fbpx

City purchased asbestos-infected train cars, workers fell ill and died from the contamination

A year passed and the doctors finally contacted me with the results. They told me I had late-stage cancer in my lungs. Upon hearing the diagnosis, I felt my body tremble and I started to cry.

  • 10 months ago
  • September 6, 2023
5 min read
Martin Paredes, along with other colleagues working in the subways of Buenos Aires, were recently diagnosed with respiratory issues due to the asbestos in the subway cars. The city has refused to comment on the issue, denying the allegations that their subways are contaminated. Martin Paredes, along with other colleagues working in the subways of Buenos Aires, were recently diagnosed with respiratory issues due to the asbestos in the subway cars. The city has refused to comment on the issue, denying the allegations that their subways are contaminated. | Photo courtesy of Martin Paredes
INTERVIEW SUBJECT
Martín Paredes is a father and husband, as well as a current driver of Subway Line B. In November 2019, after several years of struggle, the company Metrovias (now Emova) and the Buenos Aires government agreed to carry out medical studies on workers in the sector. A year later, he and dozens of colleagues were notified with diseases caused by asbestos, a potentially carcinogenic element whose use has been banned in the country since 2003. He is currently undergoing treatment, though he is not certain he will make it past 2023.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Asbestos consists of a group of minerals that occur naturally as a bundle of fibers. There is evidence from both human and laboratory animal studies that asbestos can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Metro workers in Buenos Aires, who transport roughly 1.3 million passengers daily, have in recent years began legally denouncing the presence of asbestos in the cars and that have demanded through strikes and protests that the company stops using them. In total, Madrid Metro sold 36 cars to Buenos Aires for around five million euros. Asbestos, a material of microscopic fiber that insulates against heat and fire, is prohibited has been prohibited in Argentina since 2001 due to its carcinogenic nature.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — I worked as a subway operator for the past decade. In 2019, I started experiencing issues with my health. My body felt weaker by the day, as though something was slowly destroying it from the inside. The company I worked for finally agreed to get us medical help. I underwent some tests to be safe, assuming nothing major was going on. A year passed and the doctors finally contacted me with the results. They told me I had late-stage cancer in my lungs.

Upon hearing the diagnosis, I felt my body tremble and I started to cry. It seemed unbelievable. My thoughts drifted toward my daughter, and how many years I had left with her. I began to think of all the things I had not yet done in my life, all the things I put off assuming I had more time. I spent entire nights staring at my ceiling, crippled by fear. Every morning felt like my last, and I wanted to make the most of my time with my family and friends. 

Read more stories from Buenos Aires at Orato World Media 

The city knew about the contaminated cars, but chose to let us die 

It seemed hard to understand how this happened. I saw few symptoms before my diagnosis. Now I feel like I live a game of Russian roulette. Every night, I go to bed hoping to wake up the next day. I live in constant fear, with a gray cloud hanging over my head. I once said, “I can’t wait to retire and live out my life with my loved ones.” Now I no longer plan for the future.

I soon heard stories of people in my line of work never living past retirement age. In 2017, colleagues working at the Madrid Metro warned us that the subways in Buenos Aires were full of asbestos. Those same contaminated subways had made the Madrid Metro workers extremely sick prior to the sale. We feared for our health, but we knew there was little we could do. We demanded they conduct thorough examinations and enforce safety measures but met silence.

Asbestos minerals fly everywhere. A material stronger than steel, when inhaled it settles in the lung, embedding like a needle in the pleura, the shell that surrounds the lung. It generates calluses and pleural thickening, among other things, depending on the exposure period. With our fear escalating, we also demanded they close off the subways and bring in the exposed workers for clinical analysis.

The numbers of victims increases every day, and we are terrified of dying 

It sickens me to know the lack of care the city had for its workers. All of us must frequently get our lungs checked yearly to ensure there is no inflammation or signs of cancer. My friend Jorge Pacci died of pleural cancer at the age of 55 because of our work. He never smoked or anything, but when he went for his check-up, they told him he only had one year left to live. He died nine months after the diagnosis. Today, I am 53 years old. Two out of my three colleagues died before reaching the age of 60. I feel terrified and desperate. I do not want to die. 

Martin and his colleagues. | Photo courtesy of Martin Paredes

Due to the presence of asbestos in the subway, 2,150 workers are currently under medical surveillance. Eighty-six suffer from lung diseases, six have cancer, and three have died so far. A worker from the commercial premises on the platforms recently got diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. We also heard of a confirmed case of a passenger seriously affected by exposure. The company and city remain aware of the issue but continue to deny the claims to avoid spending more money. They attack our accusations and sweep it under the rug. This fight feels incredibly unfair.

They outnumber us and have more power than we could ever hold united. The city needs to take accountability. The company wants to avoid the cost of the removal procedures. We tried everything humanly possible to solve this issue and protect the millions of subway users and workers at risk, but we still have not received a worthy response. They ignore our pleas and close off any opportunity at a conversation. We remain adamant to fight, but we need more power on our side. 

Translation Disclaimer

Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.

#GlobalCooperationNow

Pledge to be a #ConsciousCitizen today and demand #GlobalCooperationNow! by signing this petition. Sign Our Petition.

HERE'S WHAT'S NEW:

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE STORY: PAYOUT: $200 OR MORE

NATIONAL FEATURE STORY: PAYOUT: $100-150 OR MORE
REGIONAL FEATURE STORY: PAYOUT: $50-100 OR MORE
SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT STORY: PAYOUT: $25-50
Photo Gallery (10 Photos) PAYOUT: $25
Photo Gallery (20 Photos) PAYOUT: $50

TERMS & CONDITIONS APPLY
JOIN US

Related