rail union blames fumes after 8 diagnosed with cancer

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by Edders23, 6 Feb 2020.

  1. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Well, if it is found to be the case that working near high voltage cables is a causal factor in cancers, some sort of system of turning off the wire when the train is in the depot would likely be the most effective way to reduce that risk.

    Either way, the pressure against releasing diesel fumes on a regular basis in depots or cities, isn't going to diminish.
     
  2. 30A4EVER

    30A4EVER Member

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    Easier said than done when working in a running shed where the units are being constantly turned round.
     
  3. markymark2000

    markymark2000 Member

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    I think that happens at more modern facilities with the padlocks on the end of each siding and if you have padlocks on the thing, it turns off the power so the train can't move.
     
  4. AM9

    AM9 Established Member

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    There has been ongoing questioning about the long-term health effects of proximity to electromagnetic fields, but no evidence of actual impacts. High voltage equipment and transmission lines have been a feature of modern living for around a century, but progress towards a resolution of the arguments still doen't exist.
    It's another demonstration of the 'correlation does not imply causation' reality. However, research may yet one day come up with something. Meanwhile, serious health outcomes including death on an unacceptable scale is very much a reality of exposure to emissions from all kinds of hydrocarbon combustion, (and that is in addition to the macro-climate impact of increased CO2 in the atmosphere and the global damage to natural life in general), so the alleged health impact of electromagnetic fields is very much a small price to pay for removing a far greater threat.
     
  5. a_c_skinner

    a_c_skinner Established Member

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    A factor that no one has mentioned is that random events come in clusters. That is what random means. The clusters of malignancies that were reported near nuclear power stations seem to have been simply random. I don't think there is any evidence of harmful effects of being near (well not too near!) high voltage electricity and the very non specific symptoms some people report fit well for psychological ill health.
     
  6. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Then I expect the next solution to try would be some sort of battery power to get trains in to and out of the depot. Either way, I'm sure a solution would be possible.

    That sounds like a safer way of working all round.

    I certainly don't have the knowledge to confirm or deny the risks of working with magnetic fields. If it is confirmed to be a danger, it will have to be mitigated. Nevertheless, there is no doubt in my mind that substantial electrification is the key to overcoming the problems associated with diesel particulates.
     
  7. AM9

    AM9 Established Member

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    Given the number of lanes normally present in an EMU depot (or even just stabling/servicing sidings), the added complexity of switchgear on every one would create an unnecessary service reliability hit.
     
  8. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    I'm sure if there was found to be a problem of that nature, a mitigating solution would be found.
     
  9. AM9

    AM9 Established Member

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    As I said earlier, there have been claims about EM effects for decades yet no evidence other than claims that correlation prove something have been offered by a few. There is no expert acknowledgement of an issue so to go to all the trouble of individually switching on and off every 250 metre (or less) run of catenary would be an overreaction. Clearly if there was significant evidence of a hazard, it would be an obligatory precaution across the developed world as OLE is almost ubiquitous for all but the quietest of lines, a d will be more so in the efforts to reduce both local and global emissions.
     
  10. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    I've stated the extreme limitations of my knowledge on the subject of electro-magneticism induced cancer, therefore I see little point in getting bogged down in a hypothetical discussion as to what might or might not be done to mitigate such a thing.

    Suffice to say we still need that programme of rolling electrification.
     
  11. furnessvale

    furnessvale Established Member

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    Sad as that is, it is meaningless without reference to the population in general.

    As many other illnesses are reduced or eliminated, cancers come to the fore. Put crudely, we all have to die of something.
     
  12. Raul_Duke

    Raul_Duke Member

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    The industry has also had historically high levels of comparatively heavy drinking and chain smoking, coupled with shift work.
     
  13. BigB

    BigB Member

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    Is working in a depot any different from working at a station from the potential EM exposure?
    In many cases working below solebar level should reduce the level of exposure whereas on platform staff at larger stations are closer to the wires and there may be more electrified lines in stations than depots.
    I've also noticed that on a station with OLE during damp misty days that I can become "charged" and discharge static electricity. This was especially noticeable one day years ago in Lime Street Station when kissing my girlfriend goodbye we both got quite a jolt! Does this also happen to those working in depots? Not necessarily in the same circumstances.....
     
  14. LOL The Irony

    LOL The Irony Established Member

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    If this legal action goes ahead, I assume they'd have to prove it was A. a causing factor and B. possibly a leading factor in their cancer & death.
     
  15. AM9

    AM9 Established Member

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    You can only become 'charged' if in proximity to a high voltage DC conductor. Most OLE in the UK, and certainly all at Lime St, is 25kV AC. Thus you can only be charged for 10 ms (i.e. 100th of a second) before the voltage is reversed for 10 ms. The effect of being near OLE on a damp or wet day is that wet parts of your clothing, or even an umbrella forms one side of a capacitor where the OLE is the other. The ac current is coupled to your body and you will feel a buzzing or tingling sensation which is the effect of a small current passing through your body. That current is anything from a few tens to a couple of hundred millionths of an amp. Anything near 1mA (one thousandth of an amp) will be considered an albeit temporary debilitating electric shock.
     
  16. PartyOperator

    PartyOperator Member

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    There's no evidence for negative health effects from low-frequency EM radiation and no good reason to believe they might exist. One potential hazard from OHLE in a confined space is the electrical discharge which creates a certain amount of toxic gas, particularly ozone and nitrogen oxides. This should be much less of an issue than diesel exhaust, but adequate ventilation is still important.
     
  17. Edders23

    Edders23 Member

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    and yet NOx emissions are said to be one of the main problems with exhaust from diesels and jet engines being a major factor in asthma cases if what I have read is to be believed so Nox caused by power transmission is certainly to be considered an issue
     
  18. Raul_Duke

    Raul_Duke Member

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    I think we’re getting into the realms of tinfoil hats here.
     
  19. alistairlees

    alistairlees Established Member

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    This thread is entirely devoid of any evidence. I would love for good decisions to be made here - and, if the evidence supports it, that could be to radically change practices in stations and at depots. But where is the evidence?
     
  20. Trisha

    Trisha Member

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    Northern and the previous franchise owners have been aware that there are issues with diesel fumes at the Maintenance Depots, especially on the smaller roads where the ventilation systems are archiac or not sufficient to take away the fumes. Northern were expecting Network Rail to introduce some new extraction systems for a few years now, but again due to issues these so far haven't been forthcoming. There has been testing carried out, which at Heaton showed a low level reading in the large shed but in the smaller shed higher reading but not to cause alarm. The trouble for staff working in the smaller shed is that trains have to be running for testing,cleaning, yes chargers can be put on and shore supply (air) but when the trains are moved it creates fumes which rise into the roof and floats. Staff have the right to refuse to work if it's thought unafe, but most just carry on working.
     
  21. Tetchytyke

    Tetchytyke Established Member

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    It's amazing how these "random clusters" always occur right next to the Big Thing which is notorious for causing illness. It's like how breathing issues in children always seem to randomly cluster in a primary school right next to a busy road junction.

    Particulates emitted from diesel engines are a known carcinogen. The WHO categorises them in the most serious category.

    https://www.nhs.uk/news/cancer/who-diesel-exhaust-fumes-cancerous/

    So breathing in diesel fumes is known to cause cancer, and these people are working in a tight space with more diesel fumes than normal. But it might be a coincidence, I'm sure.
     
  22. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Dare I suggest this should mean a revisit of filthy DMUs left running in Birmingham New Street, if this is proven to prove a serious health hazard to passengers and platform staff alike?
     
  23. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Has there been research on the matter proving an issue here? There has for diesel fumes.
     
  24. Belperpete

    Belperpete Member

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    There has been extensive research. Basically, if you are worried about the effects of EM radiation, you should be far more concerned about the hidden network of 240 volt cables running feet and inches away from you in your house, and the signals being given off by your mobile phone and WiFi router. Fortunately modern LED TVs and computer monitors don't give off the kind of fields that the old CRT screens did.

    Signal engineers have to design lineside circuits to be immune to electro-magnetic interference from the OLE, and so that they don't pick up sufficient EM induced voltage to be dangerous to anyone working on the circuits. But the voltage is only induced when there is current flowing in the OLE. Most of the time, when there is no moving train about, there will be no current flowing. Likewise in a depot, a stationary train draws very little current, and so will generate little EM field.
     
  25. Meerkat

    Meerkat Established Member

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    Do any rail staff wear masks, maybe like some cyclists in cities wear?

    but basically...get bloody electrifying!
     
  26. a_c_skinner

    a_c_skinner Established Member

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    The point is that those are the clusters that are reported on. On diesel fumes being carcinogenic, for what cancers? The cases being commented upon had (it seems) a huge range of tumours which are unlikely to all be related to diesel fumes and all susceptible to different other predisposing factors - like smoking tobacco, red meat, beer drinking and so on. The cluster reported on, sad as it is, seems not out of the way for a load of employees in middle years. It is easy to develop the "it stands to reason" arguments when often it does not.
     
  27. Tetchytyke

    Tetchytyke Established Member

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    Passengers won't be exposed to the particulates in the same way; it's the soot that contains the real nasties. Engineers cleaning soot from engines and exhausts should be careful, even if the engine isn't running.

    But those who spend all day working there, and at Manchester Victoria, might want to consider things. The footbridge at Victoria is particularly disgusting.

    There is strong evidence for mouth and lung cancers- the soot causes many issues- and some evidence for bladder and bowel cancers being caused by diesel fumes and soot.

    It's certainly an amazing coincidence workers working with diesel fumes and soot get the cancers linked with diesel fumes and soot! It's like coal miners all having COPD and asbestos workers all getting cancer, just a random cluster!

    I do agree that there is often more than one factor in play with cancer- hereditary predisposition as well as other environmental factors. If you smoke 40 a day and you're a diesel fitter, both environmental risk factors are in play. But that means both contribute; there can be more than one cause.

    And yeah, kids living next to Sellafield all getting leukaemia too. Just a random cluster of randomness randomly clustering right next to a nuclear waste processing site with a sketchy safety record.
     
  28. alistairlees

    alistairlees Established Member

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    That’s correct - a random cluster of randomness is what it was. Take a look at the science blog on Cancer Research UK, for example, for some explanation.
     
  29. Tetchytyke

    Tetchytyke Established Member

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    My ex and her family are from that part of Cumbria. The gist of the argument was always that post-1990 rates of leukaemia didn't match the higher pre-1990 rates of leukaemia, so it must have been pure coincidence.

    The fact that Calder Hall and Windscale had extremely shonky safety records (not least the fire in 1957) but they did improve after 1990 as the oldest parts of the site were decommissioned, never appears to be mentioned. It's almost as though the government agency peddling the "random cluster" line is entirely staffed by people involved in the nuclear industry...

    That said, we are starting to understand more about viruses causing cancer (e.g. HPV, and feline leukaemia for that matter) so the theory about population shift (a new one on me) would seem plausible. It would, however, also disprove the cluster being "random".
     
    Last edited: 10 Feb 2020
  30. a_c_skinner

    a_c_skinner Established Member

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    I think at 40 a day that would dwarf any other risks for lung, upper airway, stomach, oesophagus and bladder cancer. I'm still not clear if these cases represent increased risk at all, none are rare tumours in a reasonably sized workforce. Plainly breathing fumes at work should be stopped, urgently, even if only because it is unpleasant. It may be hazardous, but I don't think this report makes the case for that.
    On the cluster effect I think the statistics of clustering are well understood (not by me!) and they explain the observed clusters well. Radiation doses are well understood too and well documented for the population.
     

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