Asbestos News: Industry, Medical and Legal Updates
Asbestos Industry Information That Matters
As representatives of asbestos victims, the attorneys at Brayton Purcell keep up–to–date on legal, medical, and legislative news affecting their clients. Bookmark this page for the latest information relating to asbestos in the home and workplace, medical breakthroughs, legal actions, and legislation.
Weak Russian Judicial System Fails to Curb Toxic Exposure to Mesothelioma, other Asbestos Diseases
July 30, 2013 - Quite often Americans take their legal rights for granted or gripe about how they lawyer and jury awards are gouging the system. A recent media profile of a Russian city overwhelmed by the specter of asbestos demonstrates just how important our legal rights are.
The New York Times article on Asbest, Russia, a city of 70,000 and a major asbestos production center presents a nightmarish portrait of workers and the public exposed to horrible diseases, including malignant mesothelioma, which is overwhelmingly caused by this toxic material.
ASBEST, Russia — This city of about 70,000 people on the eastern slopes of the Ural Mountains is a pleasant enough place to live except for one big drawback: when the wind picks up, clouds of carcinogenic dust blow through.
As the Times reported:
"Asbest means asbestos in Russian, and it is everywhere here. Residents describe layers of it collecting on living room floors. Before they take in the laundry from backyard lines, they first shake out the asbestos. 'When I work in the garden, I notice asbestos dust on my raspberries,' said Tamara A. Biserova, a retiree. So much dust blows against her windows, she said, that 'before I leave in the morning, I have to sweep it out.'
The risks of developing mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis in such exposures is well-known in the western world, where strict environmental laws are in effect and the handling and disposal of asbestos is strictly regulated.
The material is so toxic that in the case of mesothelioma, the most common asbestos-caused cancer, most victims unknowingly inhale airborne, microscopic fibers that work their way into the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs.
There, they fight off the body's immune system and generate mesothelioma cancer cells which form tumors and spread to other parts of the body.
There is no cure for mesothelioma and most victims after being diagnosed are told they will have less than a year to live. The Times went on to describe the dangers of mesothelioma from such exposure:
"In the United States and most developed economies, asbestos is handled with extraordinary care. Until the 1970s, the fibrous, silicate mineral was used extensively in fireproofing and insulating buildings in America, among other uses, but growing evidence of respiratory ailments due to asbestos exposure led to limits.
"Laws proscribe its use and its disposal and workers who get near it wear ventilators and protective clothes. The European Union and Japan have also banned asbestos. (A town called Asbestos in Quebec, Canada, has stopped mining asbestos, though it hasn’t changed its name.)
"But not here, where every weekday afternoon miners set explosions in a strip mine owned by the Russian mining company Uralasbest. The blasts send huge plumes of asbestos fiber and dust into the air. Asbest is one of the more extreme examples of the environmental costs of modern Russia’s deep reliance on mining."
In the United States our justice system and the skills of plaintiffs' lawyers have resulted in a powerful deterrent against such exposure: Billions of dollars have been paid out in settlements and jury awards over the last several decades to mesothelioma victims.
In addition, billions more have been set aside for future payouts to victims who are expected to come forward with mesothelioma lawsuits. Such is not the case in Russia, as the Times describes:
"The class-action lawsuits that demolished asbestos companies in the United States are not possible in Russia’s weak judicial system, which favors powerful producers. Russia, which has the world’s largest geological reserves of asbestos, mines about a million tons of asbestos a year and exports about 60 percent of it.
"Demand is still strong for asbestos in China and India, where it is used in insulation and building materials. The Russian Chrysotile Association, an asbestos industry trade group, reports that annual sales total about 18 billion rubles, or $540 million. And the business is growing, mostly because other countries are getting out of the business."
The toll in human life can be staggering. U.S. health officials estimate that there are about 2,000 to 3,000 Americans diagnosed with cancer each year and such figures must be publicly reported.
Russia, India and China, meanwhile, the three largest populated countries in the world have no such public reporting requirements and international health officials estimated that the number of mesothelioma victims in those countries which goes unreported dwarfs the U.S. figures.
$3.5 Billion Trust Created To Fund Pittsburgh Company's Asbestos Lawsuits Over Mesothelioma, Other Cancers
June 4, 2013 - A recent development in the case of a large Pennsylvania company facing hundreds of thousands of lawsuits claiming the company's products caused victims to develop mesothelioma and other deadly asbestos-caused cancers involves the creation of a multi-billion trust to pay off expected legal costs.
The action was approved recently by a federal bankruptcy judge who signed off on the $3.5 billion trust that will set aside a huge reservoir of money in order to allow the company to emerge from bankruptcy.
The amount of money involved demonstrates that substantial amounts of money are being earmarked by businesses and huge insurance firms to pay mesothelioma victims and others who suffer from asbestos-caused illnesses and are pressing legal claims.
Tens of billions of dollars have been paid out to victims over the last several decades and financial reports from respected media outlets have documented the fact that defendants in such cases are expecting to pay out equally large settlements and jury awards in the future.
The latest developments were outlined in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper, which reported:
"Late on the Friday that launched the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a judge approved a plan that will finally allow glass and insulation maker Pittsburgh Corning Corp. to emerge from a 13-year stint in bankruptcy."
The newspaper also reported that it is likely there will be legal appeals before there can be "a conclusion in the case involving hundreds of thousands of lawsuits alleging that insulation the Plum company produced decades ago contained asbestos that caused deadly cancers and other diseases."
Mesothelioma is a cancer that is caused in the overwhelming number of cases by exposure to asbestos, which was once a common component in insulation and a multitude of other building materials.
Victims unknowingly inhaled microscopic asbestos particles which worked their way into the linings of their lungs, heart or abdominal organs and, over several decades, generated cancer cells which formed deadly tumors and spread to other parts of their bodies.
There is no cure for mesothelioma and, because of the lengthy latency period of the cancer, in most cases by the time the mesothelioma is detected it is so far advanced most victims cannot be effectively treated by surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.
The average life expectancy after a mesothelioma diagnosis is about 18 months. Between 2,000 and 3,000 such cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, according to national health statistics.
The Pittsburgh Corning Corp. case involves a legal scenario that is becoming more and more common. A company accused of responsibility in asbestos-caused diseases becomes so overwhelmed with such litigation that it faces bankruptcy.
As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette detailed:
"The reorganization plan signed May 24 by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Judith Fitzgerald clears the way for creation of $3.5 billion trust that will assume Pittsburgh Corning's asbestos-related liabilities and pay out the claims. The two companies that own Pittsburgh Corning -- PPG Industries and Corning Inc. -- will contribute millions of dollars to the trust and eventually give up their stakes in the company."
The downside of the expected appeals process, according to the newspaper, is that before a U.S. District Court judge gives the plan final confirmation, victims will wait even longer for payments expected to cover about 37 percent of their claims. Some victims have already died, lawyers said.
Among other details reported in the article:
"The claims against Pittsburgh Corning involve pipe insulation called Unibestos that was manufactured from 1964 to 1972 at plants in Tyler, Texas, and Port Allegany, Pa., in McKean County. The Texas plant was shuttered in 1972 after the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration found it extremely hazardous.
"More than 400,000 asbestos-related lawsuits named the company as a defendant. Pittsburgh Corning settled about 200,000 before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2000, saying the remaining cases could exhaust its assets.
"Like other asbestos-related bankruptcies, Pittsburgh Corning's was prolonged by the sheer number of victim claims being processed and a long list of objections, motions and appeals -- many of them from insurance companies ultimately responsible for paying the victims.
Of 40 insurance companies involved in the case, only two were still filing objections when lawyers filed into Judge Fitzgerald's courtroom May 23 to ask for final revisions to the reorganization plan."
The newspaper said under the bankruptcy plan, PPG would pay about $825 million to the trust through 2023 along with 1.4 million shares of PPG stock or the cash equivalent. Corning would pay $290 million for the next six years. Their insurers would kick in $1.7 billion.
The article said the company generates about $300 million in annual revenues and has 1,500 employees in North America, Europe and Asia.
Bankruptcy Ruling Provides Insight into Billions of Dollars
At Stake in Mesothelioma Cases from Asbestos Exposure
May 22, 2013 - A federal bankruptcy proceeding involving units of a huge Ohio multinational holding company whose subsidiaries manufacture and sell high-performance coatings sealants and specialty chemicals is providing a peek into the substantial amount of money such companies may be on the hook for over asbestos exposure claims.
A U.S. bankruptcy judge has issued an opinion finding that the subsidiaries may be liable for as much as $1.17 billion – more than twice what the holding company estimated – in payouts to asbestos victims.
Exposure to asbestos can cause several deadly cancers, most commonly malignant mesothelioma, a cancer that develops in the linings of a victim’s lungs, heart or abdominal organs after exposure to the toxic material.
The opinion is the latest in a continual legal battle that has spanned several decades over staggering amounts of money that companies and individuals who were negligent in protecting workers and the public from the dangers of asbestos have paid out to these victims.
Hundreds of billions have been paid to mesothelioma victims and others who developed asbestos-caused illnesses in the past and public financial statements from large companies and insurers show that billions more are being set aside for future payouts in settlements and jury awards as well as related legal costs.
In the overwhelming number of cases recorded so far mesothelioma victims – usually in a workplace environment – were exposed to asbestos through the negligence of others.
They unknowingly inhaled microscopic asbestos particles that lodged themselves in the linings of vital organs where, over several decades, they generated mesothelioma cancer cells which formed tumors or spread to other parts of the body.
About 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Most of the victims are in their 50s, 60s and 70s and by the time they are diagnosed the mesothelioma is usually so far advanced it cannot be effectively treated. There is no cure for mesothelioma.
The Ohio firm involved in the bankruptcy proceeding is RPM International Inc., which describes itself as “a multinational holding company with subsidiaries that manufacture and market high-performance coatings, sealants and specialty chemicals, primarily for maintenance and improvement.”
The company reported fiscal 2012 sales of $3.8 billion, with 67 percent to industry worldwide and the remaining 33 percent to consumers mainly in North America.
Shares of the company's common stock are traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol RPM and are owned by some 300 institutional investors and 97,000 individuals.
RPM said on its web site that it employs more than 9,700 people worldwide and operates 82 manufacturing facilities in 20 countries. Its products are sold in approximately 150 countries and territories.
A recent posting on Crain’s Cleveland Business web site detailed the legal struggle the company is going through involving asbestos exposure costs:
“RPM International Inc. (NYSE: RPM) of Medina said the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware has issued an opinion estimating current and future asbestos claims associated with two bankrupt RPM units at about $1.17 billion — substantially higher than the number the company had in mind.
The court’s opinion concerns Bondex International Inc. and Specialty Products Holding Corp., which filed for bankruptcy in May 2010 with plans to set up their own asbestos-victims trust to resolve future and current lawsuits.
In a news release issued late Wednesday, May 20, RPM said the Delaware bankruptcy court’s estimation hearing ‘represents one step in the legal process in helping to determine the amount of potential funding for a legal resolution.’
The debtors, Bondex and SPHC, ‘firmly believe that the opinion substantially overstates the amount of their liability and is not supported by the facts or the law,’ RPM said.
It said Bondex and Specialty Products ‘intend to appeal’ the opinion, adding, ‘It is anticipated that the appeal process could take an additional two to three years.’
Through Chapter 11 proceedings, RPM said, ‘the filing entities intend ultimately to establish a trust in accordance with Section 524(g) of the Bankruptcy Code and seek the imposition of a channeling injunction that will direct all future Bondex-related and SPHC-related claims to the trust.’
RPM said it anticipates that the trust ‘will compensate claims at appropriate values established by the trust documents and approved by the bankruptcy court.’
A Reuters analysis of the opinion notes that the bankruptcy judge, Judith Fitzgerald, ‘rejected what she called a novel theory from the debtor.’
In the estimation hearing, Specialty Products ‘argued that the history of asbestos claims brought against the company overstated the number of injuries caused by its products, because it was settling nuisance cases to cut the cost of litigation,’ according to the Reuters analysis. ‘If those nuisance settlement costs were stripped out of the estimation process, Specialty Products argued it would need to set aside far less money to cover future claims.’
But Judge Fitzgerald rejected that argument.
Reuters reports she wrote that ‘it cannot be rationally doubted that the settlement places a value on the claim that both parties accept.’ She went on to say that ‘as our task is to estimate what amount will compensate present and future victims exposed to Debtors' products, the value both sides (debtors and tort victims) historically chose is clearly relevant.’”
Mesothelioma Controversy Erupts in California;
Officials Debate Asbestos Exposure in Government Building
May 3, 2013 - Finger-pointing and denials over whether government workers were exposed to asbestos in a California building has generated a controversy with high health risks involving the possibility of workers developing malignant mesothelioma.
The controversy stems from a water leak in Sacramento County's old downtown administrative building which caused significant ceiling damage and caused asbestos-containing debris to be spread in the building.
A county safety inspector who examined the situation reported that there was a serious possibility that the 230 employees and an unknown number of public visitors to the building may have been exposed to asbestos.
County officials who responded to the problem and were involved in the clean-up and aftermath, meanwhile, are downplaying the scope of the danger and are claiming that there was little danger of exposure.
Now, an investigation by Cal-OSHA, which received a complaint about the incident, will be conducted to clarify just how dangerous the situation is and which side is telling the truth.
The stakes are high. Exposure to asbestos is the overwhelming cause of malignant mesothelioma, one of the most aggressive and dangerous types of the disease.
In most cases a victim, usually in a work environment, unknowingly inhales microscopic particles of asbestos which work their way into the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs.
There, over a long period of time -- frequently several decades -- the fibers generate cancer cells which form tumors and can spread to other parts of the body.
Because of this lengthy latency period, most cases of mesothelioma are not diagnosed until victims are in their 50s, 60s or 70s and the cancer is so far advanced that it cannot effectively be treated. Most victims are given life expectancies of less than 18 months after being diagnosed.
Here are some of the details of the Sacramento controversy as reported by the Sacramento Bee:
"County managers who oversaw the response maintain that asbestos never became airborne and hazardous. In an Aug. 30 letter to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, county safety specialist Michael Landy said the county's response was 'immediate and effective.' Cal-OSHA closed the complaint without any findings against the county.
But Jeff Rommel, a county senior safety specialist for six years, calls the county's response a 'cover-up.' Rommel filed a complaint about the incident with Cal-OSHA on April 12 and included letters from three county officials questioning how the accident cleanup was conducted. He provided The Bee with a copy of his complaint.
'The people in the building don't even know they might have been exposed,' Rommel told The Bee.
The other county personnel who signed statements in the complaint are David Fletcher, an asbestos worker; John Lemieux, a recently retired stationary engineer; and Karen Carney, an environmental specialist.
Along with Rommel, the three employees said custodial workers removed asbestos without wearing respiratory protection, as required by law.
County employees had fans blowing on the asbestos-containing material and left central air running in the building, increasing the risk for exposure by spreading the material around, Rommel and others said in written statements.
The managers responsible for the accident response were Jeff Gasaway, who runs the county's facility and property services, and Larry Vice, who heads two sections in the division.
Gasaway and Vice said the asbestos was not hazardous because it was wet, and thus it did not become airborne and breathable. They said the fans did not blow on any asbestos because the material on the floor did not contain any.
Fletcher told The Bee that he identified material containing asbestos on the floor.
In his written statement, Fletcher said he took samples from the damaged area and brought them to a lab for a rush analysis. Most of the samples tested positive for asbestos, according to a copy of the lab's report.
'When I was notified by the lab of the positive results, I called John (Lemieux) and asked him to shut down the air handlers and tape off the area to keep the occupants out of the damaged area,' Fletcher wrote.
According to statements from Lemieux and Fletcher, Vice did not comply with the request because the material was wet. Vice confirmed that account with The Bee.
In his written statement, Lemieux said it was well known that the building contained asbestos, and anyone in the building was at risk of exposure.
'In my opinion, this hazardous situation was directly caused by Larry Vice choosing not to follow protocol,' he said in his statement.
Gasaway said Vice consulted with him during the cleanup and he agreed with the decisions. Gasaway said tests were conducted on material that was intact in the ceiling, not what had fallen to the floor.
County spokeswoman Chris Andis said officials already knew there was no asbestos in the fallen material because only tiles without asbestos fell to the ground. She said they needed to test the intact material in the ceiling in preparation for planned repairs.
Air tests were conducted in the building about eight hours after the ceiling collapsed, according to Gasaway and others. The tests found no indication of airborne asbestos, records show. Lemieux and Rommel say that's only because the fans were running all day, clearing out any toxic material.
Cal-OSHA will be left to resolve the discrepancies in the various accounts of the incident."
Researchers Announce Exciting New Method of Identifying
Mesothelioma and other Cancers in Single Cells
April 17, 2013 - In what is being described as a breakthrough in finding a method for early detection of mesothelioma and other cancers it has been announced that a team of scientists has perfected a new, non-invasive method of spotting mesothelioma in single cells in real time (instantly).
Researchers from The Centro de Estudios Cientificos (CECs), with Wolf Frommer, Director of Stanford University’s Carnegie Institute, are describing the discovery as the first non-invasive technique able to analyze molecular action in single cells, according to a recent press release.
The researchers said that over the last decade more primitive measurements required a large number of enzymes in complex cell mixtures, assessed by diagnostic procedures such as PET scans.
The researchers said the new FRET technology utilizes a protein (bacteria) that latches onto selected DNA chains to gauge how genetic information passes between DNA and mRNA, shuttling between cells and into cell nuclei— as a way of producing and injecting the sensor.
The test targeted three cell types: normal cells, tumor cells, and embryonic cells and the fluorescent light instantly revealed accurate lactate levels even in trace concentrations, offering “unprecedented sensitivity and range of detection,” according to the press release.
Early detection of cancer cells would have a significant effect on cancer victims in terms of identifying the cancer early enough to affect positive results from traditional treatments such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Malignant mesothelioma, which is caused in the overwhelming number of cases from exposure to asbestos is rarely identified in its early stages, primarily because it has such a long latency period.
Most victims develop mesothelioma after being exposed -- most commonly in a workplace -- to microscopic asbestos particles which, after being inhaled work their way into the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs.
There, over several decades, the fibers fight off the body's immune defenses and generate cancer cells which form tumors and can spread to other parts of the body.
Most mesothelioma victims do not become symptomatic until they are in their 60s and 70s and the cancer is so far advanced that surgery, radiation and chemotherapy cannot be effective.
About 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year and in most cases the victims are told they will have a life expectancy of less than 18 months.
The results of the new research was posted on the Carnegie Institution for Science web site, which provided the following information:
"Cancer cells break down sugars and produce the metabolic acid lactate at a much higher rate than normal cells. This phenomenon provides a telltale sign that cancer is present, via diagnostics such as PET scans, and possibly offers an avenue for novel cancer therapies. Now a team of Chilean researchers at The Centro de Estudios Científicos (CECs), with the collaboration of Carnegie’s Wolf Frommer, has devised a molecular sensor that can detect levels of lactate in individual cells in real time.
Prior to this advance, no other measurement method could non-invasively detect lactate in real time at the single-cell level. The work, published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, is a boon to understanding how different types of cells go awry when cancer hits.
'Over the last decade, the Frommer lab at Carnegie has pioneered the use of Förster Resonance Energy Transfer, or FRET, sensors to measure the concentration and flow of sugars in individual cells with a simple fluorescent color change. This has started to revolutionize the field of cell metabolism,' explained CECs researcher Alejandro San Martín, lead author of the article.
'Using the same underlying physical principle and inspired by the sugar sensors, we have now invented a new type of sensor based on a transcriptional factor. A molecule that normally helps bacteria to adapt to its environment has now been tricked into measuring lactate for us.'
Lactate shuttles between cells and inside cells as part of the normal metabolic process. But it is also involved in diseases that include inflammation, inadequate oxygen supply to cells, restricted blood supply to tissues, and neurological degradation, in addition to cancer.
'Standard methods to measure lactate are based on reactions among enzymes, which require a large number of cells in complex cell mixtures,' explained Felipe Barros, leader of the project. 'This makes it difficult or even impossible to see how different types of cells are acting when cancerous. Our new technique lets us measure the metabolism of individual cells, giving us a new window for understanding how different cancers operate. An important advantage of this technique is that it may be used in high-throughput format, as required for drug development.'
This work used a bacterial transcription factor—a protein that binds to specific DNA sequences to control the flow of genetic information from DNA to mRNA—as a means to produce and insert the lactate sensor. They turned the sensor on in three cell types: normal brain cells, tumor brain cells, and human embryonic cells. The sensor was able to quantify very low concentrations of lactate, providing an unprecedented sensitivity and range of detection.
The researchers found that the tumor cells produced lactate 3-5 times faster than the non-tumor cells. 'The high rate of lactate production in the cancer cell is the hallmark of cancer metabolism,” remarked Frommer. 'This result paves the way for understanding the nuances of cancer metabolism in different types of cancer and for developing new techniques for combating this scourge.'"
3 Californians Face Multi-Year Prison Terms in Asbestos Case
March 20, 2013 - Government prosecutors are continuing their stepped-up enforcement of environmental laws in the area of asbestos exposure and the cancer risks the material poses to workers and the public.
In the most recent prosecution, three men have pleaded guilty to violating serious federal laws for their roles in exposing workers from a Merced County, California non-profit organization to the toxic material.
The defendants are former Firm Build executives Rudy Buendia III, 50; Patrick Bowman, 46; and Joseph Cuellar, 73, who the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California said pleaded guilty to one felony count of breaking the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.
Prosecutors announced that under an agreement between the office and the defendants the guilty pleas mean that Bowman and Cuellar could be sentenced to 27 months in prison and Buendia two years. Under federal sentencing guidelines the men would probably have to complete at least 85 percent of those sentences.
The men are the latest to be snared in state or federal investigations into the use and handling of asbestos, a deadly toxic material that was once widely used in construction and other uses in the United States until strict environmental laws were enacted in the 1970s.
Asbestos Exposure Causes Mesothelioma
Exposure to asbestos can cause asbestosis, some forms of lung cancer and most commonly, malignant mesothelioma. In the overwhelming number of cases these cancers develop after victims unknowingly inhale microscopic asbestos fibers that are airborne.
In the case of mesothelioma, the fibers invade the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs and, over several decades, generate cancer cells which form tumors or can spread to other parts of the body.
There is no cure for mesothelioma and traditional forms of treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation are usually not effective because most cases are not diagnosed until the victims are in their 60s or older.
By then the cancer is usually so far advanced most victims are told they will have less than 18 months to live. Many mesothelioma victims have filed lawsuits against employers or asbestos companies over allegations of negligence and billions of dollars have been paid out in legal settlements and jury awards.
Workers’ Safety Imperiled
In the Merced case, prosecutors said that the defendant’s management roles with Firm Build, a division of the Merced Housing Authority, made them responsible for worker safety.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said in a press release that the convictions and prison sentences will send a message out to others who might attempt to violate environmental laws.
“Exposing student workers and subcontractors at a construction site to hazardous asbestos without any precautions, and doing so in order to cut corners and save money, is more than reckless -- it is criminal,” Wagner said. “The guilty pleas entered today should stand as a warning that those who disregard environmental laws in the pursuit of profit will be prosecuted and will face prison time.”
According to the indictment returned in the case, Cuellar was the administrative manager of Firm Build Inc., Bowman was its president, and Buendia was its construction project site supervisor.
The allegations charged that from September 2005 to March 2006, Firm Build operated a demolition and renovation project in the former Castle Air Force Base in Atwater, California.
High School Students Hired
They were to turn Building 325 into a mechanic training center for the Merced County Board of Education. The defendants were accused of hiring local high school students from the Workplace Learning Academy in Merced to perform some of the renovation.
According to court documents, the students and other employees removed and disposed of approximately 1,000 linear feet of pipe insulation and additional tank insulation which the defendants knew contained regulated asbestos-containing material without utilizing proper protective equipment (in the form of Tyvek suits, full-face respirators, bootie or footwear coverings, gloves, hair hoods or caps, and shower equipment) or taking protective measures (wetting the asbestos containing materials, sealing the asbestos debris in secure plastic bags, using negative air pressure in the building) in violation of federal law.
Asbestos became airborne during this illegal asbestos abatement, prosecutors said, accusing the defendants of knowingly exposing Firm Build employees, Workplace Learning Academy students, as well as other subcontractors and their employees to hazardous airborne asbestos.
The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on June 3, 2013. The case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, assisted by Cal-EPA, the investigations bureau of the Merced County District Attorney, and the California Department of Justice.
First Patient Is Treated in New Clinical Trial Targeting
Malignant Mesothelioma and Malignant Pleural Effusions
Feb 27, 2013 An important clinical trial in the search for better treatments and a possible cure for victims of malignant mesothelioma has been announced by a San Diego-based biopharmaceutical company.
The announcement came from Genelux Corporation, which describes itself as a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing vaccinia virus-based cancer therapies and companion diagnostics.
In a posting on its web site, the company announced that researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York treated the first patient in a Phase I clinical trial of GL-ONC1 in people with malignant pleural effusion, a complication that occurs in about 30 percent of lung cancers.
Malignant mesothelioma is an asbestos-caused cancer that develops in the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs after a victim innocently inhales microscopic asbestos fibers.
These fibers, after several decades, generate cancer cells which from tumors and can spread to other parts of the body. Because it takes so long for this cancer to develop most victims are not diagnosed until they are in their 50s, 60s and 70s.
About 2,000 to 3,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and most victims are told they will have less than 18 months to live after being diagnosed. There is no cure for mesothelioma.
The overwhelming number of mesothelioma victims are exposed to asbestos in a workplace environment and certain occupations are most at risk because their employment involves exposure to asbestos.
Navy veterans, shipyard workers, auto mechanics and construction trade workers such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, drywall workers and tile setters are disproportionately represented on the toll of mesothelioma victims.
Many of these cases involve negligence on the part of manufacturers, distributors and employers who have violated strict environmental laws and billions of dollars in compensation have been paid out to victims in jury awards and settlements from mesothelioma lawsuits.
Clinical trials are vitally important in medical research involving mesothelioma and other cancers because they allow researchers to test new and experimental treatments involving surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other approaches to attack the cancer.
chemotherapy drugs, surgery techniques and other emergent procedures. Overall, mesothelioma clinical trials offer a way to test up-and-coming treatments and medications that have not yet been approved for safe and effective use.
These new drugs and treatments are in the testing stages and will not be approved by the Food and Drug Administration as approved treatments until years of testing involving large numbers of victims.
These trials are advertised and many mesothelioma victims volunteer for them as a means of utilizing the latest advances in medical research and serving as test cases for potential new treatments or a cure for the disease.
Any mesothelioma victim considering participating in such a trial should consult with their physician about the positives and negatives of volunteering for clinical trials.
In the Genelux trial officials said the safety and dose-escalation study will, for the first time, evaluate GL-ONC1 administered through the lung cavity (intra-pleurally) as a single agent therapy.
The posting on the company web site said that patients enrolled in the trial may have one of a number of possible cancer types such as malignant pleural mesothelioma or non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
The company said Dr. Valerie W. Rusch, one of the world’s leading thoracic surgeons and experts in mesothelioma, serves as Principal Investigator of the MSKCC-sponsored clinical trial.
“We are very pleased that researchers at MSKCC have initiated this important trial,” said Dr. Aladar A. Szalay, founder and CEO of Genelux Corporation in the posting on the company's web site.
“For the first time, this study will allow us to examine the feasibility and effects of administering GL-ONC1 intra-pleurally to some of the most aggressive cancers of the thoracic cavity – including mesothelioma and non-small cell lung cancer. GL-ONC1 delivers therapeutic and diagnostic capabilities (via green fluorescent proteins) simultaneously and directly to tumors without harming healthy tissues or cells. It has been well-tolerated and shown encouraging results in early human trials against a number of solid tumor cancers,” he added.
The posting also included comments from Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner and Executive Director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, a nonprofit support group providing education, patient assistance and advocacy efforts aimed at ending the suffering caused by mesothelioma,
“Particularly in a rare disease with only one approved regimen the Foundation encourages all patients to consider participation in clinical trials,” said Hesdorffer.
“Novel approaches based upon newly developed scientific strategies may lead to more effective treatments and ultimately a cure in this rare and aggressive disease,” she added.
Officials said the primary goal of the trial is to establish a recommended dose of GL-ONC1, when administered intrapleurally to patients with malignant pleural effusion, which is primarily attributable to NSCLC, malignant pleural mesothelioma (a cancerous tumor of the lining of the lung and chest cavity), and other cancers.
The web posting also said that secondary objectives include the feasibility, safety and tolerability of intrapleural vaccinia virus; the detection of virus in body fluids; evaluation of viral appearance in tumors; evaluation of anti-vaccinia virus immune response (e.g. antibody responses) and evidence of anti-tumor activity.
MESOTHELIOMA VICTIM’S FAMILY SEEKS HELP FROM FORMER CO-WORKERS TO AID IN ASBESTOS LAWSUIT
Feb 1, 2013 Court records show that billions of dollars in compensation have been paid out over the last several decades to mesothelioma victims and their families in cases of asbestos exposure.
Successful asbestos lawsuits have become commonplace as the manufacturers, distributors and employers who were negligent in exposing workers to the toxic material have been held responsible through countless out-of-court settlements and jury awards.
The huge payments, of course, can never fully compensate for the devastating health problems, medical expenses and losses of loved ones that typically occur in these cases.
And then there are other tragic cases, such as one in which a mesothelioma victim’s kin are forced to plead with co-workers of a man who died from mesothelioma to come forth and assist them in seeking the compensation they may be due.
The case was recently profiled in the Fulham Chronicle, where the family of an English man who died from lung cancer after he was exposed to asbestos at work has appealed to former colleagues to come forward in their fight for justice.
The newspaper reported that Terence Thompson was 69 when he died of the painful asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in February 2012, after being diagnosed in June 2010.
His widow, Shirley, 71, and daughter, Susan Carroll, 45, believe Mr. Thompson may have been exposed to asbestos through work more than 40 years ago, according to the report.
"When dad was taken ill and admitted to Charing Cross Hospital in May 2010, his doctors suspected he had a serious condition," said Ms Carroll in an interview with the newspaper.
"After he was diagnosed with diffuse mesothelioma in June, he underwent a number of treatments including both chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But his condition deteriorated and it became painfully obvious that dad was seriously ill."
The newspaper reported that Mr. Thompson was admitted to Trinity Hospice in the final weeks of his life and that Ms. Carroll contacted lawyers after discovering mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos and they are investigating whether his former employers are to blame.
Asbestos was widely used in a variety of uses for centuries because of its fire-retardant and insulating qualities and only in the last few decades has its use been strictly regulated in most modern countries, including the United Kingdom.
In most cases victims are exposed to microscopic particles which, after being inhaled, lodge themselves in the linings of a victim’s lungs, heart or abdominal organs.
Mesothelioma is a particularly sinister disease because it has a latency period of several decades. That it how long it can take for these fibers to generate cancer cells which form tumors and can spread to other parts of the body.
Most victims are not diagnosed with the cancer until they are in their 60s or 70s, well beyond the time they were employed in situations in which they may have been exposed to asbestos fibers.
There is no cure and most victims, after being diagnosed, are told they will have a life expectancy of less than 18 months.
Lawyers for Thompson’s survivors told the newspaper that he was probably exposed to asbestos during his work as a plastic moulder at Landis and Gyr in Acton and then as a kitchen porter at Barlby Road School in Ladbroke Grove in the 1960s and 1970s.
“At that time, Bakelite and plastic products were made using a filler that often contained asbestos dust,” one of the lawyers said in an interview. “It’s a sad fact that many plastic moulders were exposed to deadly asbestos fibres and dust during their work.”
Mrs. Thompson was quoted as saying she recalls her husband working in areas where there were badly damaged walls, believed to have been made from asbestos board.
The newspaper said the family and their lawyers want to hear from anyone who knew or worked with Mr. Thompson throughout those years.
“The problem we face is locating people who knew and worked alongside Terence so they can help to verify his working conditions,” one of the lawyers said.
The victim’s occupation was one at high risk of exposure to asbestos, according to health statistics.
In the United States, U.S. Navy veterans, auto mechanics, roofers, tillers, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, construction workers, assembly line workers and shipyard workers are among the occupations which show up most frequently among mesothelioma victims.
CALIFORNIA COMPANY MUST PAY $180,000 FOR VIOLATING ASBESTOS ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS
(January 22, 2013) Officials from several government agencies have announced that a California contractor has settled allegations filed against over blatant violations of laws involving the handling of asbestos, a toxic material.
It was recently announced that San Jose-based asbestos abatement contractor Z-Con Specialty Services, Inc. and its owner, David Zanotti, have agreed to pay $180,000 in civil penalties, costs and supplemental environmental projects over allegations of violations of environmental laws covering the abatement and emission of asbestos.
The handling and use of asbestos has been strictly regulated for several decades after tough laws were put in place to protect workers and the general public from the dangers of exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is the overwhelming cause of several deadly cancers, including malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer and both civil and criminal charges have been filed numerous times against individuals and companies across the country who violate these laws.
Government officials have repeatedly voiced alarms about the dangers of exposure to asbestos in acting to protect public health.
In most cases victims inhale microscopic particles of asbestos which lodge themselves in the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs and, over several, decades generate cancer cells.
Malignant mesothelioma most common asbestos cancer
In the case of malignant mesothelioma, the most common asbestos-caused cancer, most victims are not diagnosed until the cancer is so far advanced that it cannot be effectively treated. There is no cure for mesothelioma and most victims are given life expectancies of less than 18 months after being diagnosed.
In the case of San Jose, company, the defendant also accepted terms that impose a permanent injunction that requires the company and its officials to strictly comply with asbestos-related laws and regulations, according to a story in the Salinas Californian.
The newspaper reported that Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo's Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit, along with the Environmental Protection Unit of the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office, worked out the settlement with Z-Con and Zanotti.
The newspaper said that In May and August 2011, and in August 2012, Z-Con Specialty Services was hired by local contractors to remove asbestos-containing materials at various construction and demolition sites in Monterey County and Santa Cruz County.
Violations committed by Z-Con at these projects include removing asbestos-containing materials such as roofing paper, wallboard texture and linoleum floor backing without using proper wet methods to prevent friable asbestos fibers from becoming airborne, according to the report.
"Violations also include failing to remove all asbestos from a facility, failing to have a competent supervisor on site, failing to conduct a proper asbestos survey to determine whether asbestos is present, failing to notify the Air District of a regulated asbestos abatement activity, as well as additional violations of the federal National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), California Health and Safety Code, Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District (MBUAPCD) rules, and Cal-OSHA regulations governing worker safety with respect to asbestos abatement," according to the report.
Asbestos cancers may not show up for decades
Why is such enforcement important? Because when asbestos is not properly regulated people develop serious diseases which may not show up for decades.
Take the case of an 84-year-old former English fireman who served on a fireboat and recently received a five-figure settlement as a result of being exposed to asbestos.
The Hull Daily Mail reported that the man fought a four-year battle for compensation after being diagnosed and struck down by a lung condition, caused by exposure to the hazardous material.
The newspaper reported that the pensioner, who has asked not to be named, has oxygen tanks, designed to help him breathe, in almost every room of his west Hull.
"He said: 'I was employed by Hull Fire Brigade from 1951 to 1969, based at Clough Road fire station, but I spent a lot of time on the Clara Stark, a fireboat in the Humber. Asbestos used to crumble off the pipework.'"
Before the demise of the fishing industry, with the Cod Wars in the 1960s, a fireboat was used to tackle blazes on trawlers and other ships at the busy docks, according to the report.
The former fireman's condition has drastically reduces his quality of life and he has constant trouble breathing.
He told the newspaper: "I am glad I have received this money. I hope it will encourage others who have suffered to come forward and get what they are entitled to.
"Never in a million years did I think I would get this condition, but no one does at the time. As a fireman, I did not see the dangers of asbestos."
REPORT SAYS INSURERS MAY FACE $11 BILLION MORE THAN THEY EXPECTED IN PAYOUTS TO ASBESTOS VICTIMS
(December 20, 2012) As more asbestos lawsuits are settled or wind up with damages awarded by juries the insurance industry is finding that it may have to pay out $11 billion more than it expected to victims of such asbestos-caused diseases as malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that a new study about decades-old insurance policies that were set up to pay these damages to asbestos victims shows that claims are continuing to increase.
Asbestos litigation is one of the longest-running types of litigation in the U.S. court system and tens of billions of dollars already have been paid out to victims of asbestos exposure with the amounts steadily increasing in recent years.
Reuters News Service, for instance, found that the average asbestos award was $6.3 million in 2009, $17.6 million in 2010 and $10.5 million in 2011 -- amounts much greater than what lawyers say was the norm more than a decade earlier.
Mesothelioma lawyers offer free consultations to victims diagnosed with an asbestos-caused disease and request that victims contact them as soon as possible because there may be legal time limits in such cases.
Most of the awards have gone to victims of mesothelioma, the most common and deadliest asbestos-caused cancer. In most cases victims of this cancer unknowingly inhale microscopic particles of airborne asbestos that work their way into the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs.
There, over several decades, they generate cancer cells which form tumors and can spread to other parts of the body. There is no cure and most victims after being diagnosed are told they will have less than 18 months life expectancy.
The majority of these cases, according to court records, occur after exposure in a workplace environment and manufacturers of asbestos and employers who fail to follow strict regulations providing for the safety of employees have been held liable in these cases.
Certain occupations are disproportionately at risk of developing an asbestos-caused disease. Construction workers, auto mechanics, Navy veterans, shipyard workers, tile layers and roofers are among the most at risk, according to national health statistics.
The Wall Street Journal report said that the insurance industry has already paid out about $51 billion in claims tied to asbestos over the past quarter century, and has $23 billion set aside for future expenses, for a total of $74 billion But the report from ratings firm A.M. Best concludes the ultimate cost of such claims will eventually hit an estimated $85 billion, instead of $75 billion, its previous estimate, published last year.
The increasing cost of each claim, the recent successes of plaintiffs' attorneys, and the long latency periods for some of the more serious illnesses caused by the once widely used mineral mean "sizable losses are likely to continue for years," A.M. Best said in the report, due to be released this week, according to the Journal.
The newspaper said insurers with significant exposure to asbestos claims include Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Travelers and Berkshire Hathaway, which has taken on billions in asbestos liabilities in recent years through reinsurance deals with American International Group, CAN Financial Corp. and Lloyd's of London.
"While it hasn't been widely used since the late 1970s, asbestos was once common in a variety of building materials and other products and valued as a fireproofing and insulation material until it became clear that it presented a significant health hazard," the Journal reported.
"The diseases it can cause—asbestosis, mesothelioma and others—can take decades to present themselves, so new cases continue to emerge many years after people were exposed. Therefore, insurers are still paying out on the coverage they sold in the decades when asbestos was in wide use."
An extra $11 billion in unexpected costs over the course of several years wouldn't be enough to cripple the insurance industry, but investors have reacted poorly in the past when companies have announced major additions to reserves on longstanding liabilities like asbestos, according to the Journal.
The newspaper estimated that at $11 billion, the asbestos shortfall would equal about half the estimated insured loss from Sandy, the massive storm that struck the Northeast in late October.
Insurers are posting nearly $2 billion in losses each year and the "loss trend remains worrisome," according to an advance copy of the report.
"The plaintiff's bar has experienced success in eroding some reforms, as well as focusing on obtaining higher judgments for the more serious cases involving mesothelioma," wrote A.M. Best analyst Gerard Altonji.
"Given the long latency period between exposure to asbestos and the manifestation of mesothelioma, as well as the very large number of people exposed over a great many years...it is likely that asbestos losses will continue to develop for many years to come."
The latency period described in the report is one of the sinister aspects of asbestos-caused diseases such as mesothelioma. It is not uncommon for the disease not to become symptomatic and diagnosed until 40 or 50 years after exposure.
The process of diagnosing the disease is made more complicated by the fact that the symptoms of mesothelioma frequently are the same as the flu or respiratory problems that victims tend not to take seriously.
As a result, most cases of mesothelioma involve cancer so aggressive and advanced that traditional methods of cancer treatment such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are not effective.
POOL OF MONEY FOR ASBESTOS VICTIMS PUT AT $85 BILLION
(December 6, 2012) The amount of money that insurance companies are setting aside for payments to asbestos victims has climbed to $85 billion, according to a review of financial data by a Wall Street financial service.
Lawsuits and settlements of cases brought by victims of exposure to asbestos who have suffered such cancers as malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer have generated other billions of dollars over the last several decades.
However, the pool of litigation funds that Fitch Ratings is estimating has been compiled for future payouts in asbestos litigation shows that there is still a significant amount of money for asbestos victims, say legal experts.
Fitch Ratings, which is headquartered in both New York City and London, is among the services designated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as one of the "Big Three" credit rating agencies.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen that long has been identified in asbestos lawsuits as causing mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. In the case of mesothelioma, the most common asbestos-caused cancer, the disease develops after individuals are exposed to microscopic particles of asbestos that lodge themselves in the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs.
Over several decades, these particles fight off the body's immune system and generate cancer cells which form tumors and can spread to other parts of the body.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year and that many of them are caused by exposure in a work-related environment.
Certain occupations are most at risk for asbestos exposure. National health statistics show that construction workers, auto mechanics, shipyard workers and military veterans -- particularly Navy veterans -- show up disproportionately in the number of asbestos victims.
A tragic consequence of developing mesothelioma is the fact that the cancer has an unusually long latency period. In most cases victims do not become symptomatic until several decades after they were exposed to asbestos.
Sadly, medical science has found that in such cases traditional cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are not effective and there is no cure for mesothelioma.
The Mayo Clinic describes the problem:
"What treatment you undergo for mesothelioma depends on your health and certain aspects of your cancer, such as its stage and location. Unfortunately, mesothelioma often is an aggressive disease and for most people a cure isn't possible. Mesothelioma is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage — when it isn't possible to remove the cancer through an operation. Instead, your doctor may work to control your cancer to make you more comfortable."
Fitch found that industry reserves for asbestos lawsuits may be deficient by $2 billion to $8 billion in the short term but predicts the insurance industry will be "strongly capitalized" in the long run.
FDA OKAYS DRUG FOR PLEURAL MESOTHELIOMA TREATMENT
(November 15, 2012) Encouraging news is being reported about medication that now can be used to treat victims of pleural mesothelioma, the most common of the asbestos-caused malignant mesothelioma cancers.
OncLive, a web site dedicated to oncology professionals, the physicians who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, just posted an announcement that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted Orphan Drug Status to amatuximab for the treatment of these patients.
The site reported that amatuximab (MORAb-009) is a monoclonal antibody designed to target mesothelin, a cell surface glycoprotein associated with cell adhesion that is overexpressed in certain types of cancer, including pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, mesothelioma, epithelial ovarian cancer, and lung adenocarcinoma.
New therapeutic agents such as amatuximab are given orphan status when they treat a disease that affects fewer than 200,000 patients in the United States, according to the report.
There are about 2,500 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in the United States each year, according to the American Cancer Society. In most cases, victims, after being diagnosed, are told that their life expectancy will be less than 18 months.
In the overwhelming number of cases the cancer develops after victims are exposed to asbestos, a toxic material. Typically, this occurs in an occupational setting because the majority of mesothelioma victims worked or once worked in jobs in which they were exposed to the material, such as construction work, military service, shipbuilding and in the auto manufacturing or repair business.
This exposure to asbestos put them at risk of inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers which work their way into the linings of the lung, heart or abdominal organs and, over several decades, generate cancer cells. Pleural mesothelioma, the lung variety, is by far the most common.
Because mesothelioma has such a long latency period by the time it is diagnosed it is so far advanced that traditional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation are not effective.
"We are very pleased to receive orphan drug designation for amatuximab for the potential treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma," said Julia Maltzman, MD, Senior Director of Clinical Development at Morphotek Inc., a subsidiary of amatuximab manufacturer Eisai Inc., in a statement posted on the web site. "Ultimately, this antibody has the potential to provide an additional treatment option for patients suffering from an extremely serious disease."
OncLive reported that results of a multicenter phase II clinical trial of amatuximab in combination with a chemotherapy regimen of pemetrexed and cisplatin were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting earlier this year.
The site reported that the study enrolled 89 patients with malignant mesothelioma who received amatuximab 5 mg/kg on days 1 and 8 with pemetrexed 500 mg/m2 and cisplatin 75 mg/m2 (PC) given on day 1 of each 21-day cycle for 6 cycles.
" Patients who achieved an objective response or stable disease received amatuximab alone until the disease progressed," according to OncLive. "The efficacy data was compiled using results from the first 77 patients who had at least 1 post-baseline imaging assessment or who died. The primary endpoint of the study was progression-free survival (PFS), with overall survival (OS), objective response rate, and safety serving as secondary endpoints."
The report said that according to an independent radiological review, 30 (39%) of patients achieved a partial response and 39 (51%) had stable disease. After 6 months, PFS was 52% (95% confidence interval [CI], 39.5–63.5) with a median PFS of 6.1 months (95% CI, 5.4–6.5). The median OS was 14.5 months (95% CI, 12.4–18.5), although updated results presented at ASCO showed a median OS of 14.8 months.
OncLive said that "As of April, 29 patients were still alive, and 5 of those patients were continuing to receive amatuximab as maintenance therapy. In addition to the expected toxicity from the PC chemotherapy regimen, 12.4% of patients experienced hypersensitivity reactions due to amatuximab, with 4.5% of patients experiencing grade 3 or 4 hypersensitivity reactions."
DEADLINE SET FOR ASBESTOS VICTIMS IN MONTANA DISASTER
(November 8, 2012) A benefits deadline has been set for the unfortunate victims of one of the nation's largest asbestos disasters that occurred in the small mining town of Libby, Montana. At least 400 people have died of mesothelioma or other asbestos-caused diseases and hundreds more have been sickened. Authorities say the final toll may not be known for years.
The development is part of the painstakingly long recovery attempt after clouds of asbestos particles were spewed from a vermiculite plant, became airborne and coated a mountain community that still has no assurances of when life will return to normal.
The Daily Inter Lake news site has reported that Libby asbestos victims have until Nov. 20 to enroll in the Libby Medical Plan Trust that will disburse $19.5 million set aside by W.R. Grace & Co. as part the company's bankruptcy court settlement.
"The trust is available to all people diagnosed with asbestos-related disease resulting from exposure linked to the former Grace vermiculite mine near Libby," according to the report, which said that Grace filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in 2001 in response to a growing number of asbestos claims.
The site reported that Grace voluntarily created the Libby Medical Program in 2000 to provide coverage for certain asbestos-related illnesses and that the program will be terminated as the trust takes over some measure of insurance coverage for asbestos victims.
The Daily Inter Lake quoted Brian Bailey, a Kalispell independent health-care insurance specialist who is assisting in developing a trust distribution plan as saying that a final plan on how to distribute the money has been finalized.
Even though the area has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund site in which hundreds of millions of federal dollars have been spent attempting to erase health hazards from the toxic situation authorities are still not sure they have identified all of the contaminated areas.
Meanwhile, more and more asbestos-related illnesses are being reported, including malignant mesothelioma, the most common asbestos-caused cancer and one for which there is no cure. The cancer is so aggressive that by the time most victims are diagnosed they will be told that they will have a remaining life expectancy of less than 18 months.
Mesothelioma develops after victims are exposed to microscopic particles of asbestos floating in the air. After being inhaled, these particles lodge themselves in the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs and, over several decades, generate cancer cells which form tumors and can spread to other parts of the body.
The Libby disaster is unique in its scope. Most cases of asbestos exposure occur in occupational settings, in which workers are exposed through employer or manufacturer negligence. The largest numbers of mesothelioma victims are military – particularly Navy – veterans, construction workers, auto mechanics, roofers, tillers, shipyard workers and electricians.
In Libby, residents and workers affected by the disaster have voiced anger at the failure of authorities to put an end to a situation that seems to go on forever. The Grace plant was once an economic mainstay and for several decades vermiculite from the mine was collected and shipped by rail across the nation for use in attic insulation.
After the mine was shut down it took years for the scope of the disaster to be recognized and the situation was declared a public health emergency by an EPA administrator in 2009. Even though nearly a million cubic yards of debris has been cleared officials are still uncertain about when the clean-up project will be completed.
The EPA also recently issued clean-up health standards that are significantly stricter than the agency has ever adopted before and raised the ire of contractors, further complicating matters.
The Associated Press quoted Jeff Camplin, an environmental safety consultant who has been working with activists in Libby, a saying that the uncertain timetable means the EPA has pushed forward without enough scientific grounding to guide its cleanup: "They just seem to be throwing money at the issue," said Camplin."
Meanwhile, the Daily Inter Lake reported that the benefits proposal is to reimburse people with asbestos disease $100 a month for their Medicare Part B premium and an additional $30 monthly for having adequate prescription or medical insurance coverage. These payments would be distributed twice a year, with a maximum annual payout of $1,560.
The report said that "Adequate" coverage could include Medicare Part D, a Medicare Advantage or Medicare supplement, Veterans Administration or employer-based coverage, according to an informational letter sent to patients by the Center for Asbestos Related Disease in Libby.
The news site estimated that at the proposed rate of compensation, the $19.5 million would last somewhere between three to four years, depending on how many eligible beneficiaries enroll.
The Daily Inter Lake also reported that Francis McGovern, a law professor at Duke University, has been named the independent trustee of the trust by the bankruptcy court. He has served as a mediator, court-appointed neutral facilitator and trustee in numerous asbestos and other mass tort cases.
Recovery From Superstorm Sandy Will Require Careful Treatment Of Toxic Asbestos
(October 31, 2012) As the nation's most populous area recovers from the devastation wreaked by Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast the full extent of the damage will not be finally determined for several months.
This is because there will be an almost unprecedented clean-up that will involve multiple government jurisdictions and private contractors who will not only have to deal with major repairs and renovations but potentially toxic situations as well.
One of the lessons learned from a similar recovery in the Gulf States that were clobbered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was that damaged homes, buildings and infrastructure exposed millions of residents and rescue workers to the dangers of asbestos.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen that causes such devastating cancers such as malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. The disease develops after individuals are exposed to microscopic particles of asbestos that lodge themselves in the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs.
Although asbestos is a common component in older roofing, insulation, flooring and other construction uses, it normally does not pose a danger. However, powerful storms such as Sandy and Katrina cause such extensive damage that large amounts of asbestos were disturbed and spread into the atmosphere in the wake of storm damage.
Storms are not the only cause of widespread asbestos exposure damage. The 2001 terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center loosened so much asbestos that authorities in New York City are still identifying possible victims and ensuring their treatment.
Now, hundreds of cities and other locales in the path of Sandy will be undertaking similar clean-up activities while trying to protect both rescue workers and the general populace from asbestos exposure.
The federal government will certainly play an active role in this clean-up, most prominently in acting to ensure that safe policies are followed. It is likely that the guidelines will be similar to those issued in 2005 in the wake of Katrina. Here's a glance at how Katrina's asbestos cleanup was overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency then:
EPA's guidance has been requested on the demolition of structurally unsound buildings damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Various federal regulations apply to building demolition activities. Areas of primary federal concern include asbestos demolition requirements, the proper disposal of electrical equipment containing PCBs (i.e., distribution transformers and capacitors) and storage tanks. EPA recognizes the difficult circumstances faced in demolishing structurally unsound buildings damaged by Hurricane Katrina may make full compliance difficult. However, in any event, you should take the actions set forth below to the extent feasible.
Efforts to restore the damaged areas to their pre-disaster condition often involve removing or repairing damaged structures. There may be a natural tendency at this stage to overlook certain hazards, such as asbestos, that are not immediately life threatening. However, such hazards are serious and may manifest themselves many years from the time of exposure and should be taken into consideration. Given the health hazards associated with asbestos, PCBs, lead, and other harmful substances, it is reasonable that adequate measures be taken during emergency situations to minimize exposure to such materials from the demolition of buildings.
The following guidelines are provided to help minimize the health, safety and environmental risks associated with the demolition of structurally unsound buildings (structures that remain standing but are in danger of imminent collapse). In the case of such buildings it would be unsafe to enter or inspect a structure to determine the amount, types, and location of building materials containing asbestos, PCBs, lead, or other harmful substances. This guidance does not apply to the demolition of hurricane damaged but structurally sound buildings.
This guidance remains in effect through December 31, 2005, and applies only to areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
To the extent feasible, efforts should be made to perform the following steps:
Federal asbestos regulations do not apply to the demolition of structurally unsound buildings by private individuals who contract directly with the demolition contractor for the demolition of a residential building they own having four or fewer units. However, EPA strongly recommends, for health reasons, that anyone conducting demolition activities follow this guidance.
Identifying Asbestos Containing Materials
Asbestos-containing products, which may be part of this debris, include: asbestos-cement corrugated sheet, asbestos-cement flat sheet, asbestos pipeline wrap, roofing felt, vinyl-asbestos floor tile, asbestos-cement shingle, millboard, asbestos-cement pipe, and vermiculite-attic insulation.
All structures (both residential and commercial) built before 1975 may contain significant amounts of asbestos. In particular large structures built before 1975 typically contain asbestos pipe wrap, siding, ceiling tiles, and other building materials high in asbestos content. Additionally, structures built after 1975 may also contain asbestos.
Notification and Expertise
Persons conducting demolitions should notify the appropriate state/local air quality management program as early as possible prior to the start of the demolition, but in any event, no later than the following workday after starting the demolition.
At least one person, either a government official or private contractor, trained in the asbestos NESHAP regulations should be on site or available by cell phone during the demolition to provide assistance and guidance.
In all instances, workers should use equipment specifically designed to protect them from asbestos exposures during demolition and handling of debris, especially respirators, as required under OSHA.
Heavy equipment that is used to demolish structures or that is run over debris from the hurricane will rupture the building materials and may cause asbestos to be released. Therefore, it is very important to wet the structure before demolition and keep the structure wet during demolition. Wetting the structure is crucial because it reduces the potential for air migration of asbestos.
EPA recommends knocking down each structure wall-by-wall, folding it in on itself to minimize excess breakage of asbestos containing material.
Keep the debris wetted and covered until it is possible to consult with the asbestos trained person to segregate out asbestos containing material to the extent feasible. If asbestos is known to be present but cannot be safely segregated, dispose of all the debris as if it is asbestos containing materials as discussed below.
Removal of Asbestos Containing Material
After you have collapsed the structure, if feasible, place the asbestos containing material into leak proof wrapping. If the volume of the material precludes use of leak proof wrapping, continue to wet the asbestos containing material and use heavy lifting equipment to place the asbestos containing material into waiting dump trucks. Whenever possible, use a plastic liner in the bottom of the bed of the dump truck to minimize the leakage of contaminated water from the dump truck. If the asbestos containing material has been further broken up during the loading process, wet it down again after you load it into the dump truck.
Cover the dump truck with a tarp, sealing it so that debris and dust cannot be released during transport.
Placard (with a large sign) the dump trucks as they are being loaded and unloaded with asbestos-containing building materials. The placard should read: "Warning: Asbestos Hazard. Stay Away."
Disposal of Asbestos Containing Material
Truck the debris to a landfill allowed to receive asbestos. Contact state authorities for a list of asbestos approved landfills. Maintain your waste shipment records.
ASBESTOS-PLAGUED NASSAU COLISEUM ABANDONED BY NHL'S ISLANDERS IN MOVE TO NEW ARENA IN BROOKLYN
(October 25, 2012) Amid rising concerns about the dangers of asbestos exposure, financing problems and what has been described as a lack of political leadership, the National Hockey League's New York Islanders have abandoned their long-time home in the Nassau Coliseum.
The team's owners are relocating the franchise in a new arena in Brooklyn that they described as a safer, more convenient locale for their fans. Concerns about the safety of employees, athletes and fans have spurred an investigation into the dangers caused by the discovery of the toxic material's exposure.
Exposure to asbestos is the overwhelming cause of several deadly cancers, including malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. In most cases victims unknowingly inhale microscopic particles of asbestos that have been damaged or dislodged and these fibers invade the body.
Mesothelioma is the most common of such cancers and occurs after these particles lodge themselves in the linings of a victim's lungs, heart or abdominal organs. There is no cure for mesothelioma and most victims are given less than 18 months to live after being diagnosed.
The shift of the franchise has generated civic controversy among the municipalities involved over civic pride and economic issues, including the loss or gain of jobs and tax revenues. These concerns were raised even before reports surfaced earlier this year about the possibility of dangerous asbestos deposits in the building.
So far, the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the operators of the Coliseum over 16 violations of environmental workplace health and safety rules and is proposing nearly $100,000 in fines.
The Coliseum opened in 1972 in Uniondale, on Long Island, hence the name of the team, and the new location brings it much closer to massive population base of central New York City.
Ironically, the new home will be in Brooklyn, which is still lamenting the loss of its famous Dodgers to Los Angeles 54 years ago. The move will be effective after the 2014-2015 NHL season. The Islanders history is rich: The team won the Stanley cup each year from 1980 to 1983 and took over the metropolitan New York hockey supremacy over the long-established New York Rangers.
The New Jersey Nets National Basketball Association team also has relocated to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
"It's a new place and it's only 35 minutes away by train," Islanders team owner Charles Wang said at a news conference Wednesday. "Come and join us and see hockey."
An Associated Press report about the move quoted the comments of Mike Bossy, a Hockey Hall of Famer who now serves as the Islanders' vice president of corporate partnerships, who stressed that local ties will remain despite the move:
"Absolutely," he said. "Charles' main goal was to keep the team local, and he succeeded in doing that. As much as people may be upset because it's not going to be in Nassau County they should be happy because he kept the team in New York."
The Barclays Center sits across the street from the site Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley hoped to put a baseball stadium to keep his club in New York. He was unable to pull it off, so the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles in 1958 and the borough was without a major pro sports franchise until the Nets' arrival this year.
Coincidentally, the Nets hosted the New York Knicks in an NBA preseason game at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night.
Real estate developer Bruce Ratner, a minority owner of the Nets, was instrumental in getting the Barclays Center built and paving the way for Brooklyn to re-enter the world of sports in a major way. The building is the main part of a $3.5-billion sports arena, business and residential complex called Atlantic Yards that was built by Ratner's company.
"He got offers to move the team out of state — good offers — but Charles wouldn't do that," Ratner said. "Charles is the real hero here today."
Wang wanted to keep the team in New York despite failing to get the Lighthouse Project built on Long Island. The grandiose development plan would have included a new arena for the Islanders, but it never got the necessary approval for construction.
Both Wang and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated in the past that the Islanders wouldn't play in Nassau Coliseum one day longer that they had to. Wang said he had serious options to move the team far away — Kansas City and Quebec City both had been mentioned — but stuck to his desire to remain in the area.
"We came to the right conclusion," Wang said.
The Islanders hope this move will help them on and off the ice. The team hasn't reached the playoffs since 2007 and hasn't won a postseason series since 1993.
In the meantime, the operators of the Nassau Coliseum will have to deal with asbestos safety issues at the facility for the remaining Islanders' games there as well as numerous concerts and other activities that draw thousands of spectators.
OSHA is expected to come up with a series of recommendations for measures the operators will have to comply with in order to stage those events.
Whether any workers exposed to the asbestos develops mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer will not be known for several years or decades, because it takes a long period of time for the diseases to become symptomatic.
NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES POSSIBILITY OF NEW BIOMARKER TO IDENTY MESOTHELIOMA CASES
(October 23, 2012) Frustratingly slow progress has been made over the last few decades in Identifying and treating malignant mesothelioma but a report about recent findings by medical researchers carries important implications for both physicians and victims.
There is the possibility, according to the new research, that a new biomarker has been found that may allow an earlier diagnosis of mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer that develops in the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs.
The information was contained in a bulletin recently issued by the National Cancer Institute that was distributed to health care professionals, medical researchers, news media and consumers.
According to a posting by the institute, researchers have shown that the protein fibulin-3 may be able to distinguish patients with mesothelioma from people with similar conditions and from healthy individuals.
Although preliminary, the results suggest that this protein may be a promising new biomarker for diagnosing the disease and possibly informing prognosis. The study was published October 11 in the New England Journal of Medicine, the institute said.
Low mesothelioma survival rate
Officials said pleural mesothelioma, a disease of the tissue that lines the chest cavity and covers the lungs (the pleura), is a cancer so aggressive that patients diagnosed with this disease have a median survival of one year.
Overall, about 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year and most victims are told they will have less than 18 months to live after being diagnosed.
More important details from the institute's posting:
Diagnosing mesothelioma early, when treatment may be most effective, is difficult because of its long latency period and the lack of reliable methods to detect the disease in its early stages.
A protein called soluble mesothelin-related protein is the best-studied biomarker for mesothelioma, but the test for it has low sensitivity, meaning that it fails to detect mesothelioma in some people who have the disease.
In the study, supported by NCI's Early Detection Research Network (EDRN), Dr. Harvey Pass of the New York University Langone Medical Center and his colleagues identified fibulin-3, a protein important in cell-to-cell and cell-to-extracellular matrix signaling, as a potential mesothelioma marker.
Samples taken from patients
The researchers measured fibulin-3 levels in plasma and pleural effusion samples from 142 patients with mesothelioma, 136 cancer-free individuals exposed to asbestos, and 93 patients with effusions not due to mesothelioma. The researchers also evaluated plasma samples from 91 patients with cancers other than mesothelioma, as well as from 43 healthy control subjects, many of whom were EDRN investigators.
Average plasma fibulin-3 levels were higher in patients with mesothelioma than in people without cancer who had been exposed to asbestos. Patients with mesothelioma and those without the disease could be distinguished with a sensitivity of 96.7 percent and a specificity of 95.5 percent at a cutoff level of 52.8ng/ml of plasma fibulin-3.
The researchers used another cohort of plasma samples to validate their findings, though the sensitivity and specificity fell to 72.9 percent and 88.5 percent, respectively.
"Totally new marker"
"This is a totally new marker; something that we have never thought about in mesothelioma," commented Dr. Raffit Hassan of NCI's Center for Cancer Research, who was not involved in the study. "Fibulin-3 appears to be much better than serum mesothelin in terms of sensitivity and specificity."
Plasma fibulin-3 levels may also be helpful in monitoring response to therapy and disease progression. In 18 patients, fibulin-3 levels fell after surgery, and there was a trend toward rising fibulin-3 at the time of disease progression in 6 of these patients.
Fibulin-3 levels were higher in effusion samples than in plasma samples. In the few patients with both plasma and effusion samples, there was no clear relationship between the fibulin-3 levels in the two locations. Effusion fibulin-3 levels, however, were able to distinguish patients with mesothelioma from those with effusions not related to the disease, a welcome finding as it is difficult to distinguish patients with mesothelioma from those with benign effusions or malignant effusions due to other cancer types.
Survival times vary
Likewise, effusion fibulin-3 levels were lower in patients with stage I or II mesothelioma than in those with stage III or IV disease. Patients with the highest effusion fibulin-3 levels at the time of surgery had shorter survival times.
The results are promising, though more studies involving a larger number of patients and prospective studies are needed to validate fibulin-3 as a biomarker for mesothelioma, noted Dr. Hassan.
"The other important thing would be to see if the levels of fibulin-3 could be used as a biomarker for response to chemotherapy or other biological therapies," he said. "Since mesothelioma is a very difficult disease to measure radiologically, it would be nice to have a sensitive and specific assay for monitoring response to treatment."
EPA AWARDS OKLAHOMA SCHOOLS BIG ASBESTOS GRANT
(October 10, 2012) The specter of asbestos exposure to students, teachers, administrators and government workers was highlighted again in an announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that $240,000 is being earmarked to reduce the danger of the toxic material.
EPA officials said the funds will be awarded to the Oklahoma Department of Labor to help reduce exposure to asbestos in schools and state buildings through compliance monitoring. The funds will be used by the ODOL to complete audit inspections in local schools during the upcoming school year.
Asbestos inspections are a traditional method of encouraging compliance with the Asbestos in School Rule which is designed to protect the health of school children, other occupants, and local communities. The ODOL will also use the funds to verify asbestos abatement workers are properly trained and accredited.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber, once widely used in building materials for its thermal insulating properties and fire resistance. Intact, undisturbed asbestos-containing materials (ACM) generally do not pose a health risk.
Airborne asbestos fibers can be deadly
However, these materials may become hazardous and pose increased risk if they are damaged, disturbed or deteriorate over time and release asbestos fibers into the air. Numerous incidents of such exposure have been documented in school buildings and government facilities across, the country, particularly during repair work, remodeling or renovations.
Serious, deadly cancers such as malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer can develop after victims are exposed to these microscopic fibers. In the case of mesothelioma -- the most common asbestos-caused disease -- these fibers lodge in the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs and over several decades generate cancer cells.
The EPA said its asbestos program for schools, and its regulations for schools and other buildings, is founded on the principle of "in-place" management of ACM. This approach is designed to prevent asbestos exposure by teaching people to recognize asbestos-containing materials and actively monitor and, where necessary, manage them in place. Removal of ACM is not usually necessary unless the material is severely damaged or will be disturbed by a building demolition or renovation project.
What is EPA doing to help keep school children safe?
EPA's asbestos program for schools, mandated by the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), and its regulations for schools and other buildings is founded on the principle of "in-place" management of asbestos-containing material (ACM).
This approach is designed to prevent asbestos exposure by teaching people to recognize asbestos-containing materials and actively monitor and, where necessary, manage them in place. Removal of ACM is not usually necessary unless the material is severely damaged or will be disturbed by a building demolition or renovation project.
The rules implementing AHERA are published in the Code of Federal Regulations and require local education agencies to take actions to:
- Perform an original inspection and re-inspection every three years of asbestos-containing material;
- Develop, maintain, and update an asbestos management plan and keep a copy at the school;
- Provide yearly notification to parent, teacher, and employee organizations regarding the availability of the school's asbestos management plan and any asbestos abatement actions taken or planned in the school;
- Designate a contact person to ensure the responsibilities of the local education agency are properly implemented;
- Perform periodic surveillance of known or suspected asbestos-containing building material;
- Ensure that properly-accredited professionals perform inspections and response actions and prepare management plans; and
- Provide custodial staff with asbestos-awareness training.
SERIOUS QUESTIONS RAISED IN WHISTLEBLOWER LAWSUIT OVER ASBESTOS EXPOSURE DANGERS IN PHILADELPHIA
(October 2, 2012) It seems absurd that a highly decorated police officer who worried about kids being exposed to a toxic material would be reprimanded for his concerns about public safety. But that's apparently just what happened in Philadelphia where a policeman claims he has brought to light a cover-up about whether a contractor actually performed an asbestos clean-up that he was paid to do and endangered the lives of young students.
What remains to be seen is whether this case is yet another chapter in a problem that is frequently reoccurring across the country as contractors who are not licensed to treat, handle and dispose of asbestos are putting workers and the public in danger.
Numerous state and federal prosecutions involving improper or illegal handling of the toxic material are being handed down as authorities have been stepping up their prosecutions of violations of environmental laws. In recent months government officials, contractors and redevelopment officers have been slapped with prison terms and stiff fines in connection with these violations.
In one recent case, a contractor was convicted of hiring homeless people with no asbestos training or equipment in an asbestos removal project in which toxic material was put in bags and dumped near a park.
Fortunately, the mainstream media has been publicizing some of these cases to bring these health hazards to light. Here is what Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Daniel Rubin wrote about the police whistleblower's case:
Officer Paul Zenak, who was reprimanded after complaining, has not returned to work since filing a whistle-blower suit.
Officer Paul Zenak's trouble with the brass started a year ago, he says, when he was coordinating the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia's center in Wissinoming.
The basement was undergoing renovation, and the officer didn't like the look of some mold on the pipes that run through the homework room. It was worse than that, a New Jersey contractor named Joe Bailey told him - there was asbestos.
Zenak was already wary of the stuff. His uncle Bill, a Philadelphia Gas Works employee, had died of mesothelioma, a cancer that comes from inhaling asbestos fibers, in 2008. That was the year the officer was assigned to the youth group center in the Wissinoming United Methodist Church, and Zenak couldn't help but notice the sticker the city Health Department had slapped on the boiler of his new workplace warning of an asbestos hazard.
So in September 2011, when the contractor said there was exposed asbestos on the 60 feet of pipe that hung in the room where neighborhood kids studied and played on the computer, Zenak reacted fast.
He closed off the area and notified the church and his sergeant. The sergeant, he says, assured him there was no problem: The contractor was licensed by the city to work with the carcinogen. Two weeks later, when Zenak returned to the basement, he found the place a mess - dust piled on the floor and still inside a Shop-Vac that had been left uncovered.
Zenak called his sergeant to complain. And that day he received the first reprimand of a 21-year career that has included recognition for being his district's officer of the year. He kept pushing, asking for an air test and demanding to see the license of the contractor hired to perform more than $25,000 worth of renovations to the church. The officer asked why PAL, not the church, was paying for the work. Another reprimand followed.
In May, Zenak filed a whistle-blower suit in Common Pleas Court against PAL, the church, the contractor, and the city, which partially funds the athletic league.
I poked around the case at the time, and a PAL lawyer told me there was no asbestos at the site - that the city had gone in to perform tests, and that the league had hired its own licensed firm to test the place just to be safe.
But the matter isn't going away. During depositions, Zenak's lawyer was handed a $955 invoice the contractor had sent PAL for asbestos removal at the Wissinoming center. He also sent a bill for $640 worth of asbestos work at the PAL center in Oxford Circle.
Neither the contractor nor his attorney got back to me. Bailey told the Philadelphia Daily News in June he was mistaken in thinking what he'd removed was asbestos. Jeff Moran, the city Health Department spokesman, says Philadelphia has never certified Bailey to handle asbestos.
Zenak's lawyer, Aaron Freiwald, now wants the health of every child who has used either center since 2008 to be monitored. On Thursday, he filed a class-action suit against all of the parties, adding the Glading Memorial Presbyterian Church on East Cheltenham Avenue, where the Oxford Circle PAL meets.
Zenak has not been back on the job since filing suit. The 43-year-old father of four says he suffers from asthmalike symptoms as well as anxiety about returning to a hostile work environment.
I asked what he wanted out of the suit. "I want to make sure everything, if it wasn't done right, then it gets done right," he said. "And personally, at this point, I'm pretty [angry]. Every day that goes by, all I do is think about this and what they tried to do to my career."
Seems to me there's still a question of whether the contractor actually handled asbestos. He is scheduled to be deposed next week.
Who knows how long this case will go on? In the meantime, the idea of carcinogens hanging over the heads of those who find safety in the motto "Cops Helping Kids Since 1947" can offer no comfort to anyone.
As noted in the column, Zenak's uncle died of mesothelioma and his fears for the health of the kids he is working with appear well-placed. Asbestos that is damaged or, as in the case of the Philadelphia basement, that is left out in the open poses a serious health problem.
Mesothelioma, a deadly, aggressive cancer, develops after victims are exposed to these microscopic fibers which, after being inhaled, invade the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs and, over several decades, generate cancer cells.
The sad fact of the case in Philadelphia is that it may be many years before health officials will be able to determine if any of the children were affected.
MONTANA DISASTER SPURS ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCY TO PROPOSE A LANDMARK ASBESTOS BENCHMARK
(Sep 28, 2012) One of the biggest battles between environmentalists and asbestos-related industries is taking shape over a strict new standard that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to impose in asbestos cleanup operations. The battleground is a small Montana town in which an asbestos-caused environmental disaster that has caused at least 400 deaths so far occurred decades ago and is still the subject of a massive cleanup overseen by the government.
The new standard that the EPA is proposing for asbestos detected in samples would be thousands of times stricter than previous standards -and must be addressed in cleanups because, the EPA says, even that small amount can result in asbestos-caused diseases. The proposal would significantly affect the safety standards involving health risks from asbestos concentrations found in such cleanups.
The cleanup in Libby, a former mining town devastated in the aftermath of the shutdown of the W.R. Grace & Co. mine, has been underway since 1999 and still has not been completed. The total number of victims from the disaster will not be known for decades because the symptoms of asbestos-caused diseases such as malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer do not surface for several decades in most cases.
Mesothelioma is the most common of the diseases and occurs after an individual is exposed to microscopic, airborne fibers that work their way into the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs and generate cancer cells. There is no cure and most victims are told they will have less than 18 months after being diagnosed. Health officials fear that many more Libby residents will suffer one of the diseases over the next few decades and the death toll will climb.
W.R. Grace & Co, the Maryland chemical company accused of causing the disaster, is opposing the proposed new standard, as are numerous asbestos-related industries which could be affected if the same standard is applied nationwide.
The proposal is so controversial that even some other federal agencies are questioning whether it goes too far, according to media reports.
The Associated Press provided this analysis:
Experts say the EPA proposal is a move long sought by advocates and fiercely resisted by the industry. An EPA board met this week to discuss Grace objections to the proposal, part of a pending risk study for Libby.
"In many respects it would be like banning it, getting it so low," said former assistant U.S. Surgeon General Richard Lemen, who now teaches at Emory University in Atlanta. "EPA is being realistic and saying, 'Look, we know there's asbestos out there and we're not going to get rid of all of it, but let's put our concentration as low as we possibly can.'"
EPA officials didn't respond to questions about the nationwide consequences of its plan. It would declare airborne asbestos concentrations exceeding two-100,000ths of a fiber per cubic centimeter pose a health risk. The EPA has previously taken action when the substance was airborne in amounts greater than one-tenth of a fiber per cubic centimeter.
But the Government Accountability Office has said the cleanup standard could affect some of the 200-plus industrial sites in 40 states that also received asbestos-tainted vermiculite from Grace's Montana mine. More than 20 of those sites, posing the highest health risks, have already been cleaned once. Most of those were processing plants where the mineral was heated at high temperatures so it could expand and be used for insulation in millions of homes.
The GAO and asbestos experts said the EPA risk assessment could force more cleanups. And Grace representatives and health officials said the EPA proposal could apply to other types of asbestos found in communities across the country. In a letter to the EPA last week, Grace Vice President Karen Ethier said the standard would have "inevitable" consequences beyond Libby.
"That broad application will, in turn, result in enormous, unexpected and unnecessary costs to building owners, farmers and other property holders, including the federal government," Ethier said.
Manufacturing and trade groups and federal agencies including the White House Office of Management and Budget also have questioned the EPA proposal. They said the low threshold falls below even background asbestos levels seen in parts of the country.
Although the sale and manufacture of asbestos-containing materials is tightly regulated, the government has never established a safe level of human exposure for the type of the mineral found in Libby. While there are general cancer-based exposure limits for asbestos set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the EPA proposal for the first time sets a risk level for non-cancer illnesses, such as the debilitating and potentially fatal lung disease asbestosis.
Anti-asbestos activists have long argued that the standards for asbestos removal are too low and that the dangers of asbestos exposure are not taken seriously enough by the government. A group of activists appearing on behalf of mesothelioma victims and their families recently addressed Congress about the lack of mesothelioma awareness. Among the spokeswomen was the widow of actor Steve McQueen, who died of mesothelioma several decades ago.
JURY AWARDS $3.9 MILLION TO FAMILY OF MERCHANT MARINE MESOTHELIOMA VICTIM
(Sep 20, 2012) An Ohio jury has awarded $3.9 million in damages to the family of a former Merchant Marine who died of malignant mesothelioma, a cancer that lawyers for the family said was caused by his exposure to asbestos during his service.
The recent verdict by an eight-member jury came after a trial in which lawyers for the family of the late William LaParl, a Michigan man who died in 2006 at the age of 78 from mesothelioma, argued that LaParl developed the cancer as a result of his exposure to the toxic material while working on vessels.
The lawyers said the panel found defendants Oglebay Norton Company, Columbia Transport Co., Interlake Steamship Company and Pringle Transit Company liable for "substantially contributing" to the death of LaParl, who retired from the Merchant Marines after 35 years of service and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2006.
The suit alleged, among other claims, that negligence on the part of the defendants caused LaParl's mesothelioma and ultimate death. The lawyers noted that the verdict came just a few weeks before National Mesothelioma Awareness Day, designated as such by Congress to increase public awareness of the dangers of mesothelioma and the loss of thousands of Americans to the disease.
"As Meso Awareness Day, an initiative of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, approaches on Sept. 26, we are again reminded of the dangers of asbestos exposure and the fatal impact it can have on victims such as William LaParl. This jury verdict sends a loud message to defendants in all asbestos cases that negligence will not be tolerated when it comes to worker health and safety," LaParl's lawyers said in a released statement.
Each year, an estimated 3,000 people in the United States and Canada are diagnosed with mesothelioma. These victims are often service members, workers, veterans and family members who were exposed to asbestos in hazardous occupational environments or through household exposure. To date, there is still no known cure for mesothelioma, and the average survival length following diagnosis is fewer than 12 months.
Because asbestos was long an integral component in shipbuilding and ships' insulation because of its fire-retardant qualities, a disproportionate number of mesothelioma victims are Merchant Marines, U.S. Navy veterans and shipyard workers.
The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is a national non-profit organization is committed to ending the suffering caused by mesothelioma by funding mesothelioma research, providing education and support for patients and their families, and advocating for federal funding of mesothelioma research.
The Meso Foundation expanded its initiative nationally and, in 2005, lobbied for the first national Mesothelioma Awareness Day, which has since spread as a successful advocacy movement across the country. As a result, Sept. 26, 2011, marked the first Meso Awareness Day.
The legislation to establish Meso Awareness Day was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota, and urged the President to call on the people of the United States, federal departments and agencies, states, localities, organizations, and media to annually observe a National Mesothelioma Awareness day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
Raising awareness of mesothelioma is a personal issue for Congresswoman Betty McCollum.
"In 2000, my friend and predecessor Congressman Bruce Vento was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Despite decades of warnings about the dangers of asbestos, too many Americans are still unaware of the devastating nature of this disease", says Rep. McCollum. Congressman Bruce Vento, a former member of the Board of Directors of the Meso Foundation, died in 2000, nine months following diagnosis.
Meso Awareness Day began five years ago when a small group of Meso Foundation volunteers joined together to broaden awareness of this dreadful disease. Since then, every September 26th, hundreds of volunteers across the nation request that their city and state governments establish local proclamations of Mesothelioma Awareness Day. The national designation of this important day in the House of Representatives is the counterpart of the Senate resolution (S. Res. 288) which was introduced by Senator Patty Murray of Washington and that passed in 2009.
"The passage of H. Res. 771 is an important milestone in our fight to find better treatments and a cure. Acknowledgement of mesothelioma on a national level is crucial in raising awareness and galvanizing the resources required to end the tragedy of mesothelioma", says Kathy Wiedemer, Executive Director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.
Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor of the linings of the lung, abdomen, or heart known to be caused by exposure to asbestos. Medical experts consider it one of the most aggressive and deadly of all cancers. Here is an excerpt from the Congressional Declaration of Meso Awareness Day:
- Whereas mesothelioma is a terminal, asbestos-related cancer that affects the linings of the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testicles;
- Whereas workers exposed on a daily basis over a long period of time are most at risk, but even short-term exposures can cause the disease and an exposure to asbestos for as little as one month can result in mesothelioma 20-50 years later;
- Whereas the National Institutes of Health reported to Congress in 2006 that mesothelioma is a difficult disease to detect, diagnose, and treat;
- Whereas the National Cancer Institute recognizes a clear need for new agents to improve the outlook for patients with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases;
- Whereas for decades, the need to develop treatments for mesothelioma was overlooked and today, even the best available treatments usually have only a very limited effect and the expected survival time of those diagnosed with the disease is between 8 and 14 months…
Therefore, be it resolved, that the House of Representatives– (1) supports the goals and ideals of Mesothelioma Awareness Day; and (2) urges the President to issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States, Federal departments and agencies, States, localities, organizations, and media to annually observe a National Mesothelioma Awareness day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
CANADA FINALLY RELENTS ON OPPOSITION TO INTERNATIONAL LISTING OF ASBESTOS AS A HAZARDOUS MATERIAL
(Sep 18, 2012) The Canadian government has announced a dramatic reversal of its previous opposition to international rules involving the use and shipping of asbestos and the recognition of the cancer-causing material as a toxic substance.
The action came after months of heated internal debate over the economic, ethical and health effects of propping up the country's last remaining asbestos mine.
Canada has long been a major producer and exporter of asbestos despite the fact that it has been denounced as a health hazard by international health organizations and banned in more than 50 countries around the globe.
Exposure to asbestos has been proven to be the overwhelming cause of several deadly diseases, including malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. In the United States about 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma, the most common asbestos-caused cancer, are reported each year.
The World Health Organization s has released figures showing that about 107,000 people around the world die each year from asbestos-caused diseases but exact worldwide figures are not available because some of the most populous countries in the world – China, India and Russia – do not report asbestos-caused deaths and all three countries have significantly laxer asbestos laws than most western countries.
Canada's asbestos industry has been in decline for decades but the country was still producing 150,000 tons of the material each year as late as 2010 and about 90 percent of it was being exported to developing countries.
As with many debates in Canada, the asbestos controversy also pitted French-speaking against English speaking segments of the nation because the last mine is in Quebec and was supported by the Quebecois party.
Party officials had pushed through a government guarantee on a $58 million loan to revive the mine but the party now appears far from having any type of support for the bailout.
The country's industry minister instead announced plans to invest up to $50 million in government funds to help the region in which the mine is located diversify its industries.
The Canadian Broadcasting Company reported that mining operations at the Jeffrey mine in Quebec's Eastern Townships likely will never resume. The CBC provided these details of the defeat of pro-asbestos interests:
Canada's dying asbestos industry was dealt another blow Friday from one of its former friends, with Industry Minister Christian Paradis announcing that the federal government will no longer oppose global rules that restrict use and shipment of the substance.
In an announcement in Thetford Mines, Que., where he took several shots at the province's new Parti Québécois government, Paradis said his Conservatives are reversing course and won't use their veto to stop chrysotile asbestos from being listed as a hazardous substance under the international Rotterdam Convention.
The government had previously blocked the chrysotile form of asbestos from being listed under the convention on three occasions, most recently at a summit last year in Switzerland. The convention requires consensus of its members to list a substance; five other forms of asbestos are already covered by it.
The CBC said that Canada's role as a major exporter of asbestos caused the country to successfully lobby to keep it off the Rotterdam list, putting it in the company of Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which also opposed the move.
The news agency said a listing in the convention forces exporting countries to warn recipients of restrictions and bans on a substance, to label their exports and to handle substances in controlled ways. A party to the convention also has the right to ban imports of any listed substance.
According to the CBC:
Three of the four major parties in Quebec's recent election campaign vowed to shut down the industry in the province. The Canadian Cancer Society and the Quebec Medical Association have also denounced the plan to reopen the Jeffrey mine.
The cancer society said Friday that the federal government made the "right decision" in withdrawing its opposition to listing chrysotile asbestos as hazardous; the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Public Health Association concurred.
"This is an important first step," the cancer society's vice-president, Paul Lapierre, said in a news release."It's imperative that the health of people around the world be put ahead of the interests of the asbestos industry."
Asbestos has long been identified as a carcinogen and most western countries strictly regulate the use, handling and disposal of the material. However, as the CBC reported, it is still used in many developing countries in everything from roofing tiles to cement pipes and boiler insulation, and even Canada imported $2.6 million worth of asbestos brake pads last year.
The asbestos industry had long been a heavyweight in Canadian politics, spending millions in lobby efforts, some of them which have generated controversy.
Media outlets, for instance, recently published allegations that the industry had paid respected scholars and researchers to come up with studies downplaying the dangerous effects of asbestos.
The reaction from many asbestos opponents was that the government should have acted earlier. As activist Linda Reinstein posted on the Urban Times web site: "History is a great teacher to those who listen. Quebec's asbestos industry has been under fire, as seen in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart's segment "Ored to Death." There is nothing funny about asbestos-caused diseases, including mesothelioma; however, as a mesothelioma widow and Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) co-founder, I applauded when Aasif Mandvi asked Bernard Coulombe, a top Jeffrey mine executive, a simple question. "Does 'asbestos' mean something different in French than it does in English? asked Mandvi. Because in English it means slow, hacking death."
ASBESTOS SAFETY DEBATE PLAYED OUT BEFORE BRAZIL SUPREME COURT
(Sep 11, 2012) A landmark legal debate over a proposed ban on asbestos that could have long-reaching economic, ethical and health consequences is playing out before Brazil's Supreme Court. At stake is whether the country's constitution allows individual states to ban asbestos to protect the health of their citizens and those of other countries.
Brazil is the third-largest producer in the world of asbestos, which has been named a toxic material by global health officials, including those in the United States. Asbestos has been identified as the overwhelming cause of several deadly diseases, including malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer, all caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.
As was the case recently in a high-profile national debate in Canada, asbestos-producers are fighting to be able to continue to produce and export asbestos and are opposed by environmentalists, health officials and asbestos victims, who cite the deadly ramifications of exposure to the material and the ethical consequences of exporting to countries that have failed to adopt strict asbestos regulations in the interest of public health.
Akin to states rights vs. federal rights in U.S. courts, the cases being decided in Brazil stem from the banning of asbestos in several of that country's states. Asbestos producers and exporters have argued that the dangers of asbestos are being exaggerated and that the material "can be used safely under controlled conditions." Union officials also sought to fight off the ban.
The president of the Union of Workers in Industry of Extraction of Non-metallic Mineral Minacu told the court: "It is the will of the people, not in general, but the mines, factories. We are not saying that there is no illness. What we do not agree with is to ban the activity. Is it carcinogenic? Yeah, but there are more than 100 other products that are carcinogenic and they give people work."
About 2,000 to 3,000 cases of mesothelioma, the most common asbestos-caused cancer, are reported each year in the United States and the World Health Organization estimates that over 100,000 people die of asbestos-caused diseases each year.
Exact figures are difficult to compute because three of the world's largest countries – Russia, China and India – do not report asbestos health figures and these nations have significantly looser asbestos restrictions than most westernized countries.
Malignant mesothelioma is caused after an individual, most often in an occupational situation, unknowingly inhales microscopic asbestos fibers when exposed to the toxic material. These particles over several decades generate cancer cells which form deadly tumors or spread to other parts of the body. There is no cure for the disease and most victims are given life expectancies of less than 18 months after being diagnosed.
Over 60 countries have banned the use of asbestos and most exporting is to third-world countries which have done little to protect the safety of their workers and general public, according to asbestos industry critics who have testified at the hearings.
The hearings drew massive public interest across Brazil and numerous bloggers were posting their observations about the hearings. One view of how the hearings went was posted by a blogger in the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat web site:
Speaking for myself, I felt confident that our experts had won the day but, as with all judicial processes, you cannot be certain until the final judgment is handed down (probably in October 2012). Nevertheless I take great comfort from the final comments made by Prosecutor Gisi. Acknowledging the presentation made on behalf of the asbestos workers from Minaçu and paying tribute to their desire to do an "honest" job, the Prosecutor pointed out that it was not possible to ensure that the 98% of asbestos used in Brazil for civil construction was "adequately handled." The same goes for asbestos already incorporated into the national infrastructure as well as asbestos waste. It is common to see asbestos materials being "inadequately handled especially by poorer workers," he said.
Gisi condemned the asbestos industry's harassment of researchers for publishing the results of their work; the lawsuit brought against Hermano Albuquerque de Castro from Fiocruz was mentioned.
A variety of working practices at the chrysotile asbestos mine, including the use of explosives, revealed environmental hazards as did the creation of tonnes of asbestos-containing residue produced by the mining operations, he pointed out. As there are few landfills to which toxic waste can be sent in Brazil, the safe disposal of this material is problematic.
Gisi confirmed the importance of the positions taken by the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization on asbestos: "all types of asbestos are hazardous." Substantiating this point, Gigi referred to the presentation by the ILO's Zuher Handar who "vehemently" condemned the use of asbestos.
Eternit and SAMA, leading Brazilian asbestos companies, were singled out for censure over their lack of environmental and social commitment; the hazardous conditions in the town of Bom Jesus Da Serra, where an abandoned asbestos mine and the environmental catastrophe it caused remain unremediated, was highlighted by the Prosecutor. Who is responsible for this "giant liability," Gisi asked.
As for industry's argument that Brazil's economy would suffer irreversible harm from an asbestos ban, the Prosecutor said that a decrease in asbestos-related health costs, now borne by society and the government, would be anticipated following the end of asbestos use. Furthermore, he added, at the many companies which by now had replaced asbestos technology with safer processes, there had not been mass unemployment.
EFFORTS TO KEEP MESOTHELIOMA IN PUBLIC FOCUS CONTINUE WITH HUGE NEW YORK CITY CONFERENCE
(SEP 6, 2012) Efforts to keep the public focus on the deadly cancer known as malignant mesothelioma continue to gain momentum on behalf of past, present and future victims.
Another huge gathering will be held Sept. 28 in New York City, where the non-profit Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation will be the host of its "Knowledge is Hope" conference on the asbestos-caused cancer.
In a press release from Meso Foundation officials, the aim of the one-day conference is to assist patients, families, doctors, and anyone wanting to understand more about malignant mesothelioma.
The conference is the latest high-profile campaign addressing the problems and search for a cure to the cancer, which is overwhelming caused by exposure to asbestos. There is no cure currently and most victims are given less than 18 months to live after being diagnosed.
A few weeks ago Barbara McQueen, the widow of American action movie star Steve McQueen, and a delegation from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization went to Washington D.C. to spread awareness of the disease to Congress.
Among the priorities of the visit was to press for a ban on the use of asbestos in the United States in order to halt the spread of the disease that claimed the actor at the age of 50 in 1979. The use of asbestos is strictly regulated in the country but is not banned, as it is in many foreign nations.
Asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma when victims – most frequently in a work environment – inhale microscopic particles of asbestos that invade the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs. Over several decades these fibers generate cancer cells and by the time most victims are diagnosed traditional cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation or chemotherapy are ineffective. About 2,000 to 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States, according to national health figures.
Because these figures are substantially lower than those of other cancers, such as breast cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer, mesothelioma has not attracted as much public attention for its victims.
However, it is such an aggressive cancer that the prognosis for most victims is very poor. This is caused by the fact that the cancer is so aggressive and has such a long latency period that most victims are not diagnosed until they are in their 60s or older and the cancer is so far advanced that it cannot be treated.
Officials said the agenda for the upcoming Meso Foundation conference in New York City includes:
- Visiting Rockefeller Plaza to raise awareness of mesothelioma during the Today show
- Sessions on standard treatments, ongoing research, complementary therapy, environmental/occupational exposure risk, and legal implications
- Morning presentations featuring Lee Krug, MD; Marc Ladanyi, MD; Harvey Pass, MD; Kenneth Rosenzweig, MD followed by a questions and answers panel
- Afternoon presentations by Garrett Nash, MD; Robert Taub, MD; Mary Hesdorffer, NP; Kathleen Wesa, MD; Jacqueline Moline, MD; and Robert Komitor, Esq.
- Musical entertainment by Leon Pendarvis, musical director of Saturday Night Live
Conference officials said "Knowledge Is Hope" will be one of the key conferences hosting top experts in mesothelioma. It will be held at the Harvard Club of New York City, located on 35 West 44th Street, New York, for a day of education, science and research, and discussions over the recent advances in mesothelioma treatment.
Registration is $25 per person (includes all sessions, breakfast and lunch). Availability is limited and the registration deadline is September 10.
The Meso Foundation describes itself as the only non-government source of funding of peer reviewed scientific research to establish more effective treatments and a cure for this rare and aggressive cancer. To date, the Foundation has awarded over $7.6 million to research.
CHINESE AUTOMAKER FORCED TO MAKE ADDITIONAL RECALLS BECAUSE OF DANGEROUS ASBESTOS PARTS
(AUG. 30, 2012) - In yet another blow to the reputation of China's exports, the country's largest automaker has been forced to recall thousands more vehicles from several countries as life-threatening asbestos parts continue to be discovered in some of the manufacturer's models.
Chery Automobile Co. officials confirmed that nearly 19,000 vehicles that were exported to Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Singapore are being recalled because of the potential health hazard.
Asbestos is a toxic material that is banned or strictly regulated in many countries because exposure to it can cause several deadly diseases, including malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. The material is prized for its fire-retardant and insulating qualities and until several decades ago was commonly used in cars and trucks as an integral part of brakes, clutches and engine insulation.
Auto mechanics have consistently been a large proportion of the victims of these diseases because of their every-day exposure to asbestos during repairs. The diseases are incurable and, in the case of mesothelioma, most victims are given a life expectancy of less than 18 months after being diagnosed.
The recalls are the latest economic embarrassment for Chinese automakers, who, just a few weeks ago, were forced to recall 23,000 vehicles from Australia, after customs inspectors there discovered asbestos components in engine and exhaust gaskets. Mechanics and consumers were quickly warned about the dangers in an announcement by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission:
"The asbestos is bound into gaskets in the engine and exhaust system and does not present any risk to consumers during use of the vehicle," the watchdog agency said. "However, consumers should not perform do-it-yourself maintenance that might disturb these gaskets."
Aside from the health risks, business analysts said the recalls are another blow to China's desire to become an international player in the automotive market because the recalls raise serious concerns about the quality and safety of the country's products.
According to Bloomberg News, Huang Huaqiong, a spokesman for the closely held Wuhu, China-based automaker Chery blamed the problem on a parts supplier: "The same supplier that provided the parts for the cars made for Australia also mistakenly provided us parts containing asbestos that went into these other cars," Huang said by telephone today, declining to name the supplier.
Bloomberg reported that "the widening call-back raises concern quality control may be inadequate at Chinese automakers as they increase exports to emerging markets and target expansion into developed countries amid intensifying competition at home. Vehicle exports from China may rise about 50 percent this year, extending record shipments in 2011, the official trade chamber estimates.
"The recalls may damp consumer confidence in China-made cars in the short to medium term, but the impact won't be major," said Jeff Chung, an analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets Hong Kong Ltd. "Chinese automakers have been counting on cheap pricing as one of their major edges in overseas markets and the recalls won't weaken their advantages."
Chery officials also said that the recalls in Brazil affect its Tiggo and Cielo models, both hatchback and sedans. They issued a statement saying that the asbestos does not pose a risk to drivers during use of vehicles. However, they also warned that owners should not replace the gaskets themselves.
Brazil has been a major target of Chery's expansion and the automaker is building a $400 million auto plant in the South American country.
Bloomberg reported that Chery sold a record 160,200 units overseas last year, a 73 percent increase from 2010. In the first six months of this year, the company exported 94,494 units, on track to meet its full-year target of 170,000 units, according to a statement on its website.
Bloomberg also reported that Great Wall, the biggest maker of SUVs and pick-up trucks in China, hasn't announced further recalls for asbestos parts since Australia and that no consumer had requested a change of vehicle because of asbestos in Australia and exports haven't been affected.
FDA APPROVES NEW PRODUCT TO HELP IN TREATMENT OF CANCER PATIENTS RECEIVING CHEMOTHERAPY
(AUG. 29, 2012) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Sicor Biotech's tbo-filgrastim to reduce the time certain patients receiving cancer chemotherapy experience severe neutropenia, a decrease in infection-fighting white blood cells called neutrophils.
The new product offers hope to certain cancer patients being treated with chemotherapy, such as those suffering from breast cancer, lung cancer, or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Lung cancer, along with malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis can be caused by exposure to asbestos.
The FDA said tbo-filgrastim is intended for use in adults who have cancers other than blood or bone marrow cancers (non-myeloid malignancies) and are taking chemotherapy drugs that cause a substantial decrease in the production of neutrophils in the bone marrow. This reduction in neutrophils may lead to infection and fever (febrile neutropenia).
Tbo-filgrastim stimulates the bone marrow to increase the production of neutrophils. It is administered as an injection beginning 24 hours after chemotherapy treatment, officials said.
"Supportive care products, such as tbo-filgrastim, reduce or allow for more rapid recovery from side effects of cancer treatments," said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
Tbo-filgrastim was evaluated in a clinical study of 348 adult patients with advanced breast cancer receiving treatment with the anti-cancer drugs doxorubicin and docetaxel. Patients were randomly assigned to receive tbo-filgrastim, a placebo, or a non-U.S.-approved filgrastim product, a drug that also stimulates neutrophil production by the bone marrow. The effectiveness of tbo-filgrastim was determined based on study results that showed that patients receiving tbo-filgrastim recovered from severe neutropenia in 1.1 days compared with 3.8 days in those receiving the placebo.
Tbo-filgrastim's safety was evaluated in three clinical studies composed of 680 adults with breast cancer, lung cancer, or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma who received high-dose chemotherapy that reduces bone marrow cells (myeloablative chemotherapy). The most common side effect observed in those receiving tbo-filgrastim was bone pain.
Tbo-filgrastim is manufactured by Sicor Biotech UAB, a member of Teva Corporation. The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is charged with protecting the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices.
The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.
NEW YORK APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS BIG ASBESTOS AWARD
The New York Supreme Court has rejected defense efforts to overturn a multi-million dollar jury verdict awarding damages to a Navy veteran who was exposed to asbestos while serving on ships and later developed malignant mesothelioma.
The court upheld the verdict awarded to Ronald Dummitt, a U.S. Navy veteran, and his family and refused the defendants' request for a new trial in the case in which they were found liable for his asbestos exposure.
The jury in a 2011 verdict ordered the Crane Co. and Elliott Turbomachinery Co. to pay $32 million in damages, half of it for future pain and suffering, but that amount was reduced by the supreme court decision to $8 million.
Lawyers for Dummitt, who died during the appeals process, told jurors that the defendants were negligent and reckless in failing to warn him about the dangers of asbestos exposure during his military service.
Lawyers for the family released a statement which said: "The Dummitt family is still grieving from Ron's death. Although we can't bring him back, we know that this affirmation provides the family with comfort that responsibility for his death has been established."
Asbestos is a toxic material that is now strictly regulated in terms of its use, handling and disposal but for many decades before new environmental laws went into effect it was an integral part of the workings of U.S. Navy ships, particularly in insulation and other fire-retardant applications.
Shipyard workers and Navy veterans are at the top of the list of occupations most at risk for developing mesothelioma from asbestos exposure. In most case victims inhale microscopic fibers which invade the linings of the lung, heart or abdominal organs and, over several decades, generate cancer cells. There is no cure for mesothelioma and most victims are told they will have less than 18 months to live after being diagnosed.
According to testimony at the trial, Dummitt served from 1960 to 1977 on Navy ships as a fireman and boiler tender and experts said he was exposed to asbestos while repairing valves made by Crane Co.
Although the Supreme Court reduced the award is still one of the largest asbestos-related awards in New York history and is the latest in decades of settlements and jury awards totaling in the billions of dollars.
Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden rejected the defendants' attempts to avoid liability based on their arguments that they did not have a duty to warn about the dangers of asbestos and that they were shielded from liability as government contractors.
In her opinion, Madden wrote that there was "sufficient evidence from which a jury could infer that in failing to warn, Crane acted intentionally concerning a known risk with conscious indifference as to harm that was highly probable."
Dummitt's lawyers said that with respect to damages, Madden agreed with Crane that the jury's award of $32 million should be remitted but rejected Crane's suggestion of what damages should be. Instead, she remitted the damages award to $8 million, a figure that represents one of the largest sustained verdicts in New York asbestos litigation.
"The decision affirms what the jury found – that Crane Co. engaged in reckless conduct that significantly contributed to Ronald Dummitt's death," said one of Dummitt's lawyers.
UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII CANCER CENTER AWARD MEANS CONTINUED PROGRESS IN SEACH FOR CURE TO MESOTHELIOMA, OTHER CANCERS
The University of Hawaii's Cancer Center likely will continue to be among the leading research institutes searching for a cure for mesothelioma and other cancers with the announcement of a key designation.
Center officials in Honolulu recently announced that the National Cancer Institute (NCI), after a competitive renewal process, has awarded the center another five years of recognition and funding. The NCI designation means that the Cancer Center, a unit of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, will continue to be recognized among the nation's best cancer centers characterized by scientific excellence and the capacity to integrate a range of scientific approaches to focus on the problem of cancer.
"This recognition and the funding that comes with the NCI designation is extremely significant for the university as well as the state of Hawai'i," said University of Hawai'i President M.R.C. Greenwood. "Not only will the UH Cancer Center be able to continue its efforts to advance the understanding of cancers that are prevalent in our island population and explore potential new cures found in our unique environment, but this also marks a critical step forward in the university's efforts to build on our research strengths and develop an innovation economy for our state. We are extremely pleased to celebrate this recognition with our partners who are helping us achieve our goal of improving the health and well-being of the people of Hawai'i."
The center has been at the forefront of research into malignant mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that develops in the linings of a victim's lungs, heart or abdominal organs and is caused by exposure to asbestos. About 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year.
The cancer has such a long latency period that it is usually untreatable in most victims, who are told they will have less than 18 months to live after being diagnosed.
Last year the center was given a $3.58 million grant from an anonymous donor to support the mesothelioma research of Dr. Michele Carbone, the center direction. Carbone and colleagues, who include Drs. Haining Yang and Giovanni Gaudino, have made a series of recent scientific breakthroughs that they say will lead to new ways to prevent and treat the disease.
The UH Cancer Center is one of only 66 research organizations in the country designated by the National Cancer Institute. This affiliation requires stringent and constant evaluation, yet brings the distinction of being recognized among the best cancer research institutions in the world. This recognition will ensure that the Center will continue delivering cutting-edge treatments for cancer patients and conducting groundbreaking research to develop more advanced treatments.
"This highly positive outcome reflects the efforts of so many partners working together to ensure the health and well-being of the people of Hawai'i and the Pacific," said University of Hawai'i Chancellor, Virginia Hinshaw. "Mahalo nui loa to our committed UH members, supportive state and federal legislators, accomplished clinical providers, generous donors, dedicated community volunteers and our impressive hospital partners of the Hawaii Cancer Consortium."
"The recognition and approval by the NCI is a great honor and a reflection of the hard work and dedication by our faculty and staff as well as the tremendous support of President M.R.C. Greenwood, Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw, the legislature, and our partner hospitals," said Carbone. "Remaining an NCI-designated Cancer Center will allow us to continue to discover and develop new therapies that will lead to our goal of creating a world where cancer no longer exists."
The UH Cancer Center received NCI designation in 1996 and continues to be the only NCI-designated research facility throughout Hawai'i and the Pacific Rim. The Center's mission is to reduce the burden of cancer through research, education, and outreach, with an emphasis on the unique ethnic, cultural, and environmental characteristics of Hawai'i and the Pacific.
The NCI designation will benefit patients through increased access to clinical trials and new therapeutic technologies available in collaboration with the UH Cancer Center's clinical partners, which include The Queen's Medical Center, Hawai'i Pacific Health, Kuakini Medical Center and University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine. These organizations form the Hawai'i Cancer Consortium, an alliance of the state's leading healthcare organizations united with the common goal of eliminating cancer through science.
"The Queen's Medical Center congratulates Dr. Michele Carbone and the faculty and staff of the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center," said Art Ushijima, President of The Queen's Medical Center. "A Consortium Cancer Center is a wonderful step forward for the people of Hawai'i and for all member institutions. We look forward to working together in the coming years to building a cancer center that we can all be proud of."
PROSECUTORS CONTINUE TO PRESS CASES AGAINST INDIVIDUALS, COMPANIES WHO VIOLATE ASBESTOS LAWS
Government officials are continuing to crack down on individuals and businesses that are violating environmental asbestos laws and putting the health of workers and the public at risk. A recent spate of cases involving bribery, violations of asbestos treatment regulations and illegal asbestos removal work are among cases that state and federal prosecutors and environmental officials successfully prosecuted, resulting in prison sentences, fines and warnings for those responsible.
The convictions demonstrate the importance that officials are attaching to the dangers of asbestos exposure, which can cause several deadly diseases, most commonly malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer that is generated in the linings of a victim's lungs, heart or abdominal organs after being exposed to asbestos. There is no cure and most victims are given life expectancies of less than 18 months after being diagnosed. Strict laws involving the use, handling and disposal of asbestos have been in place in the United States since the 1970s.
The most notorious case involved that of a former Michigan town supervisor who was convicted of bribery and multiple other charges in a scam in which he attempted to defraud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in an asbestos removal project at a complex in a Detroit suburb.
William Morgan was sentenced by a federal judge to a three-year prison term for his role in taking a $10,000 bribe in return for attempting to steer an asbestos project in a blighted area to a contractor, who then submitted inflated change orders during the course of the project.
"It is reprehensible that a public official made asbestos abatement decisions based on a bribe, not on what was needed to protect the health of the community," said Randall Ashe, special agent in charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in Michigan in a statement issued about the case. "The sentence shows that government officials who attempt to line their pockets rather than carry out their responsibilities honestly will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
In their announcements about the case officials noted the dangers to public health when environmental asbestos laws are not followed and asbestos fibers are released when the toxic material is disturbed or damaged, as can be the case in such redevelopment projects.
"Any public official, in city or suburb, who works to enrich himself at the expense of the public will be detected and prosecuted," U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said in her statement. "It is particularly disturbing when an official not only takes bribes but also endangers community health and the environment by allowing the bribes to influence abatement decisions."
In another criminal case, an Illinois contractor was sentenced to 10years in federal prison for a blatant series of crimes in which his company conducted an asbestos clean-up in which employees were not properly trained or equipped and asbestos was dumped in a public park, contaminating much of the area.
A federal judge also ordered Duane "Butch" O'Malley, 59, to pay $47,086 in restitution costs to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up his mishandled work and a $15,000 fine, according to an EPA announcement.
According to court records, O'Malley's company was hired in August 2009 to remove asbestos-containing insulation from pipes in a five-story building in Kankakee even though O'Malley and his company failed to have the qualifications, training or equipment to conduct such work.
O'Malley's firm won the contract from the owner of a building and made a bid that government officials said was well below what a qualified asbestos-removal specialist would have been paid. What followed was a series of events that put both O'Malley's workers and the public at great risk to asbestos exposure, according to the allegations filed against him.
This included stripping asbestos insulation from the pipes in a five-story building while it was dry and packaging it in more than 100 large, unlabeled plastic garbage bags that were eventually dumped in an open field in a park, according to the allegations.
"To increase his profits, a jury found that O'Malley knowingly disregarded federal environmental laws that require asbestos-containing materials be safely removed and properly disposed," said U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis, Central District of Illinois in a statement about the case. "This sentence is a consequence of the defendant's flagrant disregard for his workers, the public and the environment in exposing them to dangerous airborne asbestos fibers."
In other recent cases:
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in West Virginia has charged a contractor with 12 serious violations of asbestos laws and is seeking $81,000 in fines against the company and its officials in connection with an asbestos removal project at Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi. OSHA officials said Sodexho Inc. committed numerous offenses, including failing to provide required respirators, protective clothing, and training for employees working on the project. "Asbestos work poses serious safety and health risks to workers, including lung disease and other disorders," said Prentice Cline, director of the OSHA area office in Charleston in a statement about the charges. "Sodexho must immediately correct these violations to ensure that its employees have a safe and healthful work environment." OSHA officials said Sodexho employs about 25 workers at Alderson-Broaddus College and is responsible for grounds work, housekeeping, and security.
- In Kankakee, Ill. OSHA has charged another company with numerous health violations and is seeking a fine of nearly $60,000 in connection with an asbestos removal project at an AT&T building. Johnson Controls, Inc. is accused of failing to provide required asbestos removal training for workers, failing to provide protective clothing and failing to perform air monitoring to measure asbestos levels. OSHA officials also cited concerns about the dangers of exposure to asbestos for workers and the public in filing the allegations against Johnson Controls, Inc.
GOVERNMENT STEPPING IN TO CLEAN UP DANGEROUS ASBESTOS SITUATION
An asbestos situation in a New York town has gotten so serious that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is stepping in to ensure worker and public safety and is seeking to bill the owner of the property hundreds of dollars in clean-up expenses.
The situation has escalated to this extreme over the health hazards existing in a former power plant in the Lowertown district of Lockport, where a large neighborhood retail development is planned. In addition, a city judge has convicted the redevelopment company guilty of failing to remove asbestos-laden material from the site for more than a year and the company could be facing fines of $1,000 a day.
The situation in Lockport is one of the latest involving asbestos problems in renovation projects across the country. Asbestos, a toxic material, is present in many older buildings and neighborhoods and strict environmental laws regulating the use, handling and disposal of asbestos have been in place since the 1970s to protect workers and the public.
The major fear is that exposure to asbestos is the overwhelming cause of an aggressive cancer known as malignant mesothelioma. Such exposure usually occurs on a job site or in situations in which asbestos, which had been widely used in insulation and many other uses in construction for many years, is disturbed or destroyed.
Health officials say that when that occurs microscopic fibers become airborne and when inhaled work their way into the linings of victims' lungs, hearts and abdominal organs and, over several decades, generate cancer cells.
About 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year and there is no cure. Most victims are told that they will have less than 18 months' life expectancy.
In Lockport, the Buffalo News is reporting that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Spokesman Michael Basile said the EPA is talking to owner Scott J. Krzyzanowski about gaining access to 89 Mill St., where his efforts to clean up the site and construct a neighborhood retail development were torpedoed in 2010 by the state Labor Department's insistence on an asbestos survey.
The newspaper said the 16,000-square-foot, largely roofless building, once a power plant for a long-defunct paper mill, is owned by Krzyzanowski's Texas-based company, Liberty Plant Maintenance.
The sentencing of the company for asbestos violations has been put off several times, as James P. Milbrand, Krzyzanowski's attorney, tries to work out a cleanup plan with the next possible date for the sentencing Oct. 4, according to the report.
The paper quoted Milbrand as saying that if the EPA carries out the cleanup and bills Krzyzanowski, the costs could reach $300,000 but EPA Spokesman Basile was unable to confirm that number, saying the agency has yet to carry out a detailed assessment of conditions at 89 Mill St.
But Basile told the newspaper "We'll conduct a removal action, either with his assistance or on our own" and confirmed that the state called the EPA in on the project, and an EPA staffer made a visit to the site in June.
"Hopefully the site will be sealed in the next two or three weeks," Milbrand told the newspaper, "and we can proceed to the cleanup." The lawyer told the judge in the case that "sealing the site" means a fence around the perimeter, a covering over a toxic Dumpster, and capping the "friable" asbestos, which means the asbestos that might get into the air, according to the report.
The newspaper also quoted Deputy Corporation Counsel Matthew E. Brooks, the city's Housing Court prosecutor, as saying: "This is a difficult property. We can't really press it [further] than the EPA."
The newspaper also provided the following additional details:
- Milbrand said Lozier Environmental of Rochester did an asbestos assessment and believes the cleanup could be done at a lower price than the $300,000 estimate from the EPA, which would be billed to Krzyzanowski.
- Milbrand said not all the asbestos in the Dumpster came from the former power plant. He said, "Somebody from the neighborhood was scraping up floor tiles [from another building] and put them in the Dumpster."
- The EPA was keeping Krzyzanowski from maintaining the lot, Milbrand said. "He can't mow the grass because it stirs up asbestos. EPA says you can't touch it," the attorney said.
- Milbrand met on Thursday with City Treasurer Michael E. White to discuss possible funding sources to help Krzyzanowski with the cleanup cost. White said no city money would be involved. "We know the potential of that parcel. (Krzyzanowski) knew it, too," White said.
- The taxes on the property are delinquent, with $1,991 in city and school taxes owed for the past two years. White said the city could consider foreclosing next year.
MORE STUDIES CONFIRM THAT ASBESTOS VICTIMS ARE BEING AWARDED LARGER PAYOUTS
An international economic consulting firm that keeps business executives around the world abreast of the latest developments in issues facing them has just reported that the average asbestos payouts of cases that were resolved increased by 75 percent in the most recent figures available. The figures were reported in an analysis of recent trends in asbestos litigation, which can be a major factor in the finances of many large companies and insurance carriers.
The report was compiled by NERA Economic Consulting, a global firm of experts who, according to their web site, apply economic, financial and quantitative principles to complex business and legal challenges. The authors wrote that the average payments per resolved claim in asbestos cases increased by 75 percent between 2010 and 2011.
Asbestos litigation is an important factor for many companies because over the last several decades billions of dollars have been paid out to victims of diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, a toxic material. Some companies have been forced into bankruptcies and others, along with insurance companies, have set up trust funds in which large amounts of money are held in anticipation of future payouts.
The most common asbestos-caused disease is malignant mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that develops in the lining of victims' lungs, hearts or abdominal organs. The majority of these cases occur when microscopic asbestos fibers are inhaled in a work setting, which in successful asbestos lawsuits is shown to be caused by negligence or violations of asbestos laws.
These fibers, over several decades, generate cancer cells which form tumors or spread to other parts of the body. Most of the victims are not diagnosed until they are in their 50s or 60s and most are given a life expectancy of 18 months or less after being diagnosed. About 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed annually and national health experts expect that figure to remain constant for the next several years. Tens of thousands of asbestos victims have filed lawsuits in courtrooms across the country.
NERA said two vice presidents compiled their annual review of recent trends in filings and settlements in asbestos case by using publicly available data to analyze trends in asbestos-related liabilities for more than 150 companies. The continuing presence of asbestos liability and consistently large payouts to mesothelioma victims also has affected recent filings by several major companies. Among them:
- The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. reported a $101 million second-quarter net loss with company officials attributing the negative report to paying off large debts, covering storm losses and increased litigation costs related to asbestos suits.
- American Financial Group, an Ohio-based insurance holding company with assets in excess of $35 billion reported that additional funds were being set aside for asbestos, environmental pollution and mass tort claims.
There also have been several multi-million awards returned in the first half of the year by juries in favor of asbestos victims and against asbestos defendants. Most were large corporations that were found negligent in not providing proper safeguards for workers and the public against asbestos exposure.
Reuters News Service, which conducted an in-depth report about the status of asbestos lawsuits in the United States and how such litigation is currently proceeding, predicted there will be many more such awards:
"Half a century after the first wave of lawsuits were filed for illnesses linked to exposure to asbestos and 40 years after new regulation sharply curtailed use of the insulating and fire-resistant mineral, the asbestos-litigation business is booming.
Some of the country's biggest and best-known law firms -- many of them handling asbestos cases almost exclusively -- say the number of lawsuits filed annually, after falling off from a peak, has picked up in recent years. More important, they say, is that payouts for plaintiffs who win their cases have soared."
As with the NERA report, Reuters found that the average amount of damages awarded to asbestos victims has been increasing:
"No central registry keeps track of asbestos lawsuits filed yearly or their outcomes. A tabulation of jury verdicts and settlements, based on an average of all asbestos-related lawsuits reported in Westlaw Journal Asbestos, a Thomson Reuters publication, found that the average award was $6.3 million in 2009, $17.6 million in 2010 and $10.5 million in 2011 -- amounts much greater than what lawyers say was the norm more than a decade earlier.
Clearly, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related payouts persist at levels companies and their insurers never expected. Insurers have been adding hundreds of millions of dollars to their asbestos-claim reserves. Travelers Cos, in its annual report for 2011, echoed its peers when it cited a 'high degree of uncertainty with respect to future exposure from asbestos claims.'"
CONTRACTOR GIVEN STIFF PRISON SENTENCE, FINE FOR ASBESTOS VIOLATIONS
An Illinois contractor has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, fined and ordered to pay clean-up fees in one of the harshest penalties handed down recently for violations of asbestos laws. Federal prosecutors and Environmental Protection Agency officials said the punishment demonstrates the need to protect workers and the public from the dangers of asbestos, which is strictly regulated.
The defendant, Duane "Butch" O'Malley, 59, of Bourbonnais, was convicted by a jury after a trial on multiple violations of environmental and other laws on allegations of illegally removing, handling and disposing asbestos at a five-story Kankakee building.
The use, handling and disposal of asbestos has been strictly regulated in the United States and many other countries since the 1970's because of the serious health hazards caused by the toxic material. Once a common component in construction and insulation because of its fire-retardant qualities, asbestos is now virtually banned for such uses.
However, renovations and demolitions of older buildings laced with the material still pose significant public health hazards, according to government officials, who now oversee such projects by requiring permits, special equipment and clothing and proper disposal.
Exposure to asbestos is the leading cause of malignant mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer which develops after victims inhale invisible asbestos fibers which eventually lodge in the linings of their lungs, heart or abdominal organs and generate cancer cells. About 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the country each year.
"Asbestos must be removed in a safe and legal way in order to protect people's health and reduce the risk of exposure," said Cynthia Giles, EPA assistant administrator of the agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "The defendant's actions endangered the health of his workers and the surrounding community and the sentence shows that those who violate critical environmental safeguards will be prosecuted."
In addition to his prison sentence, O'Malley was ordered by a federal judge to pay a $15,000 fine and more than $47,000 to the EP, to cover clean-up costs.
Details of the charges against O'Malley show that he underbid the removal project in order to get the job and that neither he nor his employees had the required training for asbestos removal. The violations were so blatant, said prosecutors, that the asbestos was packed into dozens of unmarked garbage bags and dumped in the open in a park, where the soil is now contaminated. Officials released photos taken as evidence in the case which show the bags stacked in the park.
The government said the workers involved also were at great risk of asbestos exposure. Whether they develop mesothelioma cannot be known for many years because typically the disease takes several decades to develop from the time the fibers are inhaled to the time that cancer cells are generated.
"To increase his profits, a jury found that O'Malley knowingly disregarded federal environmental laws that require asbestos-containing materials be safely removed and properly disposed," said U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis, whose office prosecuted the case.
"This sentence is a consequence of the defendant's flagrant disregard for his workers, the public and the environment in exposing them to dangerous airborne asbestos fibers."
The charges were investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA's Superfund Division. Two other men, James A. Mikrut, of Manteno, and Michael J. Pinski, 42, of Kankakee, were also charged in the case. Both pleaded guilty last year to violating the Clean Air Act (Mikrut, to five counts; Pinski, to one) and are awaiting sentencing on their crimes.
Government officials issued numerous press releases about the convictions and said they wanted to send a message to contractors and others who might attempt to circumvent environmental laws and gain profits at the expense of the health of workers and the public.
The convictions have been widely reported in the media and in several trade journals and web sites that cater to such work.
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION CALLS FOR BAN ON ASBESTOS BECAUSE OF HEALTH HAZARDS
(July 24, 2012) -- One of the most sweeping indictments of asbestos was issued today by a respected international consortium of health experts that studies the causes and prevention of disease epidemics.
The Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology (JPC-SE) announced that it is calling, for the first time, for a global ban on the mining, use, and export of all forms of asbestos. The statement has already been endorsed by over 150 public health, civil society organizations and individual scientists from twenty countries.
Asbestos has long been identified as a toxic material that causes a variety of fatal illnesses, most commonly malignant mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Most victims develop the disease after inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers which work their way into the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs and generate cancer cells.
The JPC-SE is a consortium of 13 epidemiology societies, national and international in scope, organized to coordinate and unify joint policy actions among societies of epidemiologists, globally. Membership of the JPC-SE is open to all participating societies, each with one vote; each society appoints its own representative(s).
The JPC-SE meets on a regular basis, primarily via teleconference. It serves as a forum in which concerns of a policy nature about any aspect of epidemiologic research and practice can be discussed. This includes such items as certification, core competencies, funding of epidemiologic research, governmental policies affecting epidemiologic research, ethics guidelines. It provides an international forum for brainstorming issues that cross political boundaries. It is a network in which all epidemiology societies can be engaged to discuss issues relating to both research and practice in the public interest.
The statement was issued to the media from Ottawa, Canada, in the midst of a national debate in that country over plans to re-start the former Johns-Manville mine in Quebec and export millions of tons of asbestos overseas over the next 20 years. Approval by the government to guarantee loans to the project have generated headlines and controversy over economical, ethical and health issues centered on the dangers of asbestos.
The consortium said that "Despite grave warnings, put forward by a variety of cancer, public health, and regulatory agencies, regarding the health hazards of all types of asbestos, controversy continues to be fomented by powerful moneyed interests. This has permitted some countries to promote continued use of asbestos. The JPC-SE therefore undertook the development of a Position Statement that, for the first time, puts forward, from an epidemiologic perspective, the clear evidence confirming that all forms of asbestos should be banned."
The consortium, in its statement said a rigorous review of the epidemiologic evidence confirms that all types of asbestos fibers are causally implicated in the development of various diseases and premature death. Numerous well-respected international and national scientific organizations, through an impartial and rigorous process of deliberation and evaluation, have concluded that all forms of asbestos are capable of inducing mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and other diseases.
"These conclusions are based on the full body of evidence, including the epidemiology, toxicology, industrial hygiene, biology, pathology, and other related literature published to the time of the respective evaluations, according to the statement.
The consortium also pointed out that industrialized countries have virtually ceased using asbestos and over 50 countries have passed laws banning its use. Consequently, the asbestos industry, to establish new markets, is promoting the use of asbestos in low-to-middle income countries, particularly in Asia, and has created lobby organizations to achieve this goal.
"In spite of the scientific evidence and calls to end all use of asbestos by many organizations including the World Health Organization, the World Federation of Public Health Associations, the International Commission on Occupational Health, the International Social Security Association, the International Trade Union Confederation and the World Bank, the use of asbestos is increasing in low-to-middle income countries," according to the statement.
"There is little awareness in these countries of the risk that asbestos poses to health; in addition, safety regulations are weak to non-existent. If unstopped, this continued and increasing use of asbestos will lead to a public health disaster of asbestos-related illness and premature death for decades to come in those countries, repeating the epidemic we are witnessing today in industrialised countries that used asbestos in the past."
The JPC-SE statement:
- 1-- Calls for a global ban on the mining, use, and export of all forms of asbestos;
- 2 -- Calls specifically on the major asbestos exporting countries – Brazil, Canada, Kazakhstan, and Russia – to respect the right to health by ceasing the mining, use, and export of asbestos, and providing transition assistance to their asbestos-mining communities;
- 3 -- Calls specifically on the major asbestos-using countries – Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam – to cease use of asbestos;
- 4 -- Urges sister societies of epidemiology and/or public health organizations and agencies, particularly in those countries that continue to mine, use and/or export asbestos, such as Brazil, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam, to adopt a position calling for a ban on the mining, use, and export of all forms of asbestos;
- 5 -- Urges all countries that have used asbestos to inform their citizens and their healthcare professionals of the hazards of asbestos and to implement safety measures to monitor the health of exposed citizens. To facilitate this, an inventory of asbestos already in place is needed, particularly in schools and places where children are present; and
- 6 --Urges all sister societies of epidemiology and/or public health organizations and agencies to support the right of scientists and academics to carry out their work free from intimidation. In situations where the asbestos industry files legal cases to silence scientists and academics, societies of epidemiology and/or public health organizations and agencies are urged to examine the situation and, if warranted by the facts, to support the scientists or academics being threatened and to denounce such tactics of intimidation. The procedure developed by the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology for dealing with beleaguered colleagues could be followed as a model.
The JPC-SE said it has strived to address policy issues that relate to the practice of epidemiologic research, find appropriate venues for the translation of current epidemiologic findings into policy, promote the professional interests of the discipline of epidemiology in governmental organizations, and identify the strategies and processes for shared decision-making among JPC-SE members to develop rational, effective and cost-conscious policies.
JUDGE COMES DOWN HARD ON CONSTRUCTION COMPANY IN NEW JERSEY LANDFILL ASBESTOS CASE
Judges and prosecutors have been stepping up their enforcement of asbestos laws recently in numerous cases across the country in which contractors and other businesses handling or removing asbestos have failed to meet safety standards.
There is a significant health hazard involved because exposure to asbestos is the overwhelming cause of an aggressive, incurable cancer known as malignant mesothelioma. The cancer develops after victims unknowingly inhale microscopic asbestos fibers, usually in a job-related setting. National health statistics show that there are about 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of malignant mesothelioma diagnosed in the United States each year.
The most recent asbestos case involves a company in New Jersey, Strategic Environmental Partners, that is embroiled in a controversy with the Department of Environmental Protection in regard to the Fenimore landfill on Mooney Mountain near Morristown.
The company is attempting to fill in the landfill and cap it in order to construct a solar panel farm. The company president, Richard Bernardi, obtained the required permits from the Department of Environmental Protection but that agency is now seeking to revoke those permits over violations agency officials claim have been committed in the project.
One of the problems is the discovery of asbestos at the site, which contains a large amount of construction debris, a frequent source of asbestos because the material was used for many decades in the insulation of buildings.
Now, reports the Roxbury Register newspaper, Superior Court Judge Deanne Wilson, has ordered that Bernardi immediately present her with a plan for how his company will deal with the problem and comply with environmental safety laws.
At stake, apparently, is the project, which cannot be completed unless Bernardi finds a way to protect his workers and the public from the dangers of asbestos exposure.
"Following a random inspection on July 3 by the DEP and state Department of Labor, some asbestos was detected at the landfill," DEP spokesman Robert Considine told the newspaper. "Seven samples were taken at the site and three of them were positive from asbestos."
Considine also told the newspaper that the agency is attempting to have the permits revoked because Bernardi's company has committed many violations of environmental laws: "Bernardi is, and has been in violation of the consent order and closure plan that was approved by the DEP. It is the DEP's position that we are seeking an immediate stop to the daily truck deliveries due to these asbestos violations."
The newspaper also reported that while this legal dispute has been going on dozens of dump trucks have been driving to and from the site over the last several months over residential roadways. "In June, one of the dump trucks took a non-approved route to the site, and wound up flipping over in the roadway. It took Roxbury crews hours to clean up the mess," according to the report.
Strict environmental laws involving asbestos have been in place since the 1970s, when the government acknowledged the deadly nature of asbestos exposure and enacted strict laws on the use, handling and disposal of asbestos.
Since then, there have been numerous civil and criminal prosecutions of offenders, including many business officials, contractors and some inspectors with stiff fines and some prison sentences handed down to offenders.
Most victims of malignant mesothelioma are told they will have less than 18 months to live after being diagnosed. This is due, in part, to the fact that there is a long latency period between the time the toxic fibers are inhaled and lodge in the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs and the time that cancer cells are generated.
Most victims are not diagnosed until they are in their late 50s, 60s or 70s and the cancer is usually so far advanced it is untreatable by traditional medical approaches of surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.
WIFE OF MESOTHELIOMA VICTIM STEVE MCQUEEN TO ADDRESS CONGRESS ABOUT DANGERS OF ASBESTOS
Celebrities are an invaluable marketing tool, providing a magnetic draw for a product or a cause. It's impossible to watch television, read a newspaper or go online without seeing a well-known person serving as a pitchman or woman for something. Sometimes these celebrities embrace a worthwhile cause and use their fame to further positive pursuits, such as making the public aware of the dangers of asbestos.
One of the latest to assume this role is Barbara Minty McQueen, the widow of famous actor Steve McQueen. She is scheduled to speak before the U.S. House of Representatives July 24 on behalf of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO).
Steve McQueen died of mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer, at the age of 50 soon after being diagnosed with the disease in December of 1979. Barbara Minty McQueen will speak about the devastating effects of asbestos on her husband and their lives and urge that the country ban imports of the toxic material.
The ADAO was founded in 2004 by asbestos victims and their families in 2004 and has served as a non-profit organization on behalf of those affected by asbestos-caused diseases. The organization's goal is to provide asbestos victims and concerned citizens a united voice to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure. ADAO described itself as an independent global organization dedicated to preventing asbestos-related diseases through education, advocacy, and community.
Steve McQueen is one of numerous actors and other celebrities and well-known personalities who have died after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is diagnosed in an estimated 3,000 Americans each year. The most recent possible victim was pop diva Donna Summer, who died this year and had expressed fears about the disease to friends and relatives.
Others include musician Warren Zevon, football player and broadcaster Merlin Olsen, actor Paul Gleason, musical artist and manager Malcom McLaren, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt the youngest man to serve as Chief Officer of Naval Operations, and Hamilton Jordan, the former White House Chief of Staff under President Jimmy Carter.
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, usually in a work environment, through the innocent inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers that invade the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs. Over several decades these fibers cause the generation of cancer cells which form tumors or spread to other parts of their body. Most victims, like Steve McQueen are diagnosed in their 50s, 60s or 70s and usually told they will a life expectancy of less than one year.
According to his biography and published obituaries, Steve McQueen carried the image of a lone, cool rebel against authority in his movies and was tagged cinema's 'King of Cool.' He was a Marine veteran and, according to his recollections, believed he contracted mesothelioma when he worked in a Navy shipyard removing asbestos-filled insulation from the pipes in a ship's hold or while exposed to significant amounts of asbestos on New York and Hollywood soundstages or in protective suits and helmets he used while racing cars and motorcycles.
Barbara Minty McQueen will be joined by several noted physicians and experts at the House of Representatives appearance and then will appear at a July 25 briefing at the National Press Club, according to her schedule. Officials said McQueen will discuss her husband's diagnosis, the inability to find effective medical treatment and the physical and emotional pain he endured as a result of trying to find a cure in Mexico.
She is now living in Idaho and recently published a book: "Steve McQueen: The Last Mile…Revisited", which details her life with her husband. The coffee table book also includes candid shots from 1977 to 1980, according to a press release that said she also has hosted several art exhibits of her photographic work with shows in London, Tokyo, Hamburg, San Francisco, Nashville, Phoenix and Idaho.
"Mesothelioma is a horrible disease. It robbed me of my life and future with Steve and took away an icon beloved by millions around the world," said Barbara McQueen in a news release. "For whatever reason, most people think that asbestos is banned in America. By coming to Washington D.C., I want to bring awareness that asbestos is still legal in the U.S. and continues to kill. It can kill a movie star, a musician or a construction worker. It takes no prisoners."
Earlier this year Barbara Minty McQueen detailed her late husband's battle against mesothelioma as part of the Warren Zevon "Keep Me in Your Heart" Memorial Tribute Award, presented by the ADAO on March 31, 2012 in Los Angeles.
"Not only was Steve McQueen an American legend who lost his battle against mesothelioma, but he had a passion for fearlessly taking a stance," said ADAO CEO and co-founder, Linda Reinstein. "McQueen was once quoted as saying, 'When I believe in something, I fight like hell for it,' and ADAO is proud to honor his courage by adding this cause to his many effects."
Asbestos Legal News:
BOSTON COLLEGE, CONTRACTOR HIT WITH STIFF FINES FOR VIOLATING ASBESTOS TESTING REGULATIONS
A prominent Boston college and a construction company have agreed to pay $500,000 in civil penalties to settle a civil action brought against them for failing to conduct proper asbestos testing in a building that was being converted into a dormitory. Government officials said the defendants attempted to cut corners in the renovation by ignoring reports that testing had been incomplete and students and workers were put in danger of exposure to the toxic material.
In agreeing to settle the case and pay the fines neither Emerson College nor the Suffolk Construction Company admitted wrongdoing over their actions in the case. Emerson is a private liberal arts coeducational university specializing in communication and the arts.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office prosecuted the case, said the defendants were charged with violating air pollution and asbestos regulations in work at the 13-story Colonial Building at Boylston Street which it purchased in 2006 and hired then Suffolk Construction to demolish and renovate it between 2007 and 2008.
As part of the $42 million project the construction company subcontracted an engineering firm and asbestos consultant to examine the building and determine whether asbestos is present, as required by law. However, according to the allegations, the consultant reported to the contractor and Emerson officials that full access to the building was not possible at that time and that there should be further testing of unexamined portions of the building when that access was possible.
According to the charges filed in the case, Suffolk and Emerson officials, fully aware that the testing of the building had not been completed, went ahead with the renovation project anyway.
Exposure to asbestos is the cause of several serious life-threatening diseases, most commonly malignant mesothelioma. That cancer occurs after victims – usually in a work environment – inhale invisible particles of asbestos that work their way into the linings of the lungs, heart and abdominal organs and, over several decades, generate cancer cells that form tumors or spread to other parts of the body.
Because of the long latency period between the time of exposure and when the disease becomes symptomatic it will be impossible to determine for many years whether the exposure in this cases caused anyone to develop mesothelioma.
Because of these health dangers strict laws involving the handling and disposal of asbestos have been put in place, officials said.
"A full building survey and materials test is required before conducting any building demolition, renovation or re-construction that may impact asbestos-containing materials," said Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). "The information generated by the survey protects against improper removal, handling and disposal of asbestos-containing materials. This survey was not done here, and this put at risk workers, tenants, and the general public."
Because proper and timely asbestos and demolition notices allegedly had not been provided to MassDEP, the agency first inspected the site after most of the demolition and removal had been completed. MassDEP found asbestos-containing materials throughout the building, including a brand of lightweight wall block insulation called Mac-ite, which contained asbestos and which had been heavily damaged during renovation. The Mac-ite had been missed during the initial asbestos assessment and had not been identified as an asbestos-containing material.
The complaint alleges that because demolition proceeded without proper asbestos containment measures, the demolition materials removed from the building were contaminated with asbestos, and that the public may have been exposed. Due to contamination with asbestos, the demolition materials should have been sent to a licensed asbestos landfill, but instead about 80 percent of the material appears to have been sent to recycling facilities where it may have caused exposure to workers.
After discovering the scope of the alleged violations, MassDEP required that demolition and renovation activities at the building be halted until a proper survey was conducted and a plan for asbestos decontamination was approved. Asbestos abatement was then conducted to MassDEP's satisfaction in order to protect the public health.
As part of the settlement, Emerson College is required to prepare and put into effect an operations and maintenance plan for the building that is designed to avoid future releases of asbestos to the environment if the building is renovated or repaired.
MANUFACTURERS SEEK ASBESTOS BAN DELAY
Asbestos is such a toxic material that the World Health Organization has recommended that all asbestos use be discontinued in every country. Exposure to asbestos has been identified as the overwhelming cause of a cancer called malignant mesothelioma as well as several other fatal diseases.
However, there are powerful economic interests at play that are blocking any such recommendation -- made in the interest of public health -- in developing countries where environmental concerns and laws are far less health-friendly than in the United States and other westernized nations.
Thailand, for instance, is currently engaged in a national debate over how soon to ban asbestos. The government's cabinet recently passed a resolution to ban all imports, sales and use of asbestos in the country.
But, in a bow to industries that manufacture, distribute or utilize the material in construction and other uses the government hired university officials to come up with a plan to implement the ban. The findings did not please environmentalists:
Officials at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University are proposing that manufacturers should be given an average of 3-5 years to adapt before the complete ban of asbestos imports.
The Bangkok Post newspaper reported that results of the study were presented to some 200 participants involved in industry during a second public hearing before being submitted to the Industry Ministry in September.
The paper reported that five products using asbestos included in the study were rubber tiles, flat sheet, roof tiles, high-pressure water pipes, and automobile brakes and clutches.
"Project manager Jakkris Sivadechathep said the study concluded alternative substances are not equal in terms of price and quality, placing a higher cost burden on consumers," according to the article. "These products are exported to Asian countries and China, and an immediate ban will result in the loss of 2,000 jobs."
The article quoted Dr. Jakkris as saying that the most appropriate solution is an incremental ban that provides manufacturers time to conduct their own research and development and that he proposed phasing out asbestos in rubber tiles and flat sheet in three years and in the other products in five years.
Also quoted was Uran Kleosakul, the managing director of Oran Vanich Co, the producer of Globe-brand roof tiles, who said more detailed studies should be conducted and that the Asian market still needs these products, and a sudden ban on using asbestos would see 2 million people paying more each year, he said.
"Mr. Uran insisted there is no definitive evidence of any Thais having been harmed by the use of asbestos and said switching to alternative substances will cost 10 billion baht," according to the article.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos and develops in the linings of the lungs, heart or vital abdominal organs. Health officials estimated that there are about 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma each year in the United States, most of who are told that they will have a life expectance of less than 18 months from the time they were diagnosed.
The toll in the United States is much lower than less-developed countries, officials say, because strict environmental rules on the use and handling of asbestos have been in place in the country since the late 1970s.
World Health officials believe the number of mesothelioma victims is much higher in other countries but are not able to be specific because some of the most populous countries in the world, such as China, India and Russia do not report their mesothelioma victims.
HUGE JURY AWARDS WON RECENTLY BY ASBESTOS VICTIMS
Juries across the nation are continuing to hold manufacturers and employers liable for huge amounts of damages in cases involving exposure to asbestos. The two most recent cases occurred in Los Angeles, where a victim’s family was awarded $48 million and in Dallas, where a widow of an asbestos victim was awarded $8.4 million.
In the Los Angeles case, a Superior Court jury that heard the case of a family of a mesothelioma victim held defendants Union Carbide Corp., a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, CalPortland, Riverside Cement and other defendants liable for condition in which a worker developed mesothelioma, a deadly cancer attributed to asbestos exposure.
National health officials and evidence from thousands of asbestos cases has linked asbestos to mesothelioma, which usually develops after a victim – usually in a workplace setting – innocently inhales microscopic asbestos fibers which work their way into the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs.
There, over as long a period as five decades, the fibers defeat the body’s immune system and generate cancer cells which form tumors and can spread to other parts of the body. Most mesothelioma victims are told they will have less than 18 months to live after being diagnosed.
Details from the trial were included in a posting on the Wall Street Journal web site MarketWatch:
During the six-week trial, Union Carbide presented numerous paid expert witnesses who argued that its asbestos --trade named "Calidria asbestos" --did not cause cancer. But confidential internal memos revealed that even Union Carbide staff physicians reprimanded the marketing and sales groups for telling customers its asbestos did not cause disease. Two other defendants, Riverside Cement and CalPortland, also hired expert witnesses to testify that the amount of asbestos released from their products was trivial. However, bags of their construction products were scientifically shown to have quadrillions of fibers of asbestos.”
The amount of damages were split among all of the defendants but the jury decided to award $18 million in punitive damages -- $1 million for each year it provided asbestos even after becoming aware of the cancer danger from asbestos exposure -- against Union Carbide for its actions in the case, according to court documents.
In the Dallas verdict, a jury agreed that a Texas man’s death from mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure caused by products of Hercules, Inc., a subsidiary of Ashland, Inc. at a Dow Chemical plant.
“Hercules has a documented history of environmental contamination and corporate malfeasance,” said one of the lawyers who represented the widow. “While other asbestos pipes contained around three to five percent asbestos, Hercules’ asbestos-containing pipes were 50 percent asbestos, an amount found to be highly dangerous to people and the environment.”
The widow’s lawyers said that during the three-week trial, they proved that Hercules, Inc. knew it was exposing Mr. Gensler (the victim) and other workers to toxic asbestos pipe products throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, but did nothing to warn workers. Even after the government began to require warning labels for products containing asbestos in 1971, Hercules chose to not place warning labels on its products, the lawyers said.
Asbestos has been known to be a toxic material since ancient times but it was not until the 1970s that strict laws regulating the use and handling of asbestos were put into place. Since then billions of dollars have been paid out to victims of asbestos exposure in settlements and jury awards in cases in which negligence has been alleged in asbestos suits.
CALIFORNIA APPEALS COURT RULES THAT
ASBESTOS LAWSUITS CAN GO FORWARD
A state appeals court has ruled that a lower court judge was wrong in throwing out several lawsuits filed by victims and relatives of victims who suffered asbestos-caused diseases.
The San Francisco lawsuits were filed against a company that manufactures brake shoe grinding machines that the plaintiffs claimed were responsible for releasing deadly asbestos fibers in the brake linings of vehicles that were being repaired, according to court documents.
Asbestos is a toxic material that has been identified as the source of several deadly diseases, including asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma. Most victims unknowingly inhale microscopic asbestos fibers in the workplace that invade the body and lodge in the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs, according to national health sources.
Asbestos also has been a common component in building materials, insulation and shipbuilding because of its fire-retardant qualities but the links to deadly diseases caused national health officials to impose strict regulations on the use and handling of asbestos since the 1970s.
Asbestos lawsuits have been described as the longest-running torts in American courts and billions of dollars have been paid out to asbestos victims in settlements and jury awards over the last several decades.
The suits that were reinstated by California’s First District Court of Appeal were filed by a former mechanic who suffers from asbestosis and by the families of three people who died of cancer in 2007 and 2008 after years of exposure to asbestos, according to allegations in the lawsuits.
All of the plaintiffs claimed that the asbestos at the cause of the problems was emitted from brake shoe linings by grinding machines made by Hennessy Industries. The appeals were successfully argued by the Brayton Purcell law firm, which has a history of winning large rulings for asbestos victims in California, Utah, Oregon and other states.
The Associated Press reported that Hennessy, a Tennessee manufacturer of wheel service equipment, is the defendant in asbestos suits in several California courts, including more than 20 in San Francisco.
The news agency said the ruling overturned a June 2010 decision by Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn, who in dismissing the four lawsuits said Hennessy used no asbestos in its machines and was not responsible for injuries caused by dangerous substances in other companies' products.
The AP said that in reviving the suits, the First District Court of Appeal said the sole purpose of Hennessy's machines was to grind brake linings, inevitably releasing the asbestos they contained.
"When used as designed and intended, Hennessy's machines caused the release of the toxic agent," said Presiding Justice Barbara Jones in the 3-0 ruling. If the plaintiffs can prove that the emitted fibers caused the illnesses, Jones said, they would be seeking to hold Hennessy accountable for its own conduct, according to the report.
"Mesothelioma victims deserve better than wasteful legal maneuvers," LA Times says in story detailing legal bullying
A chilling horror story about how a mesothelioma victim died after being subjected to questionable tactics by defense lawyers was laid out in detail by a Los Angeles Times consumer reporter. It shows to what ends these legal tactics can be employed against some victims who have been severely weakened by this asbestos-caused cancer. It also demonstrates why mesothelioma victims need experienced, aggressive asbestos lawyers to help support them in trying conditions such as these.
Here are some of the details from the article:
John Johnson died three months ago, his body racked with malignant mesothelioma, a disease that's almost always caused by asbestos exposure. The Marine veteran had sued dozens of companies he believed shared responsibility for his condition, but he never got his day in court.
Here's the horrific question now: Did asbestos industry lawyers deliberately drive Johnson to his death by putting him through a brutal series of depositions so their clients would save money?
That's what his family, his doctor and his lawyers assert. Despite affidavits from his doctor stating that 12 hours of depositions over a few weeks would be about as much as the 69-year-old's health could stand, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge allowed the companies he was suing a total of 25 hours.
Johnson put off returning to the hospital so he could appear at every session, including the last, on Jan. 23. His face contorted in pain, he gasped out answers to questions from the last of the dozens of defense attorneys in attendance. Less than 40 minutes later, he collapsed.
The very next day he died at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach. With him died his family's claims for pain and suffering, mental anguish and bodily disfigurement, reducing their potential recovery in or out of court by as much as 70%, in the assessment of his attorney."
One of the problems facing mesothelioma victims is the question of when to seek legal help to press lawsuits against those who may have been negligent or responsible for their condition. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, usually in an occupational or workplace setting in which microscopic particles of asbestos are inhaled.
These particles eventually lodge in the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs and, over several decades, generate cancer cells which form tumors or spread to other parts of the body. In most victims the disease is so far advanced by the time that it is diagnosed they are told they will have less than 18 months to live. This is why getting help from an asbestos attorney for a lawsuit as early as possible is important, according to legal experts familiar with these types of cases.
According to the Times article:
Johnson's family, his lawyers, and his doctor have no doubt that the defense lawyers stretched out the legal process through what the family contends in court were "delay tactics and stalling, in the expectation that he would die before he reached the finish line.
"I couldn't believe that we had spent so much time trying to save this guy and these other people come in really trying to kill him," says Johnson's thoracic surgeon, Robert B. Cameron of UCLA Medical School. "You can tell when a lawyer is smelling death — they were pounding him with the same questions over and over again."
Says Johnson's widow, Sue: "We tried to keep faith with the law, because that's what you had to do to get justice for his excruciating pain. And that's what accelerated his death. I don't understand how the justice system can work like that."
Nobody does. And that's the real crime in what happened to John Johnson.
The Times described asbestos exposure as "a tale of danger known in the 1930s, exposure inflicted upon millions of Americans in the 1940s and 1950s, injuries that began to take their toll in the 1960s, and a flood of lawsuits beginning in the 1970s."
The newspaper described Johnson as a Newport Beach man who worked as a carpenter, auto mechanic and plumber for three decades until 1990 who was very active as a water skier, a motorcycle racer, an avid cyclist until one day in early 2010 he couldn't catch his breath during a ride.
TOWN AND CONTRACTOR VIOLATE ASBESTOS LAWS
IN MORGUE DEMOLITION
As we’ve all seen many times, truth is stranger than fiction. One of the latest examples occurred recently in Wyoming, where a town morgue was demolished apparently without regard to the dangers of asbestos or the rules and regulations that strictly regulate how this toxic material can be handled.
Because of this a contractor and the small town of Burns, outside of Cheyenne, are facing fines and other penalties for improperly handling asbestos and violating the state’s air quality standards. That a morgue was involved is macabre, given that many thousands of asbestos victims have wound up in morgues after dying of malignant mesothelioma or other asbestos-caused diseases.
National health officials estimate that about 2,000 to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Most victims innocently inhale microscopic fibers that are floating in the air – most commonly at a worksite – and these fibers invade the body, lodge themselves in the linings of the lungs, heart and vital abdominal organs and defeat the immune system’s attempts to attack them.
Over time – spans of four or five decades are common – these fibers generate cancer cells which form tumors and can spread to other parts of the body. In most cases by the time that victims are diagnosed with mesothelioma the cancer is so far advanced that it is untreatable and many victims are told they will have less than 18 months to live.
Asbestos was widely used in a variety of ways in construction and insulation for decades (indeed, it has been prized since ancient times for its fire-resistant qualities) but its dangers and the large number of deaths that it caused eventually caused health officials and legislators to pass laws strictly regulating the use and handling of asbestos.
Demolitions or remodeling of older buildings are one of the most common ways in which older asbestos can be released into the atmosphere and endanger workers and the general populace, which apparently is what happened in Wyoming.
The news site Wyomingnews.com reported that the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is going to reach a settlement over the incident with the town of Burns, which has accepted responsibility for not properly supervising the contractor who performed the demolition. By agreeing to a settlement the town will avoid having heavier fines imposed upon it.
“Under the proposed settlement, town officials will have to pay a $300 fine, undergo asbestos training and conducting educational outreach through the Wyoming Association of Municipalities so other cities can be informed on the important health issue,” the web site reported.
The news site quoted a city councilman as saying that the town completed the required asbestos study on the building before it was demolished and informed the contractor that the material was present in the structure "but the town did not follow through to make sure the contractor handled the asbestos in accordance with DEQ rules."
Asbestos is considered such a serious danger to workers and the public that numerous cases have occurred in which criminal charges have been brought against government officials, contractors and others who have violated asbestos rules. In some cases defendants have receive hefty fines and prison sentences after being indicted by grand juries and convicted by prosecutors.
The specter of asbestos exposure in Burns drew media attention because It was connected to the demolition of a morgue but the ever-present danger of asbestos is also receiving a huge amount of attention because of the increasing number of rescue and construction workers who responded after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.
While Wyoming is sparsely populated, the dense urban environment of New York City has raged huge concerns about the number of people who might have been exposed to huge clouds of asbestos-laden debris clouds after the attacks. Health officials already are reporting that large numbers of rescue workers have been reporting respiratory problems.
CANCERS MAY BE ADDED TO 9/11 FIRST-RESPONDER BILL
Cancers may be added to 9/11 first-responder bill
Panel recommends 30+ cancers be covered under Zadroga Act
BY KENNY WALTER Staff Writer
LONG BRANCH — For former 9/11 firstresponder John Feal, the fight to have cancers added to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act isn’t ending anytime soon, even after a panel recommended certain cancers be added to the bill.
OnApril 2 the World Trade Center Health Program Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) released a report recommending that program administrator Dr. John Howard add more than 30 different types of cancer to the bill that provides for specialized care for ailing 9/11 first responders.
“Last week they made their recommendations to which cancers should be added,” said Feal, a tireless advocate for first responders who developed illnesses as a result of working at theWTC site. “This should have been done a long time ago, and that’s no offense to the STAC committee.
“Just because the bill passed, we never stopped,” he added. “It’s been a long journey, but we still have a lot more work to do.”
According to the recommendations of the report, there were 70 known, or potential, carcinogens in the smoke, dust and contaminants at the World Trade Center site, and no data was collected for four days following the attacks when contaminants were at the highest level.
Although the final decision will be made by Howard, the panel recommended that certain cancers, including cancers of the nasal system, lung, respiratory organs, stomach and digestive system, oral cavity, soft tissue, skin, mesothelioma, eye and orbit, thyroid, lymphoma and all cancers for patients under 20 years old be added to the bill.
Feal said the cause of cancers among first responders is undeniable.
“Through the absorption of nose, mouth and skin, these toxins made it into our bodies, and it’s killing these men and women.
“They can’t downplay it, they can’t dismiss it and they can’t run from the facts anymore,” he added.
According to the U.S. Centers forDisease Control and Prevention website, Howard must make a proposal about which cancers would be covered by the health benefits provided in the act within 60 days, followed by a 30-day public comment period before issuing a final ruling.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th District), cosponsored the Zadroga bill, named for a New YorkCity police officer who died as a result of respiratory disease that has been attributed to his rescue and recovery work in the WTC rubble.
Pallone said in an interview last week the law was intended to provide Howard the ability to amend the act.
“It is very positive because this is the way the legislation was intended to work,” he said. “The decisions about what disorders to add would be essentially petitioned through this advisory board, and then the advisory board would make a recommendation to the head of the committee.
“This was the way it was envisioned because we didn’t really want Congress to make decisions about what disorders would be included because if we made the decisions, they wouldn’t be scientifically based,” he added.
Feal said the recommendations should be changed to add other cancers, as well as eliminate some cancers from the program.
“There were some cancers that were added that we just don’t agree with,” he said. “There was ovarian and breast cancer, and we don’t know anyone in the 9/11 community with those cancers.
“Brain cancer was left off and prostate was left off, and there are high ratios in the 9/11 community.”
Feal said that even if some cancers aren’t added during this round, they might be added at a later date.
“In a perfect world all cancers are going to be added, but that’s not the case,” he said. “There are certain cancers, [which] were undoubtedly and unequivocally caused by 9/11 and the toxins, that needed to be added.
“These are the cancers that are killing these men and women at a rapid rate,” he added. “Just because they were left off doesn’t mean they are not going to be added in the future.”
Pallone agreed that other cancers would be added to the program.
“I think it is very likely, having spoken to a lot of the people who were impacted, that these cancers were, in fact, caused by exposure to things on 9/11,” he said. “I don’t think there is anything that says more cancers can’t be added.
“You have to remember that over the 11 years they are discovering new things all the time,” he added. “It has to be open to add more things as people get older and we realize a lot of these things may not materialize until the people who were impacted are older.”
Previously, 9/11 responders were entitled to free health care, but funding was discretionary from year to year.
The Zadroga bill, which Pallone advocated for, made funding permanent, and responders receive health care for life.
The bill was previously slated to cost $7.4 billion and be in effect for 10 years, but because of a stalemate in the Senate, the funding was reduced to $4.2 billion over five years and was funded by the closing of tax loopholes for companies operating outside of the United States.
Pallone also said that funding might be increased as needed.
“I’m going to be vigilant because we have to make sure that we have enough money to pay for the care of the people, but so far so good,” he said. “It is working out well in my opinion, but of course if any changes need to be made, we need to be vigilant and review what goes on.
“If we think we need to make more changes and provide more funding, we will,” he added.
Feal said he expects a final decision from Howard by the end of the summer.
“My guess is it is going to drag out until the end ofAugust or beginning of September,” he said. “You got the 11-year anniversary, and they will say, ‘Look what we did. We added cancer to the bill.’ ”
Feal also said that Howard would have the benefit of reports submitted by Mount Sinai Hospital and the Fire Department of New York City.
“We have two published peer reviews coming out that are going to benefit us that Dr. Howard will have access to, so he can make a better determination,” he said.
Adding cancers to the act has been a source of controversy since the bill was signed into law late in 2010, with many questioning whether the cancers are caused by exposure at theWTC site.
Feal said there have been doubters since the start of the process.
“Before we had the bill passed, they said we’d never get the bill passed,” he said. “They considered it flat-lined in D.C., and we proved them wrong.
“It proves that our resolve and testament is strong and our will is stronger than ever.”
Feal also said that he would not accept the recommendations being politicized.
“If they drag it out past September, you got a political season coming up in November, and I will make any Republican or any Democrat miserable at their campaign stops and let America know that these men and women are dying,” he said.
Some of the ailments now included under the bill are lung diseases, chronic respiratory disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic or anxiety disorders, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The bill establishes the World Trade Center Health Program, a permanent program to screen, monitor and treat eligible responders and survivors who are suffering from diseases related to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
It directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct and support research into new conditions that may be related to the conditions at ground zero and to evaluate different and emerging methods of diagnosis and treatment.
Also, the legislation builds on the Centers of Excellence, which are currently providing care to thousands of responders and survivors, ensuring ongoing data collection and analysis to evaluate health risks.
Feal spent five days at ground zero and lost half of his left foot after it was crushed by 8,000 pounds of steel. He has made numerous trips to Washington to support the bill.
Source article: http://atl.gmnews.com/news/2012-04-12/Front_Page/Cancers_may_be_added_to_911_firstresponder_bill.html
SCHOOLCHILDREN IMPERILED AFTER THEY MISTAKE
ASBESTOS PARTICLES FOR CHALK
A horrifying scene recently played out at a Niagara Falls, New York school where children playing with what they believed to be chalk on a sidewalk instead exposed the children to toxic asbestos. Upset parents have understandably questioned why the situation occurred outside a junior high school that had been closed.
The dangers of asbestos exposure are so serious that strict rules, regulations and laws are in place over the use and handling of the material. One of the deadliest cancers, malignant mesothelioma, is caused by exposure to asbestos and has claimed hundreds of thousands of victims.
News reports about the incident revealed that the sidewalk was covered with a white chalky material the children assumed was asbestos but was actually the residue of debris from discarded asbestos insulation. Asbestos was once commonly used in insulating everything from skyscrapers to aircraft carriers because it was prized for its fire-resistant qualities but has been replaced by other materials because of the health hazard.
“School officials hired a contractor, complete with plastic Tyvek suits, to clean up the asbestos over the weekend,” according to WIVB4 News in New York. “Officials suspect vandals stole some old hot water pipes from an underground tunnel and tore the asbestos off, which was used for insulation, leaving it spread all over the ground. The cleanup was declared complete on Saturday. Falls Superintendent Cynthia Bianco said, ‘We’re taking all the appropriate necessary steps to make sure it is cleaned up and becomes safe again.’”
Parents of the children are seriously concerned about the health hazards to which the kids may have been exposed and the news station quoted parent Heather Burris as saying, “I am very concerned. This could be something that my asthmatic children could wind up having cancer some day.”
Another parent who was quoted in the media, Tammy Shermer, said: "I just thought some kids brought chalk and they were having fun playing sidewalk chalk. It just shocks me. I'm scared for my daughter. What's to come of her health later on?"
Asbestos-caused mesothelioma usually takes several decades to develop after a victim is exposed to the material. In most cases tiny, invisible particles lodge themselves in the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs and eventually generate cancer cells which form tumors.
About 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year, according to health officials, and the overwhelming majority are victims who are in their 50s to 70s. This is because most were exposed to asbestos as adults, usually in connection with their occupations or job locations.
Dr. Paul Kostinyak, the director of toxicology research at UB Medical School, told News 4 that asbestos is most dangerous from prolonged exposure in a closed environment. Kids exposed to the asbestos outside once or twice is not as bad, he said. “With any exposure to a toxic substance, the more substance you are exposed to, the higher the probability of getting a given effect,” he said.
New 4 said that the physician could not pinpoint the risk level the children faced but advised parents of the kids to have them examined by their family doctors.
The Niagara Falls case demonstrates just how widespread the specter of asbestos exposure can be, say other health experts. The material is so widespread that there are millions of older homes, offices and facilities in which asbestos is present and can become a hazard if it is disturbed and particles become airborne.
KENTUCKY DISASTER HIGHLIGHTS ASBESTOS HAZARDS CAUSED IN AFTERMATH OF STORMS
As we move into spring many parts of the country are still facing massive cleanups in the aftermath of some of the worst winter storms in recent memory. Particularly hard hit were several states in the middle of the United States where tornados, flooding and other severe conditions left thousands of people homeless. Now, as these victims attempt to resume normal lives in their homes and places of employment authorities are warning them to be cautious about health hazards left in the storm debris, including asbestos.
One of the most recent health advisories was issued to hard-hit Kentucky residents by the state's Department for Environmental Protection warning of health, safety and compliance hazards associated with debris handling and disposal.
State officials recommended that homeowners, private citizens, commercial contractors, and county/city officials follow precautions to reduce the risk of exposure when cleaning up debris and damage after recent tornados.
The officials said that because of the age of some of the destroyed buildings and mixture of debris, it is possible that debris may be contaminated with asbestos. They warned that debris from damaged buildings should be kept wet and never burned, so that the potential release of dangerous asbestos particles into the air can be prevented.
"Improper handling of asbestos-containing materials can lead to health problems," the officials said. One of the most serious problems is the deadly cancer known as malignant mesothelioma, which is caused by exposure to asbestos and for which there is no cure.
Victims typically unknowingly inhale invisible particles of asbestos which work their way into the linings of the lungs, heart or abdominal organs and, over several decades, generate cancer cells which form tumors. Because the latency period is so long -- usually several decades -- most victims are not diagnosed until the cancer is so far advanced that it is untreatable. This is one of the reasons the country has such strict rules, regulations and laws involving the use and handling of asbestos.
The danger is particularly acute after storms when homes and buildings are damaged and destroyed because asbestos is a mineral fiber that is commonly found in a variety of building construction materials such as roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, pipe insulation, and flame-retardant products like asbestos cement. When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled.
Kentucky officials noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends keeping asbestos-containing debris thoroughly wetted to reduce potential dust that might result during clean-up. In order to protect the health of homeowners and others involved in debris removal after the recent tornados, the Department for Public Health and the Division for Air Quality encourage the hosing of all demolition debris with water to keep it thoroughly wet until proper disposal in a landfill. Debris should be covered with protection before transportation to disposal sites.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides a detailed explanation of the dangers of asbestos. It includes some important facts that will be of particular interest to storm victims:
"Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals used in certain products, such as building materials and vehicle brakes, to resist heat and corrosion. Asbestos includes chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite asbestos, anthophyllite asbestos, actinolite asbestos, and any of these materials that have been chemically treated and/or altered.
What are the dangers of asbestos exposure to workers? The inhalation of asbestos fibers by workers can cause serious diseases of the lungs and other organs that may not appear until years after the exposure has occurred. For instance, asbestosis can cause a buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs and result in loss of lung function that often progresses to disability and death. Asbestos fibers associated with these health risks are too small to be seen with the naked eye, and smokers are at higher risk of developing some asbestos-related diseases.
Are you being exposed to asbestos? General industry employees may be exposed to asbestos during the manufacture of asbestos-containing products or when performing brake and clutch repairs. In the construction industry, exposure occurs when workers disturb asbestos-containing materials during the renovation or demolition of buildings. Employees in the maritime environment also may be exposed when renovating or demolishing ships constructed with asbestos-containing materials. In addition, custodial workers may be exposed through contact with deteriorating asbestos-containing materials in buildings."
FANS, WORKERS, PLAYERS MAY HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO ASBESTOS AT THE NASSAU COLISEUM IN NEW YORK
A health scandal is brewing in New York where workers at the Nassau Coliseum are so concerned about the dangers of asbestos in the facility that they were forced to contact authorities anonymously out of fear of losing their jobs. Lingering is the specter of hundreds of thousands of fans, workers, professional and college athletes as well as performers who might have been exposed to the dangerous material over the years.
Some of the workers have told government officials that they have developed malignant mesothelioma -- a deadly asbestos-caused cancer -- as a result of their work in the aging 40-year-old sports facility, which is one of the oldest in the National Hockey League and home to the New York Islanders.
The NBC NEW YORK website is reporting that the complaints have triggered an investigation by state inspector that began recently and the probe was confirmed by an officials from the state Department of Labor. According to the web site:
About a dozen workers told NBC New York that several areas of the more than 40-year-old arena are covered with what they believe is dangerous asbestos. Photos provided by their lawyer showed a white substance on the floor and walls of the coliseum's boiler room.
The asbestos probe began as thousands of parents and their children visited the arena for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. "It's really shocking and upsetting," said Stephanie Coons, a pregnant mother of two children. "I am sorry to hear that." The workers expressed concerns for their health and safety. Two of their longtime colleagues, they said, have contracted mesothelioma and cancer and the workers suspect the building played a role. "We've raised questions about it for years and were always told it was nothing," said one worker. "Sometimes we have to drill into it and the fibers fly everywhere," said another. "When blowers are used to clean up, the asbestos is sent into the air."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that "when asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause significant health problems." The most significant problem is mesothelioma, which develops after the fibers lodge in a victim's lungs, heart or abdominal organs and, over several decades, generate cancer cells which form tumors or spread to other parts of the body.
There is no cure for mesothelioma, which national health officials say is diagnosed in between 2,000 and 3,000 Americans each year. Most of the victims were exposed on the job or through second-hand exposure and the overwhelming number of victims are told that they have less than 18 months to live after being diagnosed.
NBC NEW YORK said that the workers did not want their identities revealed, saying they feared for their jobs and said that earlier this year one of the workers collected samples of the white material and brought it to three labs for testing. The following events then transpired, NBCNEWY0RK said:
According to that worker's lawyer, the testing confirmed dangerous levels of potentially airborne asbestos in work areas like the coliseum's boiler room and loading dock as well as stairwells and other places accessible to the public. "I don't think it's a safe place for my workers," said Garden City attorney Joseph Dell, who represents electricians, plumbers, stagehands, carpenters and other coliseum workers now preparing to sue the coliseum's owner, Nassau County. "I don't know if the public is at risk," said Dell. "My concern is for those working in it every day. They make their livings in that building and they don't want it shut down. They just want answers." Federal inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened their own investigation at the coliseum this week. "OSHA opened an inspection at the coliseum Tuesday in response to a worker complaint," said spokesman Edmund Fitzgerald in a statement. "The purpose will be to determine if there are any violations of workplace health and safety standards."
The web site reported that Nassau County officials did not address the asbestos questions and instead directed their comments toward the need for a new facility:"The administration has long stated the need for a new sports entertainment arena, as the Nassau coliseum is the oldest un-renovated sports facility in the nation," said Brian Nevin, a spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano.
The New York Islanders, who are the primary tenant of the facility, took a different review, asking that there be a comprehensive investigation into whether the claims of the workers are accurate: "The Islanders expect that the building owner, Nassau county and the building facility manager, SMG, will review the allegations and take any and all appropriate action. The safety of our fans, players and employees is paramount," said the Islanders senior vice-president, Michael Picker.
LANDLORD CHARGED WITH SERIOUS CRIMES IN CASE IN WHICH TENANTS WERE PUT AT ASBESTOS RISKThe health dangers of exposure to asbestos are serious enough that strict laws have been put in place to protect workers and other innocent people from contracting deadly asbestos-caused diseases. These laws are being strictly enforced in the United States as evidenced in a recent case in Massachusetts in which a homeowner is accused of attempting to sidestep these laws by hiring an unlicensed contractor to remove asbestos from a building he owned and putting his tenants at risk of exposure to asbestos.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley recently announced that the property owner from Weston and a Plainville-based heating contractor were indicted in connection with the alleged improper removal of asbestos in a single-family rental property in Medway.
David Einis, age 58, and Nicholas Pasquantonio, age 41, were each indicted on two counts of violating the Massachusetts Clean Air Act for failure to file a notice of asbestos removal with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and failure to prevent asbestos emissions. Nicholas Pasquantonio was also indicted on charges of witness intimidation. Authorities allege the asbestos containing insulation was from heating pipes in an occupied Medway rental property owned by Einis, which was released when the boiler was being replaced by Pasquantonio
“Asbestos is a hazardous material and it is extremely important for companies and individuals to follow guidelines for reporting and removing asbestos in order to prevent people from being exposed to this toxin,” Coakley said. “Our office remains committed to upholding the law to make sure no shortcuts are taken at the expense of public safety.”
“MassDEP worked closely with the Medway Board of Health in following up on the discovery, and further addressing the violations that were found at the site,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell. “This enforcement sends a strong message that rules to protect public health, which include asbestos removal and disposal, must be followed.”
According to authorities, in December 2010, Einis hired Pasquantonio of Johnny’s Oil Service, Inc., who is not a licensed asbestos contractor, to replace the boiler in the Medway property occupied by a family with several children. Pasquantonio allegedly did not seal off the basement while he worked to replace the boiler. After being notified by the Medway Board of Health a few days later, MassDEP inspected the site and allegedly found the improper removal and release of asbestos.
Authorities allege that Einis and Pasquantonio failed to notify MassDEP that they would be disturbing asbestos when replacing the boiler and did not follow the appropriate procedures to prevent asbestos emissions. The Department of Labor Standards requires that the removal of asbestos be performed by a licensed contractor, and pursuant to MassDEP regulations, contractors must provide notification of when the removal will occur and follow certain methods and standards for the safe removal, storage, and disposal of the asbestos throughout the abatement process.
Authorities also allege that when Pasquantonio became aware he might be charged criminally, he went to the property where the illegal asbestos removal had occurred and threatened one of the tenants not to testify against him at trial.
The charges are the result of an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, an interagency unit that consists of prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the Attorney General’s Office, and investigators and engineers from the MassDEP who investigate and prosecute crimes that harm or threaten the state’s water, air, or land and that pose a significant threat to human health.
A Norfolk County Grand Jury returned indictments against Einis and Pasquantonio on January 19, 2012. The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned in Norfolk Superior Court at a later date.
The Massachusetts case is the latest in a number of criminal cases filed across the country against private individuals, contractors and government officials who have attempted to avoid asbestos laws and regulations. There are serious health risks involved with asbestos, which is the overwhelming cause of a deadly cancer called malignant mesothelioma.
The cancer usually develops after victims inhale invisible particles of asbestos which become lodged in their lungs, heart or abdominal organs and generate cancer cells which form tumors or spread to other parts of the body. National health statistics show that about 2,000 to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma each year.
ASBESTOS BRAKE PAD BAN SOUGHT IN CANADA TO PROTECT AUTO MECHANICS FROM MESOTHELIOMA
A Canadian legislator is proposing a law that would ban asbestos brake pads in an attempt to eliminate an exposure to a deadly material that has plagued auto mechanics around the world. While some countries such as the United States have strict regulations on the use and handling of asbestos there are still some loopholes that allow the importation of products that do contain asbestos. It is particularly noteworthy that this legislation was introduced in Canada, a nation in which there is a huge controversy over whether the nation’s asbestos industry should be propped up with government-guaranteed loans or be shut down.
Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that kills thousands of victims each year. In most cases, victims inhale invisible particles of asbestos that eventually log in the linings of the lungs and over several decades generate cancer cells which cause tumors or spread to other parts of the body. Most cases are diagnosed too late for effective treatment.
The majority of mesothelioma victims are exposed to asbestos at work and auto mechanics are among the most common victims of this disease because they work on used clutch and brake pads that can release deadly fibers when they are replaced. The problem is especially acute in Canada, where government statistics show that more than $2.6 million worth of asbestos brake pads were imported into the country in 2011.
The legislation is being introduced by Guelph MPP Liz Sandals who said that there are regulations involving domestic brake pads, “but if they come from somewhere else in the world, we really have no idea what’s in the brakes. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which has been at the forefront of reporting on the Canadian asbestos controversy reported on the dangers:
“The risks are real. Retired mechanic Shannon Groves says people didn't know about the consequences of inhaling brake dust back when he was a young boy helping out in his father’s garage in Russell, Ontario, southeast of Ottawa. Nearly two years ago, Groves was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a deadly lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.
Doctors told Groves, 38, that his asbestos exposure was likely due to decades of working with brakes. ‘Usually this cancer is diagnosed in your 60s or 70s,’ he says, referring to the long latency period. But having worked in the shop as a kid, he says, ‘I’ve got my 30 years in already.’ Along with chemotherapy and radiation, Groves endured a nine-hour surgery in 2011, in which doctors removed one of his lungs, and all the tissue lining his heart and abdomen. Despite the treatments, he says there is a 70 per cent chance the cancer will return in the next three years.”
The CBC reported that other diseases have also been linked to mechanics' exposure to asbestos brake dust, such as asbestosis and lung cancer and that, according to the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada, 58 auto mechanics died of asbestos-related diseases between 1996 and 2010.
In the United States there are an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed each year. It is not known exactly how many cases involve auto mechanics but labor unions have long pointed out that a disproportionate number of mechanics develop the disease annually.
The problem is still present in the United States, where a few years ago the Food and Drug Administration issued a brochure targeting this problem and detailed why auto mechanics should be concerned about asbestos exposure. Here’s what the federal officials said:
“Because some, but not all, automotive brakes and clutches available or in use today may contain asbestos, professional automotive technicians and home mechanics who repair and replace brakes and clutches may be exposed to asbestos dust. Brake and clutch dust can be seen when a brake disk, drum, clutch cover, or the wheel is removed from a car, truck, or other equipment. There are also many small dust particles that cannot be seen with the eye. If the brakes contain asbestos, the dust may contain asbestos fibers, which could be inhaled.”
In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued some guidelines to automotive technicians advising them of work practices to follow to reduce potential asbestos exposure. Here are some of the recommended guidelines:
- NEGATIVE-PRESSURE ENCLOSURE/HEPA VACCUUM SYSTEM METHOD: This type of enclosure and vacuum system has a special box with clear plastic walls or windows, which fits tightly around a brake or clutch assembly to prevent asbestos exposure.
- LOW PRESSURE/WET CLEANING METHOD: This specially designed low-pressure spray equipment wets down the brake assembly and catches the runoff in a special basin to prevent airborne brake dust from spreading in the work area.
- WET WIPE METHOD: This method involves using a spray bottle or other device capable of delivering a fine mist of water or amended water (water with a detergent), at low pressure to wet all brake and clutch parts. The brakes can then be wiped clean with a cloth.
- Using a special high-efficiency vacuum with a particulate air filter during the removal of asbestos in a sealed area.
- Flooding the brakes or clutch with a solvent to wet down the asbestos and then wiping or brushing the material off while it is still wet.
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- Canada, A Major Exporter of Chrysotile Asbestos, Under Microscope in BBC Investigation
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- April 20, 2009
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- February 24, 2009
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- February 2, 2009
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- January 20, 2009
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- City of St. Louis Cited for Use of Illegal Wet Method of Asbestos Removal
- October 8, 2008
- Asbestos Bill H.R. 6903—A Patch for the Asbestos Industry Loopholes in the Ban Asbestos in America Act
- September 17, 2008
- Illegally Demolishing Asbestos–Containing Building Lands California Building Renovator in Federal Prison for 10 Months
- September 4, 2008
- Canadian Property Damage Claims from Zonolite Attic Insulation May be Filed Against W.R. Grace
- July 28, 2008
- White House Encourages Federal Agencies to Water Down Regulation of Hazardous Substances Including EPA’s Asbestos Regulations
- May 15, 2008
- W.R. Grace Challenges Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal’s Ruling on Asbestos Minerals
- April 23, 2008
- Two Taconite Minnesota Mining Operations Could Be Held Accountable for Exceeding Asbestos Exposure Limits
- April 14, 2008
- Public Justice Files Suits Against CBS for Asbestos Contaminated CSI Investigation Kits
- March 17, 2008
- Asbestos Exposure Limits for Miners Changed by Federal Regulators
- March 14, 2008
- W.R. Grace to Pay $250 Million for Asbestos Cleanup in Libby, Montana
- February 20, 2008
- Banning Asbestos, a Global Responsibility According to International Health Experts
- February 15, 2008
- ADAO’s 4th Annual Asbestos Day Conference Provides Information and Support to Those Affected by Asbestos
- February 8, 2008
- Asbestos Cleanup in Oregon Grinds to a Halt
- January 29, 2008
- Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Fund Enables Federal Mogul to Get Back in Business
- January 18, 2008
- W.R. Grace’s Asbestos Claims and Bankruptcy Future In Judge’s Hands
- December 7, 2007
- Asbestos Found in Every Day Products Including Children’s Toys
- November 9, 2007
- Montana Judge is Overruled in W.R. Grace Asbestos Case
- July 19, 2007
- Asbestos Found in Dust from New York Steam Pipe Explosion
- April 27, 2007
- Utah Workers Risked Asbestos Exposure at Vermiculite Plants
- April 20, 2007
- Lawmakers and State Health Department Consider Mesothelioma Rates in Minnesota Iron Range
- March 23, 2007
- The Asbestos Hazard Lurking Within the Capitol Tunnels
- January 12, 2007
- Government Report Confirms Asbestos in El Dorado Hills, CA
- October 6, 2006
- Former Workers at Arizona Vermiculite Plants Exposed to Asbestos
- September 22, 2006
- Asbestos Being Removed from Tunnels under Capitol Buildings
- September 1, 2006
- Asbestos–Contaminated Soil To Be Removed from Former Vermiculite Plant
- June 23, 2006
- Workers Exposed to Asbestos at Portland Vermiculite Plant
- May 19, 2006
- Asbestos in Brakes Remains a Concern, Senator Murray Reminds Budget Committee Members
- April 28, 2006
- Asbestos Found Inside Government Office Building
- January 20, 2006
- San Diego Gas and Electric Indicted in Illegal Asbestos Removal
- June 17, 2005
- EPA Report Released on Asbestos in El Dorado Hills, CA
- May 20, 2005
- Managing Asbestos: Hawaii Schools Must Be Careful When Making Repairs
- February 8, 2005
- W.R. Grace Faces Asbestos Charges
- October 8, 2004
- EPA Performing Asbestos Tests in El Dorado Hills, California
- September 10, 2004
- Jordan Zevon Becomes Spokesperson for Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)
- December 9, 2003
- San Francisco Jury Awards $2,999,543 in Asbestos Case
- December 5, 2003
- Global Plan to Limit Asbestos Exports Blocked
- November 21, 2003
- EPA Warnings for Auto Mechanics Challenged
- November 14, 2003
- Insurers Knew About Asbestos Dangers, Reports Say
- May 30, 2003
- EPA Issues Vermiculite Insulation Warning
- May 22, 2003
- SF Jury Awards Over $1.1 Million to Engineer with Asbestosis
- March 14, 2003
- Asbestos Victims Can Sue for Stress Due to Cancer Fears
- February 28, 2003
- EPA Bows to Pressure; Will Warn Public About Zonolite
- January 10, 2003
- White House Squelched Alert on Asbestos Insulation
- December, 13, 2002
- CA Asbestos Sampling Methods Criticized
- September 20, 2002
- Georgia–Pacific Knew of Asbestos Dangers, Report Charges
- June 14, 2002
- U.S. Seeks to Intervene in W.R. Grace Asbestos Bankruptcy
- May 17, 2002
- EPA to Remove Asbestos Contaminated Insulation from Libby Homes
- April 12, 2002
- Auto Mechanics Risk Asbestos Exposure
- April 5, 2002
- Jury Awards $33.7 Million to Former Navy Electrician
- January 4, 2002
- Asbestos–Contaminated Libby Recommended for Superfund List
- January 4, 2002
- Jury Awards Over $2.3 Million to Ex–Johns Manville Worker
- July 20, 2001
- W.R. Grace Was Silent About Asbestos–Containing Spray Product
- May 4, 2001
- Plaintiffs’ Counsel and the Changing Face of Asbestos Litigation
- April 25, 2001
- Jury Awards Over $1.5 Million in Asbestos Case
- October 23, 2009
- The Days are Numbered for Asbestos Laden Serpentine Rock as California State Rock
- September 23, 2009
- ADAO Continues Efforts to Give Asbestos Victims a Voice
- April 22, 2009
- Budget Woes Place Asbestos Demolition Inspections on Chopping Block
- July 1, 2008
- Leading Public Health Advocates Form the Committee to Ban Asbestos in America
- March 21, 2008
- Asbestos Awareness Day Resolution Passes The Senate
- February 14, 2008
- Debate Continues On the Ban Asbestos Act
- November 30, 2007
- Asbestos Bill Corrupted by Industry Lobbyists
- November 9, 2007
- US Senate Passes The Ban Asbestos in America Act
- August 10, 2007
- Asbestos Ban Approved by Senate Committee
- July 13, 2007
- Sen. Murray Sees Progress for Bill Banning Asbestos
- June 22, 2007
- Senate Committee Considers Ban Asbestos in America Act
- March 9, 2007
- Sen. Murray Reintroduces Bill to Ban Asbestos
- June 16, 2006
- Flawed Asbestos Legislation Reintroduced, Now in Senate Committee
- February 15, 2006
- Asbestos Bill, S. 852, Fails to Clear Procedural Hurdle
- February 3, 2006
- USG Corp. Bankruptcy Agreement Shows the Flaws in Proposed Asbestos Legislation, Consumer Group Says
- December 23, 2005
- Report Reveals Problems with Four Federal Compensation Programs; Highlights Flaws in Asbestos Trust
- September 30, 2005
- Asbestos Trust Fund Would Go Broke, New Study Says
- September 9, 2005
- Specter Pushes for Vote on S. 852, While Budget Office Says Bill’s Asbestos Trust Fund Is Inadequate
- June 3, 2005
- Coalition of Groups Holds Press Conference to Oppose Asbestos Bill
- May 27, 2005
- Asbestos Bill Clears Senate Judiciary Committee; Will Go Before Full Senate
- May 18, 2005
- Proposed Legislation Benefits Asbestos Companies, Not Asbestos Victims
- April 29, 2005
- Senate Judiciary Committee Delays Vote on Flawed Asbestos Legislation
- March 25, 2005
- The Voice of Asbestos Victims: “Keep Me in Your Heart”
- March 18, 2005
- Paul Brodeur’s “The Cruel Saga of Asbestos Disease”
- February 28, 2005
- Republicans to Meet About Flawed Asbestos Trust Fund Legislation
- January 7, 2005
- Senate Judiciary Hearing to be Held on Asbestos Bill
- December 10, 2004
- Arlen Specter Plans to Advance Flawed Asbestos Legislation
- October 1, 2004
- Russia and Canada Once Again Block Asbestos Export Restrictions
- September 24, 2004
- Guidelines Issued for Diagnosing Asbestos Diseases; New Attempt to Pass Harmful Asbestos Legislation
- July 23, 2004
- Update on Asbestos Legislation
- May 14, 2004
- Talks on Frist/Hatch Asbestos Bill End Without Agreement
- April 27, 2004
- Hatch/Frist Asbestos Bailout Bill Stalled in Senate
- April 13, 2004
- Don’t Let Hatch and Frist Revive Flawed Asbestos Bill
- April 2, 2004
- Cancer Victims and Their Families Lobby Against Frist/Hatch Asbestos Bill
- March 12, 2004
- Deaths from Asbestos Increasing, While Proposed Legislation Would Limit Aid to Its Victims
- February 6, 2004
- Cancer Victims Speak Out Against Hatch/Frist Asbestos Bill
- November 26, 2003
- Asbestos Bill Won’t Pass This Year, Sen. Frist Admits
- November 3, 2003
- Democrats Want Talks on Asbestos Bill; Criticize Current Version
- October 30, 2003
- Labor Leader Denounces Latest Agreement Between Asbestos Companies and Insurers
- October 22, 2003
- Daschle and Organized Labor Say Passage of Asbestos Bill Unlikely
- September 5, 2003
- Hatch Asbestos Bill to Go Before Senate; Annotated Text of Bill Provided
- August 19, 2003
- Asbestos Bill, S.B. 1125, Is a Sham, Construction Worker Says
- August 15, 2003
- S.B. 1125 Deprives Asbestos Victims of Due Process, Asbestos Claimants’ Committee Says
- July 31, 2003
- Texas Bills Harmful to Asbestos Victims
- July 7, 2003
- Hatch Bill Provides Inadequate Protection for Asbestos Victims
- June 27, 2003
- Orrin Hatch Bill Still Harmful to Asbestos Victims
- June 6, 2003
- Bill Reintroduced to Ban Asbestos, Set Up Mesothelioma Registry
- May 29, 2003
- Orrin Hatch Bill Helps Asbestos Companies, Not Asbestos Victims
- April 4, 2003
- Proposed Legislation Would Harm Asbestos Victims
- October 25, 2002
- Bill Would Aid Libby Asbestos Victims
- July 12, 2002
- Feds Investigating Spread of Asbestos Beyond Libby, Montana
- June 18, 2002
- New Bill Would Ban Asbestos Products and Fund Mesothelioma Research
- August 13, 2001
- US Senate Committee Warned About Ongoing Asbestos Hazards
- January 25, 2010
- City Closes Building in Old Yakima Hotel Due to Asbestos Hazards
- January 5, 2010
- Sheet Metal Fabricators Run High Risk for Asbestos Diseases Despite Limits on Asbestos Exposure
- September 18, 2009
- U.S. Acting Surgeon General States There Is No Safe Level of Asbestos Exposure
- July 31, 2009
- Using New Technique, Doctors Find Origin of Asbestos Disease Pain
- July 14, 2008
- Anakinra May Slow Down Development of Asbestos–Related Diseases
- September 14, 2007
- Asbestos and Toxic Dust from 9/11—A Public Health Time Bomb?
- July 27, 2007
- Hospital in Dallas Screens Hundreds for Asbestos Diseases
- July 20, 2007
- University of Minnesota and Health Department to Study Mesothelioma Among Iron Range Workers
- June 29, 2007
- Typical Asbestos Disease Victim May Be Younger Now, ADAO Asserts
- May 11, 2007
- EPA Issues New Guide to Reducing Asbestos Exposure Among Auto Mechanics
- December 22, 2006
- OSHA Will Not Pull Its Bulletin About Asbestos in Brakes
- December 15, 2006
- Has the EPA Cleaned Up Libby’s Asbestos Problem?
- December 1, 2006
- OSHA Scientist Pressured to Revise Warning About Asbestos Brakes
- October 27, 2006
- Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization Launches Online Campaign, Plans 2007 Conference
- August 25, 2006
- WHO Issues Draft Paper On Asbestos Disease
- August 4, 2006
- OSHA Issues Asbestos Brake and Clutch Repair Bulletin for Auto Mechanics
- June 23, 2006
- Asbestos Exposure Linked to Cancer of the Voice Box or Larynx
- November 11, 2005
- Study Supports Link Between Asbestos Exposure and Colon Cancer
- September 30, 2005
- Workers Exposed to Asbestos in Vermiculite at Nine Plants
- April 8, 2005
- The Asbestos Tragedy in Ragland, Alabama
- February 4, 2005
- Libby Residents Exposed to Asbestos Show Autoimmune Responses, Study Finds
- November 19, 2004
- Funds Approved for Asbestos Disease Research Center in Libby, Montana
- August 20, 2004
- EPA Stops Use of Controversial Asbestos Removal Method Near Airport
- July 30, 2004
- Asbestos–Related Deaths Increasing, Government Report Says
- July 30, 2004
- EPA Won’t Approve “Wet Method” of Asbestos Demolition in Fort Worth
- June 4, 2004
- EPA Employees Denounce Unsafe Asbestos Removal Methods
- April 23, 2004
- Cancer Center to Screen Those Exposed to Vermiculite
- March 5, 2004
- South African Miners Suffer from Mesothelioma and Other Asbestos Diseases
- February 6, 2004
- U.S. Government Knew About Asbestos at Vermiculite Plants
- September 12, 2003
- EPA Downplayed Post–9/11 Asbestos and Other Safety Hazards in NYC, Report Says
- January 31, 2003
- California and Washington Homes May Contain Asbestos
- January 10, 2003
- Libby, Montana Residents Still Risk Asbestos Exposure
- November 8, 2002
- A New Generation of Asbestos Victims
- August 9, 2002
- Clinic Opens for Ground Zero Workers; Health Registry Created
- February 1, 2002
- Asbestos Remains a Problem Near the World Trade Center
- June 8, 2001
- Asbestos Testing Continues in Libby, Montana
AUTO REPAIR ASBESTOS DANGERS ARE STILL SERIOUS
There aren’t many things that pose more of a serious health risk for exposure to asbestos than being a professional or do-it-yourself auto mechanic. The dirty task of tearing apart and repairing or replacing worn parts of automobiles, particularly brake and clutch systems, means that any of these worn parts that contains asbestos as a component can be life-threatening. The most frequent problem is the inhalation of tiny particles of asbestos fibers into the air that can then be unknowingly inhaled. This can start a process that leads to the deadly cancer known as malignant mesothelioma and some other asbestos-caused, life-threatening diseases.
The government has placed strict rules and regulations on the use and handling of asbestos but there are still millions of cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles which have asbestos as components in their parts because of the material’s heat-resistant qualities. National health statistics show that a large percentage of the victims of malignant mesothelioma are mechanics who worked on brake and clutch systems and were exposed to the fine dust that usually is aired during such work. These particles frequently accumulate as the vehicles age and parts erode and then are released into the air when work such as arcing and grinding of brake pads occurs.
Most new vehicles are using other components in brake and clutch systems but the reality is that many of the vehicles on the road still contain asbestos-laden parts. There is also another problem: some parts and vehicles imported from other countries with less restrictive environmental and consumer protection laws still contain asbestos.
Malignant mesothelioma is overwhelming caused by exposure to asbestos. The invisible particles invade the body, lodge in the linings of victims’ lungs, hearts and abdominal organs and generate cancer cells which form deadly tumors or spread to other parts of the body. It can usually take as long as 40 to 50 years for these cancers to develop and by the time they do they are usually so far advanced that most victims are told they will have less than 18 months to live. National health officials estimate that about 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed annually and a significant proportion involves mechanics who worked on brakes and clutches.
Other asbestos-caused diseases include asbestosis, a scarring of the lungs that cannot be treated, and a lung cancer that is caused by asbestos. As with mesothelioma, by the time these conditions are diagnosed the victim is usually in his or her 50s and 60s and the diseases so far advanced that traditional treatment methods such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are not effective.
The dangers of mechanics being exposed to asbestos is so severe that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) in 2006 distributed an official health and safety bulletin alerting mechanics and their employers to these serious health concerns. The federal agency also made safety recommendations that include:
If you are a professional or home mechanic you should familiarize yourself with these procedures in order to protect your health. If you currently work as a mechanic or did so in the past and believe that you are suffering from symptoms that may be caused by an asbestos disease you should immediately contact your physician. Such symptoms typically include chest or abdominal pains, a persistent cough, coughing up blood, night sweats, digestive issues or chronic fatigue, among others.
CANADIAN ASBESTOS DANGERS WERE MISPRESENTED, MANIPULATED BY BUSINESS, RESEARCHERS AND POLITICIANS, ACCORDING TO SCATHING CBC REPORT
The Canadian Broadcasting Company's uncovering of the role of government officials and prestigious McGill University's in downplaying the dangers of asbestos is the latest example of the public benefit that ensues from the investigative powers of the mainstream media. The question put before viewers are: Were profits and integrity put ahead of worker health and public safety?
The allegations of decades of payoffs, suppressed information and misleading research projects are contained in the CBC/s documentary "Fatal Deception" and have generated a huge controversy that is now being played out in a country in which asbestos and its dangers to workers and the public has become a hot topic.
While the United States and most Western European countries have imposed bans on the uses of asbestos and strict regulations on its handling and disposal, Canada has until recent years remained one of the world's major suppliers of the material once prized for its versatility and fire-retardant properties, particularly in insulation.
However, exposure to asbestos can be deadly and is the overwhelming cause of a deadly cancer known as malignant mesothelioma and a deadly disease called asbestosis. U.S. health officials say an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the country and Canadian figures may be higher.
Canadian authorities and its asbestos industry are under heavy fire domestically and abroad about the health dangers posed by its production and the ethical questions focused on its profitable asbestos trade with poorer countries in which asbestos laws are significantly laxer or non-existent.
Health critics at home and abroad over its production and export of the carcinogenic material to poorer countries. This debate has significantly affected the asbestos industry with many mines shuttered and the remaining companies seeking a $58-million bank-loan guarantee from the Quebec government to survive.
The CBC investigation documents the concealment of the Canadian asbestos industry’s knowledge of the dangers of asbestos and the involvement of prestigious McGill University. The video highlights how Ivan Sabourin--President of Canada’s Conservative Party and lead attorney for the asbestos consortium--hid diseased lungs of deceased asbestos workers in the 1950s and the sponsorship by the asbestos industry of scientific studies to downplay the dangerous effects of asbestos mining and use. The asbestos industry actively suppressed and altered research beginning with the hiring of the Saranac Laboratory in upstate New York.
According to “Fatal Deception,” this altering of research continues today with the sponsorship of McGill University scientists. Corporate documents from the 1920s indicated the asbestos industry wanted to take out a “mortgage on McGill” to ensure research outcomes were favorable to the asbestos industry. The video also draws parallels between the tobacco industry’s tactics and asbestos industry tactics to defraud consumers, including the sponsorship of the same scientists by both the asbestos and tobacco industries. The asbestos industry wanted to conduct research similar to the tobacco industry because “industry is always well advised to look after its own problems.”
Despite the proof of asbestos as a human carcinogen, the Canadian government is considering reopening the Jeffrey Mine in Quebec due to economic circumstances. “Fatal Deception” features Dr. Bruce Case, a McGill scientist involved in a recently released study on asbestos safety, refusing to release details of the study, which suggests the chrysotile fibers mined in Quebec do not cause mesothelioma and helps the Canadian government with its plan to allow the sale of asbestos to developing countries.
Dr. Case has also testified on behalf of asbestos industry defendants. “Fatal Deception” demonstrates the terrible effects of working with asbestos through a family with at least three mesothelioma diagnoses. This is juxtaposed with the potential disastrous effects of sending the “miracle fiber” to developing countries where workers have neither access to, nor knowledge of, proper safety conditions, just like the 1950s when Ivan Sabourin hid the effects from asbestos workers’ families and the public.
According to the CBC report: "as the dangers of asbestos became better known in the 1960s, the industry decided to do its own research and hired Dr. John Corbett McDonald at McGill University's School of Occupational Health. Industry documents obtained by CBC News showed it wanted to conduct research similar to that in the tobacco industry, which stated that "Industry is always well advised to look after its own problems."
Starting in the mid-1960s, McDonald headed the McGill study. The CBC has documents that show payments from the Quebec Asbestos Mining Association to McDonald and other researchers at the McGill School of Occupational Health totaling almost a million dollars from 1966 to 1972.
Tremolite, an even more dangerous contaminant than chrysotile, is sometimes found alongside white asbestos or chrysotile.
The McGill researchers would suggest in a 1997 study that cases of mesothelioma — cancer of the lining of the lung — occurred in "most, if not all," miners who had a greater exposure to tremolite and that the mines close to the centre of the town of Thetford, Que., were the ones most contaminated with tremolite.
McDonald suggested that chrysotile was "essentially innocuous" at certain levels and advocated for its export to the Third World."
As part of the fallout of the CBC allegations, the Montreal Gazette reported that McGill University says it is reviewing the findings of McGill's major research project into the asbestos industry and cancer caused after the CBC News investigation raised questions about links between the research and industry interests.
"David Eidelman, the university's dean of medicine, says allegations in the CBC report that several decades of research led by J. Corbett McDonald could have been influenced by the asbestos industry must be taken seriously," according to the Gazette report.