HomeLibraryMaritime AccidentsInvisible danger on the docks: the hazards of diesel exhaust

Invisible danger on the docks: the hazards of diesel exhaust


Diesel exhaust includes the emissions from diesel-powered engines and machines, including trucks, ships, cranes, forklifts, and tractors.   Diesel soot is especially pervasive in areas where diesel-powered trucks and equipment are used and is a health risk to over a million workers, including sailors on diesel–powered ships, longshoremen and loading dock employees.

There are no safe standards specifically for diesel exhaust, however many of its components are regulated in standards for shipyard employee safety.

Diesel exhaust is a mixture of thousands of chemical compounds that are produced when diesel fuel is burned.  These compounds include sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and a class of chemical irritants called aldehydes, as well as other chemicals, many of which are classified as toxic air contaminants or carcinogens (including benzene, arsenic, dioxins, and formaldehyde).

Commercial ships emit more sulfur dioxide particulates than all the world’s cars, trucks and busses combined.  They also emit 27% of the world’s nitrogen oxide emissions.  Ports are particularly hazardous because there are many ships coming and going at any given time. Diesel emissions accumulate in ship yards to produce very high levels of toxic exhaust.

Symptoms of diesel exhaust exposure can vary.  Health problems may include headaches, eye irritation, and coughing. Long term exposure to the soot like particles called particulates and to the hydrocarbons present in diesel exhaust may degrade the immune system and interfere with hormone production.  Diesel soot can cause asthma and cancer and has been linked to pneumonia, heart disease and lung disease.  Diesel soot has also been shown to cause permanent nervous system damage in railroad workers. The carbon monoxide emitted with diesel exhaust can also cause irreversible nerve damage and even brain damage.  Sulfur and nitrogen oxides may cause respiratory problems.

Diesel emissions kill 21,000 U.S. citizens every year.  They cause 27,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 410,000 asthma attacks, 12,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, and are responsible for 15,000 hospital admissions and 2.4 million lost-work days.

Diesel emissions are a serious health hazard.
If you are a maritime or dock worker and are suffering related health problems related to long-term exposure to diesel exhaust, you may be protected under maritime law.>

An experienced maritime injury lawyer can give you advice on how best to proceed with your case and how to get compensation for your work-related illness.  The attorneys at the Young Firm have over fifty years of experience representing injured seamen and maritime workers. Contact us at (866) 968-6434 for a free consultation.  We can help you.



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