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June 22, 2018

Low Levels of Libby Asbestos Exposure Linked to Lung Abnormalities

Low Levels of Libby Asbestos Exposure Linked to Lung Abnormalities

Long-Term Changes Seen at Relatively Low Exposure Levels

Released:6-Jan-2015 8:30 AM EST
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Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
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Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Newswise — January 6, 2015 — People exposed to asbestos from mining in Libby, Mont., show long-term changes in lung imaging and function tests, even with relatively low asbestos exposure, reports a study in the January Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

Thirty years after the Libby mine was shut down, abnormalities are still found on chest computed tomography (CT) scans and lung function tests in more than half of workers exposed to Libby amphibole asbestos (LAA). “[T]hese changes occur at substantially lower cumulative fiber exposure levels than those commonly associated with commercial asbestos,” writes Dr James E. Lockey of University of Cincinnati and colleagues. The study was sponsored by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry.

The researchers followed up 431 living workers, from an original group of 513 LAA-exposed workers first studied in 1980. The workers were exposed to a particularly hazardous form of asbestos from contaminated vermiculite that had been mined in Libby for decades.

Of 191 workers with available CT scans, 53 percent had asbestos-related changes of the tissue lining the lungs (pleura), while 13 percent had changes of the lung substance (parenchyma). Greater involvement on imaging scans was related to greater average reductions in lung function (forced vital capacity): up to 18 percent for those with extensive pleural and/or parenchymal changes.

The CT scan abnormalities were present even in workers with lower levels of estimated lifetime exposure to LAA—about three to ten times below current standards for commercial asbestos exposure. The asbestos-related lung abnormalities “can be particularly relevant when potentially combined with other respiratory [diseases] that can occur over a person’s lifetime that can impact lung function,” Dr Lockey and coauthors conclude.

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About the Author
Dr Lockey may be contacted for interviews at james.lockey(at)uc.edu

About ACOEM
ACOEM (www.acoem.org), an international society of 4,500 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.

About Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (www.joem.org) is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.



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Low Levels of Libby Asbestos Exposure Linked to Lung Abnormalities

Solicitor's asbestos warning after death of pensioner

Solicitor’s asbestos warning after death of pensioner

York Press: Ray Brown died from the lung condition malignant mesothelioma

Ray Brown died from the lung condition malignant mesothelioma

A SOLICITOR has warned that asbestos disease does not have a ‘sell-by date’ after an inquest heard how an 86-year-old York man had become its latest victim.

Howard Bonnett, of Corries Solicitors, said that in recent times, he had been dealing with many more case of men and women in their 80s who were suffering the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma.

He said York Acting Coroner Jonathan Leach had recorded at an inquest that Raymond Brown, of Rawcliffe, had died because of the cancer.

“The inquest heard evidence that Mr Brown had been exposed to asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s during his work as a pump engineer on large scale industrial projects including various power stations and factories,” he said.

“Mr Brown developed problems with breathing in February and following investigations he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in March, and succumbed to the disease at York Hospital on April 5. He leaves a wife Margaret and children Christine and David.”

He said Mr Brown’s death was another sad tale of mesothelioma affecting an otherwise normal man.

“At 86, he rightfully thought he had missed this sad scourge which has affected too many people in the York area. I am sorry to say that asbestos disease does not have a “sell by “ date.

“Raymond’s death shows that if you have been exposed to asbestos then you have the risk of diseases like mesothelioma for the rest of your days.”

Mrs Brown said the family had known for many years that Raymond had developed asbestos damage to his lungs.

“We had hoped that he would not be another sad statistic of this awful disease,” she said.

“For many years, he suffered with ill health and we wish he had been around to have fought this disease and to have seen justice done.

“We hope other asbestos victims and their families keep an eye out on their health and make sure they get an early diagnosis and get the best treatment that they can “

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Solicitor's asbestos warning after death of pensioner

ADAO’s Sixth Congressional Staff Briefing Calls for Congress to Take Action to End Asbestos Exposure

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), the largest independent non-profit organization in the U.S. which combines education, advocacy, and community to help ensure justice for asbestos victims, will be conducting its sixth congressional briefing today in Washington, DC. Held from 12:00 – 1:00 pm EDT in the U.S. Senate Dirksen Building, the briefing will include well known asbestos experts from the medical, industrial, and environmental communities – providing more than one hundred years of knowledge within a highly educational hour.

The briefing, “Asbestos: The Impact on Public Health and the Environment”, underscores the need for meaningful asbestos reform legislation, and points to the fatal flaws in current Senate Bills: “Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013” (S. 1009) – a TSCA reform measure, and the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2014” (S. 2319), neither of which address asbestos dangers nor protect asbestos victims. The briefing will cover the latest information on the asbestos crisis, and will include experts in the field and messages from constituents.

Mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases claim the lives of more than 10,000 Americans each year and imports continue. Most Americans unfortunately do not know how to recognize asbestos and do not realize that its dangers continue, even in their own homes, schools, and public buildings. In 1984, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated there were asbestos containing materials in most of the nation’s approximately 107,000 primary and secondary schools and 733,000 public and commercial buildings. During the briefing, ADAO will also call on Congress to investigate continued asbestos imports and initiate a new study to evaluate the risk of vermiculate insulation in millions of homes.

“Although many people—perhaps even Members of Congress—mistakenly believe that asbestos is a declining threat, the recent asbestos emergency within the halls of Congress should serve as a sobering reminder that this man-made disaster continues to plague unsuspecting Americans in homes, schools, and workplaces,” stated ADAO Co-Founder and President Linda Reinstein. “Both chambers of Congress have unveiled legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), which governs the use of asbestos and thousands of other chemicals. Unfortunately, instead of banning known killers like asbestos, these bills as drafted do nothing to protect the public from toxic substances and even weaken and eliminate existing safety measures. In addition, the so-called FACT Act allows liable asbestos related companies to delay recovery and deny compensation for victims, in addition to violating victims’ privacy. It is time for legislation with true asbestos reform and justice for victims, and for the additional research and education needed to protect Americans from the dangers of asbestos. Americans can’t identify asbestos or manage the risk and ADAO feels it is imperative that Congress investigates the present dangers of asbestos, especially Libby Vermiculite Insulation, which was widely used throughout our country. Enough is enough; it is time for action.”

Briefing Presenters and Topics Include:

  • Asbestos: History, Facts, and Stats – Barry Castleman, ScD, Environmental Consultant
  • Diagnosing and Treating Asbestos-Related Diseases – Christine Oliver, MD, MPH, MS, FACPM
  • Asbestos Exposures in Homes, Schools, and Workplaces – Tony Rich, Industrial Hygienist
  • Asbestos Took My Son Away – Sandra Neuenschwander, Mesothelioma Victim
  • Asbestos Impact: Medically, Legally, and TSCA Reform – Linda Reinstein, President, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

Despite its known dangers, there is still no global ban on asbestos, and it continues to claim lives. Exposure to asbestos, a human carcinogen, can cause mesothelioma, lung, gastrointestinal, laryngeal, and ovarian cancers; as well as non-malignant lung and pleural disorders. The World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 workers around the world will die every year of an asbestos-related disease, equaling 300 deaths per day.

About the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was founded by asbestos victims and their families in 2004. ADAO is the largest non-profit in the U.S. dedicated to providing asbestos victims and concerned citizens with a united voice through our education, advocacy, and community initiatives. ADAO seeks to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure, advocate for an asbestos ban, and protect asbestos victims’ civil rights. For more information, visit www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org.

Contact:

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)

Kim Cecchini

Media Relations

202-391-5205


Kim@asbestosdiseaseawareness.org

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ADAO’s Sixth Congressional Staff Briefing Calls for Congress to Take Action to End Asbestos Exposure

Rising asbestos liabilities hang over James Hardie profit surge

James Hardie may have doubled its profit this financial year, but potential asbestos liabilities continue to cloud its outlook as a rise in the number of victims surprises the firm.

The building products manufacturer, shrouded in controversy over earlier attempts to escape from or minimise asbestos liabilities, recorded an annual net profit of $US99.5 million for the year to March 31, more than double last year’s.

That net profit result is after $US195.8 million in adjustments for asbestos liabilities that are included in its annual accounts, up from $US117.1 million last year.

James Hardie has an obligation to put up to 35 per cent of its operating cash flow into the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund, which provides payouts to Australian victims of asbestos-related diseases.

Under the deal, each year an independent actuarial report is required to estimate the likely amount of asbestos liabilities for James Hardie, its related entities and former businesses which are covered by the compensation fund.

KPMG’s current estimate of total Australian asbestos liabilities that would need to be met by the AICF is $1.87 billion, after accounting for insurance recoveries.

That estimate is up almost $177 million since last year, due mostly to a change in assumptions about when asbestos-related diseases would peak.

KPMG says, without changes to its assumptions, the estimated liability would have been $1.57 billion – a fall from the previous year, largely due to expected claims being made and paid out.

Mesothelioma on the rise

The main reason for the rise in liability, according to the report, is a continued increase in claims by asbestos victims suffering mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer generally affecting the lungs and typically caused by asbestos exposure.

KPMG is budgeting $96 million for extra claims over the next three years and $168 million more over the period from 2017-18 to 2025-26.

James Hardie says actuaries had previously assumed a peak in mesothelioma claims to have occurred in 2010-11, however the past two years of claims have been above expectations.

In the year to March 31, a total of 608 asbestos-related claims were received, a 12 per cent rise from 542 claims the previous year, and well above expectations of 540 claims.

James Hardie says 604 claims were settled in its 2014 financial year, with an average settlement of $253,000, resulting in a total payout of $140.4 million for the year.

Mesothelioma claims jumped almost 20 per cent in the year to March 31 2014, to 370, up from 309 the year before, 259 in 2011-12 and 268 in 2010-11.

KPMG had previously expected only 300 mesothelioma claims in its forecasts for 2013-14.

The actuaries says it is too early to tell whether the higher number of claims will be sustained based on one year’s worth of increased claims.

Peak in disease may be decades off

However, the president of the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia, Barry Robson, says his organisation, and others representing victims, believe the peak in cases may still be decades away.

“The increase is in the second wave with people that have done home renovations, and we’re seeing younger people and women are now presenting,” he told ABC News Online.

Mr Robson says people as young as in their 40s are presenting with this rare form of cancer, and more cases are also being picked up by doctors, who are now better informed about the symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses.

“Better experts than I am are now looking at 2035 as a possible peak,” he said.

“As doctors become more and more aware of what an asbestos disease looks like in their patients, then more and more people will be registered with an asbestos-related disease.”

The worse financial news for James Hardie is that mesothelioma claims are far more expensive for the company, with the average settlement sitting at $308,000, compared to around $100,000 for asbestosis or lung cancer.

There were also seven “large” mesothelioma claims above $1 million over the past year, worth a total of $11.6 million – no other forms of asbestos-related disease carried such large payouts.

Mr Robson says the size of asbestos-disease payouts is determined by the courts or in settlement negotiations with reference to many factors, including age, occupation and the number of dependents the victim has.

“Take the case of a lawyer, who I know got over a million dollars, he had a very young daughter – I think at the time of his death she was around six years of age,” Mr Robson said.

“He contracted mesothelioma when he was working his way through uni, he was working on building sites, so while he was going to law school he was exposed and then later on he died from meso.”

Is the fund adequately funded?

The company warns that, if claims do not start reducing until after 2018-19 the estimated claims total could rise a further 22 per cent on top of this financial year’s increase.

KPMG’s high scenario puts the liability for future claims at almost $3 billion, versus the central estimate of $1.87 billion.

James Hardie’s chief financial officer Matt Marsh says the impact on the company’s bottom line will be capped, and it is fulfilling all its requirements to the asbestos compensation fund.

“We’ll make a payment in July of $US113 million and that will be in compliance with our obligation under the [agreement] to contribute up to 35 per cent of our operating cash flow,” he told analysts on an investor briefing.

“The second part of that question is will that be enough to pay for the liabilities, and that’s a question that’s better asked of the AICF [Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund].”

Unfortunately, when the ABC rang the AICF early this afternoon to ask it that question the call went to message bank and has not yet been returned.

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Rising asbestos liabilities hang over James Hardie profit surge

Former James Hardie boss thought asbestos health concern was 'a beat-up'

Former James Hardie boss thought asbestos health concern was ‘a beat-up’

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David MacFarlane, former managing director of James Hardie Industries, outside the hearing.

David MacFarlane, former managing director of James Hardie Industries, outside the hearing. Photo: Anthony Johnson A

The man credited with deciding in 1978 to eliminate asbestos from James Hardie products said he thought at the time that widespread health concern about its use in building materials was a “media beat-up”.

David MacFarlane was the managing director of James Hardie Industries between 1978 and 1989 and has never before given evidence about his role in the company, which manufactured and distributed building and other products containing asbestos.

He told the Dust Diseases Tribunal in Sydney on Tuesday that on taking the top job he received a brief from the Hardie board.

Stephen Wickham, who is suing James Hardie, with his wife Wendy outside the James Hardie ( Amaca Pty Ltd ) hearing.

Stephen Wickham, who is suing James Hardie, with his wife Wendy outside the hearing. Photo: Anthony Johnson

“My job was to get rid of asbestos … just to do it as quickly as possible,” he said.

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Former James Hardie boss thought asbestos health concern was 'a beat-up'

Kelman hails bid to recoup asbestos costs

Legislation lodged at the ­Scottish Parliament could pave the way for health boards to claw back the costs of diagnosing and treating the victims of asbestos-related disease from former employers. Campaigners claim incurable diseases caused by ­exposure to asbestos, such as mesothelioma and pleural plaques, cost the NHS in Scotland about £20 million a year.

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Kelman, who has campaigned for compensation for asbestos victims since the 1990s, said: “It’s a step closer to getting industry to take responsibility, and for all those employers who used asbestos knowing what they were exposing the workers to. That would be a big improvement, but I’m sure as we speak the lawyers for insurance companies will be doing everything in their power to avoid it.”

Kelman has previously ­criticised the legal hurdles facing sufferers, saying the “burden of proof is on the victim to prove that you are a victim”.

Thompsons Solicitors, which is acting in about 80% of asbestos cases in Scotland, said it was representing about 1200 people at any one time. A spokesman for the firm said: “There are more cases coming forward than ever before from people who were historically exposed – hospital cleaners, school cleaners and so on.”

The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Scotland) Bill was lodged yesterday by West of Scotland MSP Stuart McMillan. Similar legislation was passed by the Welsh Assembly last November, but has been stymied by legal questions over how to enact it.

The NHS has been able to recover the costs of treating the victims of accidents since 2003, where an individual made a successful claim against a third party. However, this principle does not cover diseases.

Mr McMillan said: “There is a substantial financial cost to the NHS in diagnosing and managing asbestos-related conditions and this is something that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

However, he added that he expects strong resistance to the move from insurers.

Dave Moxham, deputy leader of the STUC, which is backing the new legislation, said: “The NHS and palliative care services currently have to meet these costs from their own overstretched funds. It is time for the employers and the insurance industry to meet their obligations and reimburse the cost of the medical care, as these costs would not exist if there had not been negligence on the part of the employer.”

Alan Kirk, a surgeon and ­director of the pressure group Clydeside Action, estimated the cost for diagnosing and managing mesothelioma – a tumour on the lung – at £60,000 a patient.

He said: “If these sums can be recovered as part of the civil compensation case, funds are going back into the NHS to help to care for the Scottish population.”

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Kelman hails bid to recoup asbestos costs

Asbestos bill goes to Supreme Court

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Asbestos bill goes to Supreme Court

Imported asbestos products getting past Australian customs

Imported asbestos getting past Australian customs
Imported asbestos getting past Australian customs

Large shipments of products containing asbestos are entering Australia undetected by customs officials and it has some groups worried about worker safety.

Fibres were recently found in almost a dozen train engines and it is feared many more dangerous imports are slipping through.

While the manufacture of asbestos has been banned in Australia for more than quarter of a century, it is still rife in China, Russia and Brazil.

“It’s cheap to produce a product for housing and things like that, but it’s also killing people,” Terry Miller from the Asbestos Victims Association said.

Products containing the deadly fibres are then exported around the globe, including to Australia.

Last month, asbestos was found in the engines of ten trains during routine testing, sparking fears for worker safety.

“Our security system in Australia is so lax and through customs, if it looked like asbestos, these guys picked it, they should’ve done an analysis themselves,” Ian Sheppard from the Asbestos Diseases Society said.

It follows the recall of more than 20,000 Great Wall and Chery vehicles with asbestos gaskets last year.

In June, customs officials in Adelaide intercepted and destroyed a shipment of motorcycles containing asbestos.

Mechanics admit they do not expect to find asbestos in motorbikes and therefore do not undertake precautionary measures, but they fear cheap imported parts could be putting them at risk.

Those caught trying to bring asbestos merchandise into the country face fines of up to $850,000.

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Imported asbestos products getting past Australian customs

New deal for asbestos victims

Groundbreaking reforms to WA laws could soon allow victims of asbestos to claim thousands of dollars more in compensation for their deadly illness.

If the Asbestos Diseases Compensation Bill is passed by State Parliament, for the first time people with asbestos-related diseases would be able to seek provisional damages.

Now, they can seek damages only once and are unable to pursue more compensation if they later develop more serious health problems such as mesothelioma, whereas Victoria, NSW and South Australia allow sufferers to seek interim damages.

The historic legislation would also allow victims to seek damages for loss of capacity to care for a family member, such as a young child, commonly known as Sullivan versus Gordon damages.

In her second reading speech yesterday, Upper House Labor MP Kate Doust said the move was long overdue in WA, which bore the brunt of the asbestos legacy.

She hoped to get strong support from all MPs to give greater justice to asbestos victims.

“This has been a huge problem for people in this State and isn’t over by any means because we’re still seeing the epidemic,” she said.

“Yet there have long been concerns about the limitations of payouts and the absolute struggle families go through to get them.”

More than 250 people die in WA each year from asbestos exposure and the State has some of the highest rates of lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma because of the mining of blue asbestos at Wittenoom. Early cases mostly involved miners, manufacturers and construction workers but WA is now in the midst of another wave made up of home renovators and their families who were exposed to asbestos products.

Slater & Gordon asbestos lawyer Tricia Wong said the proposed legislation was very relevant for WA.

“At present, sufferers are left in a real dilemma because if they make a claim when they first become sick, they cut themselves off from a further claim if they later get a more serious condition such as mesothelioma,” she said.

The current laws also meant sufferers could not claim for the commercial costs of care they would otherwise have provided to a loved one or family member, which left many families struggling financially.

Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia president Robert Vojakovic said the Bill recognised that asbestos diseases were unique because they could be latent for many years and invariably progressed rather than improved.

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New deal for asbestos victims

Doctors brace for 40 years of asbestos illness

Do-it-yourself home renovators are regularly exposing themselves and their children to cancer-causing asbestos, a study of NSW residents has found.

Experts say the disturbing findings show that, despite repeated warnings, Australians are still not protecting themselves from asbestos-related diseases.

The study of almost 860 people who recently completed a do-it-yourself renovation found more than 61 per cent said they had been exposed to asbestos. More than one in five said their children had been exposed.

Co-author Anthony Johnson said the more people were exposed to asbestos, the more likely they were to develop conditions such as the deadly cancer mesothelioma.

”There is no safe level of exposure,” said Dr Johnson, a respiratory physician from the Liverpool area. ”We don’t want to scare people, because the overall health risks are low, but we do see people who have mesothelioma and the only exposure they can recall is something like this.”

Dr Johnson said, on average, mesothelioma would only develop 42 years after exposure.

”Asbestos was removed from fibro around 1984,” he said. ”But we are worried we are going to keep seeing cases for the next 40 years if people keep getting exposed.”

”It’s a horrible disease but it’s completely preventable”.

The study, published on Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia, found one third of people exposed had cut asbestos building materials, one in four had drilled them, and one in 10 had sanded them. More than half said they never or only sometimes wore protection such as face masks.

Asbestos Diseases Research Institute director Nico van Zandwijk said the study was a warning to people considering a renovation.

”The fact that more than 60 per cent of people said they were exposed – and that’s just the people who could recall they were exposed – means that the level of awareness about the dangers of asbestos is insufficient,” he said. ”People need to think before they cut.”

Professor van Zandwijk said Australia had been the world’s highest per-capita user of asbestos.

”Asbestos building materials were tremendously popular in the previous century, particularly in the post-war period,” he said. ”It was cheap and it was used everywhere.”

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Doctors brace for 40 years of asbestos illness