Silica dust could harm health of Mass. commuter rail workers

Sand used on train tracks to improve traction could pose a health threat for Massachusetts commuter rail employees working in train cabs, according to a recent news report.

A February 6, 2020 WCVB Channel 5 article described how corrosion in the sand hopper system used to disperse the sand onto the tracks and gaps inside the trains allow tiny particles of sand, which is made of silica, to filter into the cabs.

“What you’re really worried about is these very fine particles up in the air that you can breathe in that get deposited deep into the lungs,” said Gregory Wagner, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Airborne silica dust can cause serious health problems when inhaled. Prolonged exposure can lead to cancer and organ damage.

“Anyone who is in a work situation where respectable sized crystal silica dust is possible to breathe should be concerned and should make sure their workplace is effectively monitored in order to control the exposures,” Wagner said.

Read the WCVB Channel 5 article: Dangerous dust blows into cabs of commuter rail locomotives