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Diesel Smoke Compromises Workplace Safety at MTA Garages

A woman was told by an oncologist that the diesel fumes in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus depot contributed to his cancer. He had worked in the bus depot for 28 years and died last year of lung cancer. Many other workers in NYC bus garages have died because of bad air and other environmental hazards that compromise workplace safety.

The woman said in an interview that her husband had worked in an older garage that has poor ventilation and is party underground. During his shift, he would breathe in the fumes from hundreds of buses. She believes his cancer was environmental.

The New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health and the AFLCIO New York City Central Labor Council recently held a forum on workplace safety and lung cancer. Experts on the panel, said it's time to take steps to protect workers from the effects of diesel fumes. In addition to causing lung cancer, they said that fumes are responsible for other illnesses, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The toxins in the atmosphere can also lead to stroke, heart attack and other life-threatening diseases. More than a million workers around the United States are regularly exposed to diesel fumes on the job.

The World Health Organization (HO) has classified diesel smoke as a carcinogen. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not as sure. A 2012 study showed that exposure to diesel exhaust increases the risk of lung cancer.

The Transport Workers Union Local 100 provides training to MTA workers so that they can recognize when lack of ventilation is putting their health at risk. They also urge employees to check maintenance records and make sure that fan filters are changed regularly. This summer, the union launched a campaign of zero tolerance for diesel fumes and particulates in their workplaces.

Last year, it was discovered that the fans in one of the NYC bus garages were mostly non-functional - only two out of 10 actually worked. The filters on the two that worked were changed only once a year. The union safety spokesperson said that the filters can become clogged after a month, forcing unfiltered diesel exhaust to simply go around the fans and into the lungs of workers.

If you have been injured by environmental hazards such as diesel fumes in the workplaces, contact a workplace safety lawyer to learn about your legal options.