High Asbestos Levels Prevent Officials from Obtaining Hoboken Train Crash Evidence

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

Evidence from the Hoboken train crash – an event recorder and an outward-facing camera in the front cab – is trapped due to structural damage and unsafe asbestos levels.

The event recorder holds speed and braking information to help determine what the train engineer was or wasn’t doing in the time before and during the crash.

Investigators are attempting to figure out what caused the crash, but could not get into the front cab to retrieve the evidence inside because the train crash was so deadly it caused asbestos to be released into the air.

“Extensive debris removal must be completed before investigators can access the train and then have the train removed,” said the National Transportation Safety Board.

In fact, the high asbestos levels resulted in the investigators needing to leave the station altogether. Hoboken Train Station is over a century old.

The city of Hoboken’s history of manufacturing and adaptive reuse of older structures puts it in a high-risk category for asbestos exposure. Workers exposed to asbestos may therefore be at high risk for mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs.

This cancer can develop when asbestos is inhaled and the microscopic fibers become lodged within the outer lung tissue layer known as the mesothelium. This thin layer of cells protects and lubricates the chest cavity.

Asbestos causes a sustained inflammation of these cells resulting in harmful scar tissue forming in the surface. This scar tissue lays the foundation for cancerous cells to develop.

Coincidentally, asbestos has long been considered a miracle material as it boasts excellent fire- and heat-resistant properties. Yet, this natural-occurring mineral is also known to be a human carcinogen.

During the Industrial Revolution, asbestos use grew in factories and other heavy industries as well as oil refineries, chemical plants, railroad cars, and shipyards. It was used to insulate pipes and boilers in steam locomotives, line tanks and ovens in refineries, and could be found almost everywhere in ships, from the engine rooms to the galleys.

As the twentieth century progressed, more uses for asbestos were found. It was used in brakes and clutches of automobiles, skyscrapers, and the construction industry. Asbestos construction products included joint compounds, cements, roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, siding, stucco, plaster, and much more.

Over time, as stories of sick employees who were exposed to asbestos became commonplace, the American government began to consider imposing laws about regulating its use.

Some well-known manufacturers throughout Hoboken’s history include Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Lipton Tea, and Maxwell House.