carcinogenic to humans. The WHO placed diesel exhaust on a list that includes radon and asbestos.
In a New York case brought against General Motors in 2012, it was found that the manufacturer was protected by a provision found in the Federal Clean Air Act. That provision safeguarded General Motors because it made engines in its cars and trucks that met the EPA emissions standards.
In another case, a lung specialist who served as an expert testified that a mechanic who developed lung cancer allegedly from diesel exhaust had a history of smoking. The expert said the link between his cancer and the diesel exposure was speculative. Those issues, such as smoking and lung cancer combined with exposure to asbestos or diesel fumes, have always been factored in this type of the litigation.
The use of diesel fuel is much more common in Europe and Asia where many use diesel fuel in manufacturing and to run their automobiles and trucks. Exposure to diesel fumes in many countries has been steadily rising. It very important that workers be safeguarded from over-exposure to diesel fumes.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling worker injury cases, harmful chemical exposure cases, benzene exposure cases and diesel fume exposure cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by chemical exposure for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Hanover Park, Winfield, Winnetka, Wilmette, Round Lake, South Barrington, Chicago Heights, Blue Island, Joliet, Aurora, Waukegan, Vernon Hills, Buffalo Grove, Northfield, Glenview and Glencoe, Ill.
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