The federal government has not developed regulatory standards and guidelines to protect people from the potential health effects of exposure to coal tar creosote in drinking water and food. However, regulatory standards and guidelines in air and water exist for the key individual polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and phenols --the major chemicals that cause harmful health effects--contained in creosote. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared creosote a restricted use pesticide, which means that it can only be bought and used by certified applicators and only for those uses covered by the applicator's certification. Any creosote that is released into the environment that registers over one pound must be reported to the EPA. Other coal tar product particles that can become airborne are regulated federally by the government.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a legally enforceable limit or permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 0.2 milligrams of coal tar pitch volatiles per cubic meter of workroom air (mg/m3) in order to offer employee protection during an eight hour day and a 40 hour workweek for a potential "overexposure" to the toxic particles. However, a lower maximum limit of 0.1 milligrams of coal tar pitch volatiles per cubic meter of workroom air is recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Creosote Dangers and FELA Unfortunately, railroad workers, primarily maintenance of way employees, are exposed to high concentrations of creosote on a daily basis.
They are, therefore, at a higher risk for diseases tied to creosote exposure. Freshly treated wood that contains creosote can cause harm to an individual who has direct skin contact or inhales toxic vapors. The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry in its October 2002 report stated that "workers who work with creosote-treated wood in building fences, bridges, or railroad tracks or installing telephone poles may face exposure. Those who inspect or maintain these materials .
also risk exposure to creosote." Creosote represents a serious health risk to railroaders because they continue to be exposed to creosote products as a condition of their employment. A specialized claim under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) may exist for employees of common carriers, particularly employees of railroads, which still use creosote-treated lumber for railroad spikes. Under FELA, an employee of a railroad can bring a suit against the railroad for injuries resulting from working conditions, hazards, and negligence on the railroad's part. Copyright (c) 2008 Katie Kelley.
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