When a railroad employee is injured on the job, it can often be a serious or career-ending event. The Federal Employers Liability Act (“FELA”) is a special law that was passed by Congress almost 100 years ago to hold the railroad industry to account for the “limbs and lives that it consumes in its operation every day.” Although working conditions are far improved, there is no question that railroading is still a dangerous occupation.


ASBESTOSIS (Scarring of the lungs or the lung lining from asbestos exposure)-often results in shortness of breath, chronic cough or both.

Often railroad workers and retirees have questions regarding asbestos and no where to turn to for answers. The information below covers some of the questions frequently asked by our clients:

What Is Asbestos and How Was it Used on the Railroad?

Asbestos is a mineral that may cause many diseases, including cancer. It was used in insulation materials (lagging) during the steam era and into the diesel era. Steam engine boilers, fireboxes, pipes and cabs were insulated with asbestos. In addition, asbestos was used in many other compounds such as pipe coverings, heat shields, cement, gaskets, brake equipment, steam generators, packing and rope.


What Is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis (as-bes-TOE-sis) is a breathing disorder caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Prolonged accumulation of these fibers in your lungs can cause scarring of lung tissue and shortness of breath. Asbestosis symptoms can range from mild to severe, and usually don't appear until many years after exposure. Asbestos is a natural mineral product that's resistant to heat and corrosion. It was used extensively in the past in products such as insulation, fire-retardant materials, cement, and some vinyl floor tiles.


Most people with asbestosis acquired it on the job before the federal government began regulating the use of asbestos and asbestos products in the mid-1970s. Today, its handling is strictly regulated. Acquiring asbestosis is extremely unlikely if you follow your employer's safety procedures. Treatment focuses on relieving your symptoms.


Why Should I Be Concerned about Exposure to Asbestos?

Because breathing asbestos dust can cause serious diseases:

ASBESTOSIS is scarring of the lungs caused by breathing asbestos. Asbestosis is incurable and may worsen over time. It usually does not cause problems until 20-30 years after exposure.


What Symptoms Are Associated With Asbestos Disease?

The universal symptom in all lung diseases is the same: shortness of breath. This is typically worse with exertion or exercise. Many asbestos-affected individuals have a dry, nagging cough. Some persons with early asbestos disease have few symptoms as all.


What Railroad Workers Were Exposed?

Asbestos-caused diseases are not confined to any particular job title or description. If you worked in the shops or round houses, or worked on the crew of a steam locomotive, you were probably exposed to asbestos, even if it was not continually dusty.


How Long Does it Take for Asbestos Disease to Develop?

The scarring from asbestos takes a long period of time to develop, with the disease not appearing until 20 to 40 years after a worker's first exposure to asbestos. Once you have inhaled the fibers they cannot be removed from your lungs. Asbestos tends to slowly and continually damage the lungs over time, even after exposure stops.



Roven-Kaplan, L.L.P.



How Are Asbestos Health Problems Diagnosed?

The medical lab tests for asbestosis are relatively simple. Initially, all that is required is a basic chest x-ray. However, this x-ray must be evaluated by a certified radiologist with special training.

If it is determined that the x-ray shows asbestos scarring, then, special breathing tests (pulmonary function tests) are arranged. These tests can reveal the extent of the impairment that asbestos has caused.

Unless a worker or retiree has developed a malignancy (cancer) no surgeries, biopsies, or hospitalizations are needed or recommended.

The staff at Roven-Kaplan, L.L.P. has over twenty-five years of combined experience in assisting veteran and retired railroaders with occupational diseases and injuries. Our goal is to protect your rights while providing you with responsive individualized legal service. Mr. Roven is past chairman of the Occupational Disease Section of the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys. References and further information are available upon request.

How Can I Get More Information or Advice About My Situation?

Persons interested in more information or who need legal assistance concerning asbestos or other occupational diseases and injuries are welcome to contact us.

Areas of Practice
Asbestosis, Mesothelioma,
Asbestos Cancer (Lung, esophageal, colon)
Silicosis, Histoplasmosis, Siderosis
COPD, Reactive Airways Disease (RADS) and
Welding Fume Parkinsonism
Traumatic injuries suffered by railroad workers
while on the job.
Serious injuries or death resulting from use of
dangerous or recalled drugs or medical products.