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Workers Sue Railroad for Asbestos Exposure

DALLAS (CN) - Seven former employees claim in Federal Court that BNSF Railway exposed them to asbestos for decades despite knowing of its dangers.

Lead plaintiff Gary Shelton and his co-plaintiffs claim the Fort Worth-based company exposed them to asbestos and silica-containing dust while they worked as trainmen, resulting in serious lung injuries.

Shelton said the company knew as early as 1935 of the danger, and that the Association of American Railroads, of which BNSF was a member, noted railroad surgeons' interest in silicosis and asbestosis.

"Moreover, at that time, the Association of American Railroads recommended that, in order to prevent injuries or illness associated with exposure to these dusts, the railroads should: educate all concerned; get rid of dust; sprinkle the working area with water; have employees wear inhalers; and have frequent analysis made of the dust content of the air at different times during working hours," the complaint states. "Despite knowledge regarding the health hazards, associated with occupational exposure to asbestos and/or asbestos-containing dust, BNSF Railway Company continued to use asbestos and/or asbestos-containing products for decades thereafter."

The plaintiffs say the railroad failed to inspect, remove and warn of the harmful materials from its cars, engines, track and machinery even after learning how harmful they are. They also claim the company failed to properly train them, provide respirators or warn about the "synergistic effect" between smoking and asbestos exposure.

They seek damages for negligence under the Federal Employers' Liability Act and the Locomotive Boiler Inspection Act.

They are represented by Mark Berry with Sammons Berry in Houston.

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