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November 19, 2018

Parts of US Capitol closed after asbestos accident

WASHINGTON (AP) — An accident involving asbestos work forced a temporary closure of the House side of the Capitol on Thursday and prompted House leaders to delay the day’s session for two hours.

No injuries were reported. The incident occurred around 2:30 a.m. or 3 a.m., Capitol Police said.

A handful of workers were removing insulation containing asbestos from around pipes and valves on the building’s fourth floor, above a staircase, said a congressional official who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

On-site samples and another sample analyzed by an outside lab revealed low enough asbestos levels that officials decided the building was safe to reopen, the official said. Those samples revealed levels similar to what is found in typical buildings in Washington, said the official, who did not provide any figures.

By midmorning, most of the building had reopened and Capitol tours on the House side had resumed. The Senate, at the other end of the 751-foot-long building, seemed unaffected by the incident.

The East Grand Staircase, which runs from the first floor to the third floor inside the House side of the building, was blocked off and more than a dozen workers and officials spent much of the day examining the area. Also closed was the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Room, a third-floor room near that staircase that was named for the late speaker and Massachusetts Democrat.

The House began the day’s session at noon instead of 10 a.m. because of “an industrial accident,” according to a statement from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Even so, by midmorning a handful of tourists was sitting in the visitors’ gallery, observing an otherwise empty chamber.

The Senate began its session as scheduled at 10 a.m.

The office of the architect of the Capitol said in a statement that engineers and certified industrial hygienists had decided the building was safe to reopen and that the staircase would remain closed indefinitely.

Construction of the main, center section of the Capitol began in 1793 and was finished in 1826.

As the country grew and more lawmakers joined Congress, a south wing for the current House chamber and a north wing for the Senate were built. Both were completed in 1868, along with a new, larger dome.

The architect’s office has been repairing decaying plaster throughout the building. It has also started preparations for a project to repair the 8.9 million pound, cast iron dome.

___

Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

Originally from – 

Parts of US Capitol closed after asbestos accident

Chain-Smoking Congresswoman's Asbestos Suit Shows New Trend

Beschreibung: Konventionelles Rntgenbild des ...

Uh-oh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If anybody should understand what caused her lung cancer, it’s New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy. The 69-year-old Democrat spent 30 years as a nurse before being elected to the U.S. Congress, and reportedly was a heavy smoker for more than 40 years.

Yet McCarthy is suing more than 70 asbestos companies to pay for her cancer, saying she was actually sickened by asbestos fibers carried home on the clothes of father and brothers, who worked on navy ships and in utilities.

McCarthy’s suit has drawn well-deserved criticism, both for the implausibility of her claims and because her lawyers are the politically connected firm of Weitz & Luxenberg, which employs the speaker of the New York General Assembly, Sheldon Silver. Odds are most of the companies she’s suing will settle for that reason alone.

But McCarthy also illustrates a potentially disturbing new trend for both corporate defendants and the true victims of asbestos-related disease. Having exhausted the pool of mesothelioma claimants, plaintiff lawyers are turning to lung cancer again, reviving a strategy that fell into disuse after courts started removing cases not directly claiming asbestos disease from the docket. They’re filing thousands of cases on behalf of smokers who claim that stray asbestos fibers, not cigarettes, made them sick.

If the strategy works, plaintiff lawyers will succeed in draining bankruptcy trusts set up for the benefit of asbestos victims, leaving less money for people with mesothelioma and asbestosis, which are both directly linked to asbestos exposure. It may even set up a conflict between lawyers who pay millions of dollars for TV and Internet advertising to get the 2,500 or so patients diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, and higher-volume law firms representing lung cancer plaintiffs.

Lung-cancer claims in Madison County, Ill. and Delaware, two of the most active venues for asbestos litigation, have more than doubled since 2010, to more than 600 a year in each court system, according to a new article in Mealey’s Asbestos Bankruptcy Report. Southern California courts are also seeing an upturn. And an analysis of claims in the Philadelphia Court of Common Please found that 75% of the claimants suing over asbestos-related lung cancer revealed a smoking history, with three-quarters of them smoking at least a pack a day for an average of 39 years.

The report, by Peter Kelso and Marc Scarcella of Bates White Economic Consulting and Joseph Cagnoli, a partner with the defense firm of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney, says lung-cancer claims have fluctuated up and down over the years, not because of changes in the rate of cancer — new diagnoses run around 200,000 a year in the U.S. and are declining steadily — but due to “changing economic incentives for plaintiff law firms.”

Lawyers made billions of dollars in the 1980s and 1990s by setting up mobile X-ray screening sites at union halls and other locations with concentrations of industrial workers, l0oking for claimants with lung scarring or other signs of asbestos-related disease. Because lung cancer is clearly caused by smoking, workers with cancer and a history of smoking were considered to have lower-value cases than n0n-smoking workers with asbestosis.

Using a time-honored strategy, lawyers bundled those weak and strong cases together, leveraging larger overall settlements than if the cases were presented separately. The most valuable cases have always involved mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest lining that is closely linked to asbestos exposure (although it clearly has other causes; the death rate has been rising in recent years despite a steep decline in industrial asbestos use since the 1970s.). In one example cited by the authors, G-I Holdings G-I Holdings settled 160,000 cases in the 1990s in groups of 250 or more, paying out two-thirds of the money to non-mesothelioma claimants.

So-called n0n-malignant cases plunged a decade ago after courts around the country stopped allowing them on their active dockets, thus removing them from the pool of cases lawyers could bundle for settlement. Non-malignant claims fell from 90% of claims and 50% of payments to 2% of settled cases. Mesothelioma grabbed the vast majority of the money from court settlements.

Since lawyers spent an estimated $500-$1,000 per plaintiff for mass screenings, the authors say, the decline of non-malignant claims made it less economically viable to perform mass screenings. One side effect was fewer lung-cancer claims.

But at the same time, many asbestos manufacturers declared bankruptcy and set up trusts, typically under the control of plaintiff lawyers, to pay out claims. Those trusts, now with more than $30 billion in assets, often provide “expedited review” that allows plaintiffs to collect small awards — $4,000 to as little as $250 — with minimal paperwork and no requirement to disclose smoking history.

The authors say the trusts have paid out $1.2 billion in lung-cancer claims since 2009, and estimate that each claimant might hit 20-30 trusts for payment, meaning as much as $106,000 for a case of lung cancer likely caused by smoking. That provides enough fee income for lawyers to start mass screenings again, the authors say. Out of 1,000 workers screened, lawyers could be expected to turn up 40 cancer claims worth about $3 million in fees after expenses, compared with perhaps 10 cases of asbestosis.

Without judicial mechanisms to more carefully vet these cases, they write, “there is nothing preventing plaintiff law firms from bringing mass quantities of meritless lung cancer cases against asbestos defendants.”

Originally from – 

Chain-Smoking Congresswoman's Asbestos Suit Shows New Trend

Asbestos school HSE probe call

Uses of Asbestos

Cwmcarn High SchoolMore than 900 pupils have missed classes since the school was closed on Friday

Related Stories

A teaching union says it has asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate the discovery of asbestos at a south Wales secondary school.

The 900-pupil Cwmcarn High School was shut late on Friday after a structural report identified the material.

Geraint Davies of NASUWT Cymru said he wanted the HSE to confirm that correct procedures are adhered to.

The HSE said it was looking to whether there are grounds for a full investigation.

Meanwhile, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has called for a national audit of asbestos in schools in Wales.


Start Quote

When a school of 900 pupils has had to close because asbestos was found in airborne particles, I think that people across Wales have a right to know if asbestos is a danger in their local school”

End QuoteKirsty Williams AMWelsh Liberal Democrat leader

Caerphilly council has said public health officials would report on the situation at the school on Tuesday.

The announcement that the school was to close with immediate effect came on Friday afternoon.

The council said the action had been taken to safeguard the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff.

Mr Davies told BBC Wales on Tuesday: “In simple terms this is a health and safety matter and the Health And Safety Executive provides independent advice on such matters.

“In view of the seriousness of what has happened at Cwmcarn it’s only fair to all concerned, be it teachers and anciliary staff, parents and pupils and indeed the council itself, for such independent advice to be available.”

An HSE spokesman confirmed: “We are looking into the issue of asbestos at the school. We have to see whether there are grounds for a full investigation.”

NASUWT spokesman Rex Phillips had earlier raised safety concerns, saying high levels of the material had been found throughout the building.

He said staff and pupils at the school could have been exposed to airborne asbestos.

Mr Phillips said the problem was found when a company visited the school to carry out a survey on a boiler room.

‘Hidden killer’

He said the asbestos was found to be in airborne particles, with two-thirds of the school “inoperable”.

“They have taken the action to close the building because of that and they have virtually got a sealed building at the school,” he added.


Start Quote

Natalie Stock

Everybody knew about it but I’m glad they are getting rid of it.”

End QuoteNatalie StockParent

In the wake of the closure Ms Williams called on the Welsh government to conduct a national audit of asbestos in schools.

“Asbestos is a hidden killer and I am very concerned that pupils, staff and teachers at our schools could be unknowingly exposed to asbestos,” she said.

“I do not want to cause undue alarm, however when a school of 900 pupils has had to close because asbestos was found in airborne particles, I think that people across Wales have a right to know if asbestos is a danger in their local school.”

The Welsh government has been asked for comment.

Caerphilly council said the latest updates would be announced on its website.

It added that it was working with the school’s senior leadership team and governors to explore alternative arrangements for pupils and staff, but this was unlikely to be resolved this week.

The authority said every effort was being made to accommodate pupils in years 11, 12 and 13 as a priority.

It is reported that pupils at the school have been given work to do at home via social networking sites.

Parents with pupils at the school reacted to the closure in Cwmcarn on Tuesday.

Natalie Stock, whose 12-year-old son Jake is in Year 8 said: “The closure of the school was a shock. I don’t think they’ve handled it too well.”

With regard to the presence of asbestos at the school she said: “Everybody knew about it but I’m glad they are getting rid of it.”

Her sister Jolene White, 33, whose 12-year-old daughter Olivia is a a year 7 pupil, said: “It’s a bit of an inconvenience.

“She thinks it’s brilliant having extra time off school.

“Obviously their safety has to come first. I would rather they didn’t have to close it down so they could sort it out.

“I don’t like the ideas of the school being closed permanently.”

View the original here:

Asbestos school HSE probe call