NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search

Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2011-0045-3149, evaluation of prostate cancer, diesel exhaust exposures, and radio frequency exposures among employees at a rail yard - Alabama.

de Perio MA; Fent KW
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2011-0045-3149, 2011 Dec; :1-35
In January 2011, we received a confidential HHE request from employees of a rail yard in Alabama. The request concerned the occurrence of prostate cancer among transportation department employees and their exposures to diesel exhaust, radio frequencies, and vibration. Prior to our visit, we interviewed by phone 8 of 12 current or former surviving employees reported to have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. We also reviewed the railroad company's records and other information related to employees' exposures to diesel exhaust, radio frequencies, and vibration. During our on-site evaluation in June 2011, we interviewed 33 transportation department employees and observed work processes, practices, and workplace conditions. We also sampled the air for components of diesel exhaust and measured radio frequency power density levels from the RCL devices and two-way radios. We did not evaluate vibration because previous studies by the railroad company indicated low vibration magnitudes for employees riding locomotives. The number of prostate cancer cases identified among current and former employees at the rail yard did not appear to be unusual. The prostate cancer reported among workers was likely not the result of working at the rail yard. While most of the 33 interviewed employees reported experiencing at least one health symptom (such as fatigue, headache, runny nose, or congestion) while working, the symptoms can be attributed to various etiologies including heat and underlying seasonal allergies and asthma. Personal exposures to elemental carbon from diesel exhaust were below the applicable OEL for all but one employee. Other sources of elemental carbon may have contributed to the one overexposure, but this requires further evaluation. Our measurements of power density levels suggest that the transportation department employees were unlikely to be overexposed to radio frequencies. We recommend that the railroad company conduct additional air sampling for elemental carbon, focusing on the positions for which we measured the highest personal air concentrations identified in this report. The company should also provide more detailed education on radio frequencies during the initial and refresher RCL device training for operators. In addition, employees should learn more about known cancer risk factors and what they can do to minimize those risk factors.
Region-4; Railroad-industry; Prostate-cancer; Cancer; Cancer-rates; Humans; Epidemiology; Statistical-analysis; Work-practices; Workplace-monitoring; Workplace-studies; Diesel-emissions; Diesel-exhausts; Exhaust-gases; Radiofrequency-radiation; Author Keywords: Line-Haul Railroads; prostate cancer; cancer cluster; railroad; diesel exhaust; vibration; radiofrequency; elemental carbon; nitric oxide; nitrogen dioxide
7440-44-0; 10102-43-9; 10102-44-0
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
HETA-2011-0045-3149; B01182012
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 4, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division