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June 19, 2018

Tubman asbestos abatement discussed at council

Demolition continues at the city of Chattanooga's former Harriet Tubman housing complex in East Chattanooga on Monday, November 17, 2014.

Demolition continues at the city of Chattanooga’s former Harriet Tubman housing complex in East Chattanooga on Monday, November 17, 2014.

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Dan Henry

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What: Information meeting about asbestos abatement at Harriet Tubman demolition site

When: 3:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: City Council committee meeting room

Chattanooga leaders don’t think there’s reason to worry about asbestos in the rubble of the Harriet Tubman development.

Some East Chattanooga residents hired to help demolish the former public housing site aren’t so sure.

Tim Newson, one of 14 East Chattanooga residents hired for the Harriet Tubman demolition, said that while he was on the job, only people actually removing asbestos wore safety equipment. Laborers working next to them didn’t even have face masks, Newson said.

Newson quit the $18.75-an-hour job because of his concerns. He and other East Chattanooga representatives concerned about potential airborne asbestos from the demolition are planning to attend a meeting of the City Council’s Economic and Community Development Committee meeting at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Councilman Moses Freeman, who represents the East Chattanooga area, said on-site engineers will give a report to the council addressing safety concerns raised by residents living near the area. Professionals will share their procedures for asbestos abatement.

Last week, Assistant City Engineer Dennis Malone said that the city contracted with environmental consulting firm S&ME, an East Coast firm with an office in Chattanooga, to study the Tubman buildings, make recommendations and draw up plans about abatement, and to approve the demolition plan by contractor Environmental Abatement.

Since then, S&ME has monitored the work and found no cause for concern about asbestos, Malone said.

Freeman said the meeting will focus on gathering information, not hearing complaints.

“We’re hearing a report based on a petition signed by a certain number of individuals who expressed concerns,” he said. “Getting information out about the process ought to allay the concerns, because we don’t think there is an asbestos problem.”

Robert Schreane, Hamilton County Coalition housing manager, said he got so many complaints from area residents worried about contaminants in the air that he emailed the Environmental Protection Agency asking for an investigation.

He sent the letter Monday, he said, not knowing that 37 East Chattanooga residents had submitted a petition asking the City Council to order independent environmental testing for airborne asbestos.

Schreane said the coalition makes no accusations of contamination, but it at least wants the EPA to check.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 757-6431.

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Tubman asbestos abatement discussed at council

Glimmer of hope in asbestos cancer battle

Australian scientists have made a breakthrough that brings a glimmer of hope to people with a deadly cancer caused by asbestos.

The cancer affects a small percentage of people exposed to asbestos, but it is relatively common in Australia with about 650 new cases a year.

There is no cure for the disease, which takes about 35 years to develop, and most people die within 18 months of diagnosis.

So far, treatment developed at the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute has shown remarkable results in tests on mice with malignant mesothelioma taken from humans.

Now, institute director Professor Nico van Zandwijk and his team are preparing to test the TargomiRs treatment on humans.

First stage trials start at the end of 2013 and will determine the optimal and safe dose.

“Treatment options for this asbestos-related cancer are very limited and effective new therapies are urgently needed,” Prof van Zandwijk said at the announcement of the trial in Sydney on Wednesday.

Carol Klintfalt, 63, says she is thrilled to be taking part in the trial.

“Last year, they told me the chemo was not working anymore. To me this is life or death.”

Ms Klintfalt was diagnosed at the age of 57 and feels privileged to have had time with her three grandchildren.

“It is wonderful to still be alive.”

She could have been exposed to asbestos in her 20s, when she worked for an architect in Sydney, or later when she refurbished houses with her engineer husband.

“I remember buying sheets of asbestos and not having any idea it was deadly.

“No cancer is a good cancer, but this is a man-made cancer.”

She says her family has become involved in her illness and her son Mathew, 28, is dedicated to informing people his age about the dangers of asbestos and climbed Mount Aconcagua in the Andes mountains to raise money for the cause.

“It is his generation buying their first house. They are the people doing DIY and thinking they are invincible,” she said.

Prof van Zandwijk says he does not want to raise false hope, but he is cautiously optimistic the treatment will work.

“I think the whole concept is sound and we feel very reassured.

“While our preclinical research was confined to mesothelioma, we hope that this new approach to cancer treatment will also inhibit other tumour types.”

Speaking at the launch, Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said: “This will allow further research into the most promising treatment for mesothelioma yet discovered. It means that we might have a cure in a few years.”

Mentioning the sadness of losing a family friend to the disease, she said: “Anyone who has been touched by mesothelioma, and there are so many Australians who have been, will be so excited about this. It’s just such a wonderful day.”

The trial is made possible by a $1.2 million donation from the family of Andrew Lloyd, who died of malignant mesothelioma in 2011 after coming into contact with asbestos during building renovations.

* For information about how to manage the asbestos risk in pre-1987 homes, go to www.asbestosawareness.com.au

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Glimmer of hope in asbestos cancer battle