For most, diesel exhaust is merely a momentary inconvenience. However, many workers are exposed to diesel exhaust day in and day out over the course of many years. Like all forms of pollution, diesel exhaust can have negative effects on the respiratory health of those who are exposed to it, and in some cases, diesel exhaust exposure can even lead to cancer. The death of a family member from cancer due to exposure to diesel exhaust can cause significant financial hardship for his or her survivors. But the survivors of those who die of work-related injuries — including cancer caused by diesel exhaust — may be eligible for workers’ compensation death benefits, as our Long Island death benefits attorneys explain.
Chemicals Found in Diesel Exhaust
Diesel exhaust is made up of dozens of chemicals, many of which are toxic and a few of which are known to be carcinogenic. A partial list of chemicals that can be found in diesel exhaust includes:
- Carbon dioxide
- Carbon monoxide
- Nitrogen dioxide
- Nitric oxide
- Sulfur dioxide
- Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons
One of the most insidious components of diesel exhaust is diesel particulate matter (DPM), which are tiny solid particles — typically less than 1/70th the diameter of a human hair. Most DPM is produced as a result of combustion, such as the use of diesel fuel in combustion engines. DPM is often small enough to be inhaled into the lungs, where some of it remains deposited on the lung surface. Over the course of years, accumulated DPM in the lungs can result in lung cancer and other lung diseases, heart disease, asthma, decreased lung function, and allergies. Because most diesel-operated machines tend to operate around heavily traveled roadways, rail yards, and ports, DPM is typically a more widespread problem in urban areas than in rural areas.
Types of Cancer Linked to Diesel Exhaust
Diesel exhaust has been a common pollutant for decades, but it was not classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer until 2012. During the precise level of exposure to diesel exhaust necessary to cause cancer is unknown, research has shown that diesel exhaust is at risk of the following types of cancer:
- Lung cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Larynx cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Blood system cancers
Exposure to diesel exhaust is also associated with other chronic lung diseases and can cause or aggravate coughing, allergies, and asthma.
If you are a survivor of a worker who died from cancer as a result of diesel exhaust exposure, please consider contacting our Long Island death benefit attorneys, who can evaluate your claim and help you seek compensation.
Professions With High Levels of Exposure to Diesel Exhaust
If you drive an ordinary passenger vehicle and do not work around heavy machinery, chances are you do not come into contact with diesel fuel very often. Nevertheless, diesel fuel powers many of the machines that make our economy run, including trucks, trains, boats, city buses, barges, and farming equipment. Most exposure to diesel exhaust is a result of (1) work-related activities, (2) living in a highly polluted environment, or (3) traveling on roadways with heavy truck or bus traffic.
On the occupational side, there are several professions in which workers are exposed to diesel exhaust at rates far higher than the general population, including:
- Truck drivers
- Bus drivers
- Construction workers
- Mine workers
- Heavy equipment operators
- Bridge and tunnel workers
- Railroad workers
- Oil and gas workers
- Farm workers
- Loading dock workers
- Material handling operators
- Long-shoring workers
- Maintenance garage workers
Workers in these industries should remain informed about the dangers posed by exposure to diesel exhaust and take recommended precautions. If a family member worked in any of the above industries (or any other industry with heavy diesel exhaust exposure) and has passed away, our Long Island death benefits attorneys can help you pursue a workers’ compensation death benefits claim.
Death Benefits Available in Diesel Exhaust Cancer Claims
If a worker dies from his or her work-related injury or illness, the worker’s dependents may collect workers’ compensation benefits on the same basis as if the worker had survived. Those benefits include:
- Funeral expenses ($12,500 in New York, Kings, Bronx, Queens, Richmond, Westchester, Suffolk, Nassau, and Rockland counties; $10,500 in all other counties)
- Cash benefits (equal to two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage for the 52 weeks before the accident, subject to certain maximums)
Eligible survivors include the decedent’s spouse, dependent children, dependent grandchildren, dependent parents and grandparents, and dependent siblings. If there is no surviving spouse, children, or other dependent family members, a lump sum of $50,000 is paid to the decedent’s parents or estate.
Dependent children are eligible if they are (1) under the age of 18, (2) under the age or 23 and enrolled and attending as a full-time student an accredited educational institution, or (3) at any age, if the child was permanently totally blind or permanently physically disabled at the time of the accident.
If the decedent’s spouse remarries while receiving benefits, he or she will receive a two-year lump sum payment upon remarriage, but benefits will cease thereafter.
Deadline for Filing a Death Benefits Claim
Claims for death benefits must be filed within two years of the decedent’s death. It is extremely important for claimants to keep this in mind, as missing the deadline can jeopardize their ability to obtain benefits. In 2021, Governor Hochul signed legislation granting families of workers who died due to diesel exhaust a one-year extension to file death claims, thereby extending the two-year deadline to three years. However, that deadline extension expired in 2022. Claimants for death benefits due to diesel exhaust exposure must file their claims within two years of the decedent’s death.
Contact Our Long Island Death Benefit Attorneys for Assistance With Your Claim
For more information about death benefits available to survivors under the workers’ compensation program, please contact the Long Island death benefits attorneys at Turley, Redmond & Rosasco by using our online form or by calling us at 877-693-2529 (New York City), 516-745-5666 (Garden City), 631-582-3700 (Ronkonkoma), or 631-399-0400 (Shirley/Riverhead).