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April 20, 2018

Feds: Franklin Park metal company didn't tell workers about asbestos

A Franklin Park metal company has been fined by a federal agency for not telling its workers about the presence of asbestos.

The regional office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited A.M. Castle, 3400 N. Wolf Road, with nine violations on March 24 — five of which are classified as serious.

OSHA spokeswoman Rhonda Burke said the government agency defines “serious” violations as ones where “death or serious harm could exist from a hazard they did or should have known existed.”

The serious violations include:

• Not posting danger signs or warning employees about confined spaces (inside a machine used for cleaning or altering the surface of metal) that could expose employees to asbestos

• Failing to inform employees there might be asbestos in areas where they work

• Training on asbestos for employees not being up to OSHA standards

• Not providing annual asbestos training focusing on recognizing asbestos and how to avoid it.

This is not the first time OSHA has cited A.M. Castle’s facility in Franklin Park. In October 2011, OSHA cited the company for 20 serious violations, Burke said. OSHA proposed $127,600 in fines, which was negotiated down to $63,500.

In March 2012, OSHA again cited Castle Metals on two violations. Those were not providing awareness training for employees who work in areas with asbestos, and not having a copy of the OSHA Asbestos Standard available to employees. OSHA cited A.M. Castle for a total of $8,400, which A.M. Castle paid without negotiating or contesting.

A.M. Castle was fined for those same two violations this year.

This time around, OSHA has proposed $59,720 in fines; A.M. Castle has 50 working days to respond. The company can contest the fines, meet with the area director of OSHA and perhaps negotiate lower fines, or pay the fines. The company will also have to correct the violations

A.M. Castle is headquartered in Oak Brook. The company’s legal department declined to comment.

Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune

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Feds: Franklin Park metal company didn't tell workers about asbestos

If You Were Exposed to, or Harmed by, ASBESTOS or ASBESTOS-CONTAINING Products Made, Distributed or Sold by THE …

WILMINGTON, Del. , March 31, 2015 /CNW/ — The following statement is being issued regarding In re The Flintkote Company and Flintkote Mines Limited, Case No. 04-11300 (MFW) (Jointly Administered).

TYPES OF PRODUCTS: During the 1930s to the 1980s, some products sold by The Flintkote Company and Flintkote Mines Limited (the “Debtors“) contained asbestos. These products could have included floor tile, roofing shingles, joint compound, fiber pipe, liquid products, cement board, cement siding, cement pipe, asphalt and other products.

Persons or entities exposed to, or harmed by, the Debtors’ asbestos or asbestos-containing products may have personal injury, wrongful death or other claims against the Debtors.  You do not need to (i) have been diagnosed, (ii) have symptoms, or (iii) be impaired to be affected by the Plan (defined below).

If you believe you may have been exposed to, or harmed by the Debtors’ products, you may be entitled to vote on confirmation of the Plan.  You should carefully read this notice and the important documents located at http://www.flintkotebankruptcy.com.

PLAN OF REORGANIZATION: The Debtors filed for bankruptcy in 2004. On February 9, 2015 , the Debtors filed a modified joint plan of reorganization (the “Plan“) with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware (the “Bankruptcy Court“).  The Plan includes the terms of a settlement reached between the Debtors and their former indirect parent company, Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited (“ITCAN“). The Plan has been jointly proposed by the Debtors, the Asbestos Claimants Committee and the Future Claimants Representative (collectively, the “Plan Proponents“).  As background, the Plan is a modified version of a bankruptcy plan on which Debtors previously solicited votes in 2008 and 2009, and which was confirmed by the Bankruptcy Court on December 21, 2012 (the “Prior Plan“).

A document describing how the Plan differs from the Prior Plan (the “Disclosure Statement Supplement“), which the Bankruptcy Court approved on March 17, 2015 , a copy of the Plan itself and related voting materials (a “Resolicitation Package“), has been mailed to known holders of claims against the Debtors or the claimants’ lawyers.

THE TRUST: The Plan provides for a trust to be established to pay eligible asbestos personal injury claims against the Debtors (the “Trust“). The Plan provides that all current and future holders of asbestos personal injury claims will be forever prohibited from asserting claims directly against the Debtors and other parties protected under the Plan, including ITCAN.  Such claimants can receive money only from the Trust. The Plan and the Disclosure Statement Supplement contain important additional details and are available at http://www.flintkotebankruptcy.com.

SUPPLEMENTAL SETTLEMENT BAR ORDER: Under the Plan, ITCAN will also obtain protection from certain claims by a settlement bar order, which is described more particularly in the Plan and Disclosure Statement Supplement.

VOTING PROCEDURES: The Bankruptcy Court has issued an order describing who can vote on the Plan, how to vote, and how votes will be counted. The Disclosure Statement Supplement has information that will help you decide whether and how to vote on the Plan if you are entitled to do so.  Votes cast on the Prior Plan will be counted as votes on the Plan, unless a holder changes such vote. If you voted on the Prior Plan and do not wish to change your vote, you do not need to submit a ballot.  If you did not vote on the Prior Plan, you may obtain and cast a ballot, which would be subject to the Plan Proponents’ right to object. To be counted, a completed ballot must be received by the Voting Agent at the address below by 4:00 p.m. (prevailing Eastern time) on June 2 , 2015.  Any ballot received after that deadline will not be counted.

Proof of an asbestos personal injury or wrongful death claim does not need to be filed with the Bankruptcy Court. Special procedures have been established for holders of asbestos personal injury and wrongful death claims to vote on the Plan. Lawyers for holders of these claims may vote on the Plan on behalf of their clients if authorized by their client. If you are unsure whether your lawyer is authorized to vote on your behalf, please contact your lawyer.

THE HEARING TO CONFIRM THE PLAN: A hearing to confirm the Plan will be held before the Honorable Mary F. Walrath, United States Bankruptcy Judge, at the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware , 824 Market Street, 5th Floor, Wilmington, Delaware 19801, commencing on August 10, 2015 at 10:30 a.m. (prevailing Eastern time).

OBJECTING TO THE PLAN: Parties may only object to the changes between the Prior Plan and the Plan, and objections must be submitted in writing and received by July 8, 2015 to be considered.  All objections must comply with the requirements in the notice of the Confirmation Hearing, available at http://www.flintkotebankruptcy.com.

HOW TO OBTAIN DOCUMENTS: If you would like additional information about the Plan, Disclosure Statement Supplement and other Trust-related documents (including copies of the Plan, Disclosure Statement Supplement and other Trust-related documents), you may contact the Debtors’ Voting Agent at (800) 290-0537, visit http://www.flintkotebankruptcy.com, or write to The Flintkote Company and Flintkote Mines Limited, c/o GCG, P.O. Box 10127, Dublin, Ohio 43017-3127.

 

To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/if-you-were-exposed-to-or-harmed-by-asbestos-or-asbestos-containing-products-made-distributed-or-sold-by-the-flintkote-company-or-flintkote-mines-limited-please-read-this-notice-of-voting-rights-and-hearing-to-consider-whether-300057267.html

SOURCE GCG

Contact:

Christina Craige, Sidley Austin LLP, 213-896-6000

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If You Were Exposed to, or Harmed by, ASBESTOS or ASBESTOS-CONTAINING Products Made, Distributed or Sold by THE …

U.S. Legal Support Announced Robert Tooker as Regional Director of Complex Asbestos Litigation

HOUSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

U.S. Legal Support Inc., a preeminent provider of full-service court reporting, record retrieval, eDiscovery and trial services, announced Robert Tooker as Regional Director of Complex Asbestos Litigation.

Rob Tooker, an expert in complex asbestos litigation, has over 25 years of experience in asbestos matters. He brings to the role years of experience running the boutique court reporting agency Tooker and Antz, focused on asbestos litigation. Tooker provides a strong understanding of the special requirements and characteristics within asbestos litigation.

“Rob brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise as the Regional Director of Complex Asbestos Litigation,“ said Charles F. Schugart, U.S. Legal Support President & CEO. “His client-first focus and expertise make him an ideal fit to lead asbestos litigation at U.S. Legal Support.”

U.S. Legal Support’s reporters, available throughout the United States, have reported over 15,000 asbestos depositions. They are experts in unique asbestos technology, specializing in all matters of asbestos including, mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, interstitial fibrosis, pleural plaques and wrongful death.

Their service offering includes:

• Video services available throughout the United States

• Day-in-the-life video

• Asbestos calendar team

• Asbestos production team

• Asbestos billing options

• Split billing of originals

• Conference call set-up

• Expert deposition by phone

• Nationwide set-up of large conference rooms

• Asbestos database of over 15,000 transcripts (Available in 2015)

For more information contact Robert Tooker, Regional Director of Complex Asbestos Litigation, at rtooker@uslegalsupport.com.

About U.S. Legal Support

U.S. Legal Support, Inc., founded in 1996, is a privately held company with over 60 offices located across the United States. As one of the leading providers of litigation services, they are the only litigation support company that provides court reporting, record retrieval, eDiscovery and trial services to major corporations and law firms nationwide. www.uslegalsupport.com

Contact:

U.S. Legal Support Inc.

Melissa Delgadillo

800.567.8757


mdelgadillo@uslegalsupport.com

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U.S. Legal Support Announced Robert Tooker as Regional Director of Complex Asbestos Litigation

City of Chicago accused of hiding asbestos

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) –

It was an underground surprise they hadn’t bargained for.

A southwest suburban contractor is suing the city claiming it hid dangerous asbestos buried under a construction site.

The site is now a police station on the near South Side at 14th and Blue Island.

The 12th District Chicago police station has been open for two years. However, the battle over what was discovered underground will rage on.

Fox 32: you call this an act of fraud?

“I did. And we do. We believe they fraudulently induced Harbour contractors to enter into the contract,” said attorney Charles Lewis.

Lewis represents Harbour contractors of southwest suburban Plainfield, which has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the Public Building Commission of Chicago. That agency, which is headed by the mayor and made up of political appointees, is in charge of building and financing new construction for the city of Chicago and Cook County.

In 2010 the Public Building Commission, or “PBC,” awarded Harbour a 20-million dollar contract to build the new police station at 14th and Blue Island, on the site of the old ABLA public housing project.

The PBC said that the site had been inspected by an environmental company and nothing dangerous was found. But soon after construction began, a subcontractor employed by Harbour discovered underground heating pipes wrapped in cancer-causing asbestos running throughout the property.

Those pipes were installed in the 1930s and 40s to provide heat to the public housing buildings.

“You’ve got asbestos that has been dug up that is friable. It’s in the air,” Lewis said. “It creates safety hazards for Harbour’s people and the subcontractor’s people on the job site.”

The asbestos discovery also put the project on hold, which Harbour said cost them millions of dollars. As part of the lawsuit, Harbour filed to recover the funds. The company said it has uncovered evidence that the PBC knew about the asbestos, but ignored it.

Harbour alleges the agency instructed the environmental company inspecting the site to not dig test pits in areas where it knew there was asbestos.

In an email from 2011 included in the lawsuit, a PBC official refers to a drawing used “…to avoid the steam lines during test pitting activities.”

“Absolutely they were trying to hide this,” Lewis said. “Because it would cause tremendous delay to the project and additional cost.”

A PBC spokesperson said the agency categorically denies there was any attempt to hide the asbestos, saying it was a surprise to them, too, noting that a judge has dropped two of the fraud counts from the lawsuit.

The PBC said Harbour needs to file a claim under the contract to get any money it’s entitled to, and not file suit.

Harbour has helped build dozens of projects for the Public Building Commission, including the international terminal at O’Hare. But the company’s attorney says after this experience, no more.

“My client will never work for the Public Building Commission again. I’m sure there are a number of general contractors out there who won’t work for the public building commission again,” Lewis said.

The Public Building Commission paid for the asbestos removal at the site, but Harbour contends the delays cost it millions. The PBC concedes some of that, but said there were other cost overruns by Harbour that had nothing to do with the hazardous materials.

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City of Chicago accused of hiding asbestos

Family of asbestos victim exposed at Glasgow carpet factory appeal to former colleagues for help

Frances Hamilton was 75 when she died in May 2014, not long after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. The incurable disease is a form of cancer which attacks the lining of the lungs, caused by inhaling asbestos dust and fibres decades ago.

Before her death, Ms Hamilton told lawyers acting in her case that she believed she was exposed to the deadly substance while working at the Templeton carpet factory in Bridgeton, Glasgow, from the late 1950s to the mid-60s. The factory, then run by James Templeton and Company, had been built 1892 and was at one time the largest carpet manufacturer in the world.

She later worked with her mother, who also died of mesothelioma, at Wrights Insulation in 1967 where were exposed to asbestos while sewing boiler covers for steam locomotive engines.

Her son, Mark MacLellan, 48, has instructed specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell Scotland to investigate the conditions that his mother was exposed to and what measures, if any, were put in place to prevent workers being exposed to asbestos.

Ms Hamilton told her family she worked in an “extremely dusty” environment and was provided with no overalls or gloves to protect her from coming into contact with the hazardous substance.

Laura McCallum, a specialist asbestos lawyer at the Glasgow legal firm, said: “Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive disease and causes a great deal of pain and suffering for victims like Frances.

“Employers knew the risks of asbestos when she began working in the 1950s and should have provided her with protection to prevent exposure to the dust.

“We would like to hear from employees who worked at the Templeton carpet factory and mill between 1955 and 1975 on the working conditions that they were exposed to and what protective equipment, if any, was provided by their employers.

“This information will be crucial in helping Frances’ family secure justice for their mother and grandmother and we hope anyone who worked with Frances will come forward with the information we need to ensure those responsible for her exposure to asbestos are held to account.”

Another former employee, Helen Winning, who worked at the factory from 1964 until the early 1980s, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2006. Her mother, who had been a weaver at Templetons, also died from mesothelioma in 1994.

The factory, which overlooks Glasgow Green and the People’s Palace, was designed by the Scottish architect, William Leiper, and inspired by the medieval Palazzo Ducale in Venice.

It was blighted by tragedy soon after opening when a factory wall collapsed during high winds in 1889, trapping 100 women in the weaving workshop and killing 29.

A fire the following year claimed more lives.

In 1981, James Templeton and Co. merged with A F Stoddard and Henry Widnell & Stewart to form Elderslie-based Stoddard Carpets, which eventually went bust in 2005. The former factory has now been converted into flats and is also home to the West Brewery.

However, the lawyers believe they would be able to sue the factory’s former insurers, which provided cover to the factory from 1950 to 1970.

Payouts could also be sought against the former insurers of Wrights Insulation, which is also defunct.

Mr MacLellan, who lives in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, said: “My mother was devastated when she lost her mum to mesothelioma, so for her to suffer from the same disease was absolutely devastating.

“To find out the disease was caused by her exposure to asbestos simply by going to work every day is even more upsetting for the family.”

Anyone with information about working conditions at the Templeton carpet factory should contact Laura McCallum at Irwin Mitchell Scotland on 0141 300 4083.

Taken from: 

Family of asbestos victim exposed at Glasgow carpet factory appeal to former colleagues for help

U.S. Chamber Commends House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Asbestos Trust Transparency Legislation

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal
Reform (ILR), made the following statement regarding today’s hearing on
the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015” (H.R.
526) in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. The legislation would
require asbestos personal injury settlement trusts, which currently
operate with little oversight and transparency, to report on their
claims.

“We applaud Representatives Blake Farenthold and Tom Marino for
introducing this legislation, and the House Judiciary Committee for
holding today’s hearing. Abuse of the asbestos compensation system is a
national problem, and the recent indictment in New York with allegations
of kickbacks and self-dealing is just the latest example. Evidence of
plaintiffs’ lawyers manipulating and withholding key information
continues to unfold in the Garlock bankruptcy case, which stands
out as ‘exhibit A’ of the systemic fraud in asbestos litigation.

“Exploitation of the system drains the funds available to deserving
claimants and forces solvent companies, as well as their shareholders
and employees, to pay more than their fair share when claimants ‘double
dip’ in court and in the trust systems. The FACT Act would diminish the
damaging economic ripple effect of these abuses, without impacting
legitimate asbestos claims.”

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative,
political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state,
and local levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation
representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all
sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and
industry associations.

www.uschamber.com

         

@USChamber

         

www.freeenterprise.com

Contact:

U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR)

Justin Hakes, 202-463-3156

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U.S. Chamber Commends House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Asbestos Trust Transparency Legislation

Asbestos anxiety as girl tumbles into Telstra pit

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Still horrified by the potential discovery of asbestos in a Telstra pit across the road from their house in Sisters Beach are Jarrod Woodland and Melanie Strempel with Angela, 5, and Levi Strempel, 7. Picture: Meg Windram.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Still horrified by the potential discovery of asbestos in a Telstra pit across the road from their house in Sisters Beach are Jarrod Woodland and Melanie Strempel with Angela, 5, and Levi Strempel, 7. Picture: Meg Windram.

A SISTERS Beach mother-of-two got the shock of her life after her daughter partially fell into a Telstra services pit last week.

Melanie Strempel’s daughter suffered minor cuts and abrasions, however it was what she found at the bottom of the pit that was the cause for concern.

After running out to see if her daughter was alright, Miss Strempel noticed broken pieces of cement sheeting at the bottom of the pit.

Miss Strempel and her partner believe it’s asbestos.

“We were observing my daughter out the window of our house playing over the road,” Miss Strempel said.

“The pit is on a hump on the grass and a lot of children play in that area, riding their bikes.

“My partner noticed my daughter go over the hump on her bike when the lid flipped up and she fell into it.

“When we went over to see if she was alright in the bottom of the pit we noticed all the broken bits of asbestos, the pit had deteriorated on the inside.”

Miss Strempel lost her grandfather to an asbestos-related disease and the incident during the week brought back memories.

She was straight on the phone to Telstra to report the incident.

“When I spoke to Telstra they said someone would come out to fix the problem.

“Three days later a technician turned up only to put a plastic sheet over it and a yellow cage.”

Telstra were contacted for comment.

The company does have an asbestos procedure listed on its website.

This comes after crews fitting out pits for the National Broadband Network found asbestos.

More information can be found on the website at www.telstra.com.au/aboutus/media/emergencies-incidents/asbestos/.

Original article:

Asbestos anxiety as girl tumbles into Telstra pit

Forgotten asbestos mine sickens Indian villagers

RORO VILLAGE, India (AP) — Asbestos waste spills in a gray gash down the flank of a lush green hill above tribal villages that are home to thousands in eastern India. Three decades after the mines were abandoned, nothing has been done to remove the enormous, hazardous piles of broken rocks and powdery dust left behind.

In Roro Village and nearby settlements, people who never worked in the mines are dying of lung disease. Yet in a country that treats asbestos as a savior that provides cheap building materials for the poor, no one knows the true number and few care to ask.

“I feel weak, drained all the time,” Baleman Sundi gasped, pushing the words out before she lost her breath. “But I must work.” The 65-year-old paused, inhaled. “I don’t have a choice.” Another gasp. “I have to eat.”

Sundi and 17 others from a clutch of impoverished villages near the abandoned hilltop mines were diagnosed in 2012 with asbestosis, a fatal lung disease. One has since died. Tens of thousands more, some of them former mine workers, remain untested and at risk. Asbestos makes up as much as 14.3 percent of the soil around Roro Village, analysis of samples gathered by The Associated Press showed.

Few have done anything to help people such as Sundi. The villagers have no money for doctors or medical treatment, and cannot afford to move.

Neither the government nor the Indian company that ran the mines from 1963 to 1983 has made any move to clean up the estimated 700,000 tons of asbestos tailings left scattered across several kilometers (miles) of hilly mining area.

The mine’s operator, Hyderabad Asbestos Cement Products Ltd., nowadays known as HIL Ltd., says it has done nothing illegal.

“The company had followed all rules and procedures for closure of a mine and had complied with the provisions of the law, as in force in 1983,” it said in a statement released to the AP.

Sundi and the others are suing in the country’s environmental court for cleanup, compensation and a fund for future victims of asbestos-related disease. If they win, the case would set precedents for workplace safety and corporate liability, subjects often ignored or dismissed in developing India.

“There will be justice only if we win,” Sundi rasped. “Whoever did this must pay.”

India placed a moratorium on asbestos mining in 1986, acknowledging that the fibrous mineral was hazardous to the miners.

But that was the government’s last decision curtailing the spread of asbestos. It has since embraced the mineral as a cheap building material. Today India is the world’s fastest-growing market for asbestos.

In the last five years, India’s asbestos imports shot up 300 percent. The government helps the $2 billion asbestos manufacturing industry with low tariffs on imports. It has also blocked asbestos from being listed as a hazardous substance under the international Rotterdam Convention governing how dangerous chemicals are handled.

The country keeps no statistics on how many people have been sickened or died from exposure to the mineral, which industry and many government officials insist is safe when mixed with cement.

Western scientists strongly disagree.

The World Health Organization and more than 50 countries, including the United States and all of Europe, say it should be banned in all forms. Asbestos fibers lodge in the lungs and cause many diseases. The International Labor Organization estimates 100,000 people die every year from workplace exposure, and experts believe thousands more die from exposure elsewhere.

“My greatest concern is what will happen in India. It’s a slow-moving disaster, and this is only the beginning,” said Philip Landrigan, a New York epidemiologist who heads the Rome-based Collegium Ramazzini, which pioneered the field of occupational health worldwide.

“The epidemic will go largely unrecognized,” he said. Eventually, “it’s going to end up costing India billions of dollars.”

From the top of Roro Hill, a small boy leaped out to slide down the cascade of fluffy grey dust. A few villagers followed, nudging a herd of cows and goats. Huge clouds billowed in their wake.

The villagers often ignore the warnings from visiting doctors and activists to stay away from the waste. Many don’t believe the asbestos, which looks like regular rocks and dirt, could be dangerous. Others are more fatalistic, noting they hardly have a choice.

“What can we do? This is our land,” said 56-year-old Jema Sundi, diagnosed with asbestosis though she never went into the mines. “We tell the children, don’t go there. But they are children, you cannot control them.”

She then noticed her 4-year-old nephew Vijay, his tiny body covered with chalky white streaks, shrinking into himself as if trying to disappear. “You went up there today again?” she exclaimed.

Vijay, lowering his head, attempted a half-smile.

When Hyderabad Asbestos first began mining in Jharkhand in 1963, India was in its second decade of independence and attempting to industrialize. Most services and industries were nationalized, but some heavy industries and mining were opened to private companies, many of which operated opaquely.

Hydrabad Asbestos employed about 1,500 people in the asbestos mines. Most were tribal villagers eager to participate in the country’s development. But for them that development never arrived.

Kalyan Bansingh, lead plaintiff in the court case, worked more than a decade building scaffolding inside newly blasted mining caverns. Like many laborers across India, he took to chewing an unrefined sugar product called jaggery in the misguided belief that airborne fibers would adhere to the sticky bolus and stay out of his lungs.

Sometimes the company provided the jaggery along with his $2 weekly salary, but it never offered him protective masks or clothing, he said.

Bansingh regrets the job, even if it was the only paid work he ever had. “I can’t run or walk long distances. I am breathless with just a few steps,” the muscular 70-year-old said.

HIL said it followed strict health and safety policies, and that “no health or environmental damage was reported during the mine operations.” The company did not address whether it had ever sent anyone to check on the villagers’ health since the mines closed. Villagers told AP they were never been invited for a company-sponsored checkup after 1983.

The fact that Bansingh and the other plaintiffs ever had the opportunity for a diagnosis was extremely rare. Like most people in villages at the foot of Roro Hill, they cannot read or write. They live in makeshift homes of hard-packed mud, thatched roofs and tidily swept dirt floors.

“The idea that the environment, something that has always provided and been taken for granted, could be causing them harm is a notion that just doesn’t occur to them,” said T.K. Joshi, a doctor who heads India’s only university department specializing in occupational health. “And unfortunately, most Indian doctors are not trained to ask the right questions.”

Because X-rays and detailed patient interviews are rare in rural India, experts say most Indians who suffer or have died from an asbestos-related disease were likely misdiagnosed with tuberculosis, food poisoning or other illnesses common across India.

Now India’s largest asbestos-manufacturing company, HIL had revenue of about $160 million for 2013-14, while spending about $72 million on imports of asbestos from countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Brazil. It plans to scale back manufacturing asbestos-cement products, but the decision was not made for environmental or health concerns.

According to its annual report, the company is diversifying because the “closure of certain mines across the world has resulted in increased dependency on limited sources.”

Shutting down asbestos mines is a dirty and costly business. There is also the danger of releasing more fibers into the air just by disturbing waste or breaking down old materials. Hundreds of millions have been spent in the United States alone cleaning old asbestos mines in states including California and Montana.

The samples collected by AP and tested by California-based laboratory EMSL Analytical Inc. showed the soil around Roro Village was between 4.1 and 14.3 percent asbestos.

“It’s heartbreaking. Kids are playing on it. People are stirring it up. You don’t have to inhale much to put a cap on your life,” said Richard Fuller, CEO of the Blacksmith Institute, a New York-based watchdog that estimates 50,000 people could be at risk.

Other, smaller asbestos mines in states including Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have also been left in a state of neglect similar to Roro’s, mining activists say.

Activists, medical workers and lawyers have described an almost Kafkaesque effort to hold the government and company accountable over the past decade, with both declaring the mine closed and subject settled long ago.

At the time the mines were open, Jharkhand state didn’t even exist. The land was part of a wider Bihar state, with its capital and official paperwork held in a different city. Neither state has been able to produce the 30-year-old documents pertaining to the mine’s closure.

“As far as environmental issues are concerned, we have already dealt with it,” Jharkhand state’s Mining Secretary Arun, who uses only one name, told AP.

In 2012, an activist group selected 150 Roro-area villagers for chest X-rays. The X-ray plates were examined by Dr. V. Murlidhar, an occupational health specialist, who confirmed 18 had the tell-tale honeycomb pattern of opaqueness that denotes asbestosis.

The results were neither surprising nor unique, he said. “More cases are likely” because asbestosis usually develops over decades of exposure, he said.

Across all of India, only 30 people have ever received marginal compensation — through out-of-court settlements — for asbestos-related disease out of hundreds of thousands of workers who have handled asbestos since the 1960s or lived near mines or manufacturing plants.

Lawyer Krishnendu Mukherjee, who is spearheading the case, has high hopes for a judgment that awards the plaintiffs and future claimants with generous compensation.

A strong verdict, he said, “sends a very strong message out to companies like HIL Ltd. that it’s not permissible to simply leave a mine, a factory, whatever it is, in a state of abandonment without looking at the repercussions on the local population or on the workers.”

___

Follow Katy Daigle on Twitter at http://twitter.com/katydaigle

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Forgotten asbestos mine sickens Indian villagers

Asbestos pushed in Asia

The executives mingled over tea and biscuits, and the chatter was upbeat. Their industry, they said at a conference in the Indian capital, saves lives and brings roofs, walls and pipes to some of the world’s poorest people.

Their product? Asbestos.

Outlawed in much of the developed world, it is still going strong in the developing one. In India alone, the world’s biggest asbestos importer, it’s a $US2 billion ($A2.16 billion) industry providing 300,000 jobs.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), World Health Organisation(WTO), medical researchers and more than 50 countries say the mineral should be banned; asbestos fibres lodge in the lungs and cause disease. The ILO estimates 100,000 people die from workplace exposure every year.

But the industry executives at the asbestos conference, held in a luxury New Delhi hotel, said the risks are overblown.

Instead, they described their business as a form of social welfare for hundreds of thousands of impoverished Indians still living in flimsy, mud-and-thatch huts.

“We’re here not only to run our businesses, but to also serve the nation,” said Abhaya Shankar, a director of India’s Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association.

Yet there are some poor Indians trying to keep asbestos out of their communities.

In the farming village of Vaishali, in the eastern state of Bihar, residents became outraged by the construction of an asbestos factory in their backyard.

They had learned about the dangers of asbestos from a school boy’s science textbooks, and worried asbestos fibres would blow into their tiny thatch homes. Their children, they said, could contract lung diseases most Indian doctors would never test for, let alone treat.

They petitioned for the factory to be halted. But in December 2012, its permit was renewed, inciting thousands to rally on a main road for 11 hours. Amid the chaos, a few dozen villagers demolished the partially built factory.

“It was a moment of desperation,” a teacher said on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the company. “There was no other way for us to express our outrage.”

The company later filed lawsuits, still pending, accusing several villagers of vandalism and theft.

Durable and heat-resistant, asbestos was long a favourite insulation material in the West.

Medical experts say inhaling any form of asbestos can lead to deadly diseases 20-40 years later including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, or the scarring of the lungs.

Dozens of countries including Australia, Japan, Argentina and all European Union nations have banned it entirely. Others like the US have severely curtailed its use.

The asbestos lobby says the mineral has been unfairly maligned by Western nations that used it irresponsibly. It also says one of the six forms of asbestos is safe: chrysotile, or white asbestos, which accounts for more than 95 per cent of all asbestos used since 1900.

Medical experts reject this.

“All types of asbestos fibre are causally implicated in the development of various diseases and premature death,” the Societies of Epidemiology said in a 2012 position statement.

Russia now provides most asbestos on the world market. Meanwhile, rich nations are suffering health and economic consequences from past use. And, billions have been spent stripping asbestos from buildings.

Umesh Kumar, a roadside vendor in Bihar’s capital, has long known there are health hazards to the three by one metre asbestos cement sheets he sells for 600 rupees ($A10.55) each. But he doesn’t guide customers to the 800 rupee tin or fibreglass alternatives.

“This is a country of poor people, and for less money they can have a roof over their heads,” he said.

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Asbestos pushed in Asia

Not testing for asbestos got boss $40k fine

The manager of a renovation company has been fined $40,000 for failing to test for asbestos and putting his staff in danger while renovating units in Auckland.

Peter Page from Apartment Renovation Company was ordered to pay the fine at Auckland District Court today for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure that a substance was tested for asbestos.

As a result, up to 15 contractors were potentially exposed to asbestos for three months while working on units in Sandringham.

In July last year Shane Harris, a handyman employed by Page, expressed concern about whether some of the units’ textured ceiling contained asbestos.

Given he had not tested them before work began, Page should have tested them in response to the handyman’s query.

He did not and instead told Mr Harris that the ceilings had been tested and there was no asbestos.

When the handyman became concerned that his boss was giving him incorrect information, he took his own sample which tested positive for the presence of asbestos.

Page said he thought the ceilings were asbestos-free as they didn’t have sparkling material visible to the eye.

WorkSafe NZ manager of high hazards Brett Murray said only tests can show if materials contain asbestos.

“Asbestos is often mixed with other materials so it is virtually impossible to identify by eye,” he said.

“The only way to be certain that materials contain asbestos is to have them tested.”

Asbestos poses a risk if it is not properly contained, especially during building work where materials are cut or drilled.”

He reminded builders in charge that if they are alerted to the possibility of asbestos in any material, then they must have that material tested.

NZN

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Not testing for asbestos got boss $40k fine