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October 20, 2018

Asbestos imports rising in Canada despite health warnings

Despite rising fears of asbestos-related illnesses, imports of products containing asbestos show little sign of slowing.

According to Statistics Canada figures, imports of asbestos-related items rose to $6-million last year from $4.9-million in 2013. The bulk of these goods consisted of asbestos brake linings and pads, which hit $3.6-million in imports in 2014, a seven-year high. Other imports included raw asbestos, friction materials and some items containing crocidolite, which is considered the most dangerous form of asbestos.

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The dollar amounts may not seem like a lot of money given Canada’s overall trade, but in terms of brake pads that translates into hundreds of thousands entering the Canadian market each year. The World Health Organization and other agencies have said that all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic and the best way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop using it.

Asbestos is by far the top on-the-job killer in Canada, accounting for almost 5,000 death claims since 1996. Many victims die of mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer, though it may take 20 to 50 years after exposures to materialize. And yet Canada continues to allow imports and exports of asbestos, unlike other dozens of countries such as Australia, Japan, Sweden and Britain, which have imposed a ban.

Canada has imported more than $100-million in asbestos brake pad and linings in the past decade. In total, more than $250-million in imports of asbestos and asbestos-containing products entered the country between 2004 and 2014. Canada was also one of the world’s largest exporters of asbestos, though raw shipments stopped in 2011 after the last mines closed. Last year, this country exported $1.8-million worth of asbestos products.

A key concern about the brake pads centres on mechanics, who often use air hoses to clean car parts while replacing them, putting dangerous dust in the air. In the past decade, 61 claims for the deaths of auto, truck and bus mechanics stemming from asbestos-related diseases have been approved, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada.

Brake mechanics, along with construction workers and shipyard workers, are among those most at risk of exposure to asbestos at work, according to the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. A tally by Carex Canada, a research project funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, showed 4,300 people in auto repair and maintenance are exposed to asbestos in the workplace.

The federal government has long maintained a policy of “controlled use” of the mineral and Health Canada says that as long as the fibres are enclosed or tightly bound, there is no significant health risk. It’s difficult to ensure, though, that fibres stay tightly bound as materials wear out.

“It’s hard to quantify the risk, but with a known carcinogen that’s associated with cancers at extremely low levels of exposure, I just don’t think you can be too cautious on this. And it’s not like there isn’t a viable alternative. There are other brake pads out there,” says Paul Demers, a University of Toronto professor in public health and director at the Occupational Cancer Research Centre at Cancer Care Ontario.

Canada’s two main opposition parties want to see the end of asbestos use in Canada.

“We need to develop a comprehensive strategy to phase out the use of dangerous materials, especially asbestos,” Liberal MP Geoff Regan said, adding that his party wants a ban of all asbestos use in Canada. “When it comes to brake pads, there’s really no need to have these products in Canada since our manufacturers have largely replaced asbestos with safer alternatives. I can’t imagine that Canadian drivers would accept the idea that these products are being used in their cars, if they were really fully aware of the situation.”

Mr. Regan wants to see more education on the dangers of asbestos, a national registry of federal public buildings with asbestos and more monitoring of asbestos-related diseases in Canada.

Ending the use of asbestos brake pads “is an excellent place to start because brake shoes are one thing that a lot of home handymen, backyard mechanics can do on their own, so therefore you are exposing people outside the industrial setting and into the residential setting. There’s unnecessary risk,” said NDP MP Pat Martin, who has been calling for a ban for nearly two decades.

A couple of U.S. states have passed laws restricting use of brake pads with asbestos and momentum is building to limit their use among manufacturers and in imports.

That effort is going national. On Jan. 21, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Council of the States, the Brake Manufacturers Council and other industry stakeholders that will limit the use of asbestos (along with copper and other elements) in all brake pads including imports, said Bill Hanvey, executive director of the Brake Manufacturers Council, in an interview.

“We’re trying to make sure we have a level playing field because asbestos is a cheaper ingredient and the North American manufacturers have eliminated asbestos from their formulations many years ago and substituted more expensive materials to avoid using asbestos,” said Mr. Hanvey, who is based near Raleigh, N.C., and is also senior vice-president of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association.

“We want to make sure we’re not put at a competitive disadvantage by the importation of products that contain asbestos.”

Safer, made-in-Canada alternatives to asbestos are available, though they cost more. Rick Jamieson is president and chief executive officer of Guelph, Ont.-based ABS Friction, an asbestos-free brake-pad factory. He wants to see a complete asbestos ban in Canada.

“We would like to see the same legislation [as some U.S. states] so that it’s a level playing field across North America and that Canada doesn’t end up a dumping ground for asbestos brake pads,” he said. “Because if they’re going to ban them in the U.S., they’re going to go somewhere.”

Marc Brazeau, president and CEO of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada, said workers’ safety is a top priority and that the organization would not object to a ban provided the industry was given sufficient notice. “If there is a phase-out period and an opportunity for companies to react, I’m very optimistic and confident that our industry would react in an appropriate way,” he said.

Concern over brake pads has prompted Ontario’s Ministry of Labour to issue a warning. Asbestos “in aftermarket replacement brake pads poses an increased risk of asbestos-related disease for auto brake mechanics,” the ministry said in a 2013 alert.

It noted that the presence of asbestos in aftermarket brake pads “poses an increased risk of exposure to hazardous concentrations of asbestos dust during the maintenance and repair of asbestos-containing friction materials for auto brake mechanics.” It recommended employers “only use brake pads that do not contain asbestos.”

In an e-mail to the Globe, the ministry said it is “aware of and continues to be concerned about the hazard, and we are looking into what more can be done to ensure the safety of workers.”

Health Canada’s website still says asbestos poses health risks “only when fibres are present in the air that people breathe.” It does not say that all forms of asbestos are a known carcinogen nor that even low levels of exposure can be dangerous. When asked last November if it plans to revise its website, last updated in October, 2012, a spokesperson said in an e-mail that “there are no plans to update it as the health risks to asbestos have not changed and there’s nothing to add at this point.”

The department said asbestos brake pads do not pose a significant health risk to consumers. Regarding the risks to mechanics’ health in working with asbestos brake pads, Health Canada said “in the workplace, exposure associated with the use of brake pads containing asbestos could occur during installation, removal, and inspection processes if fibres become airborne.”

Continued imports of asbestos brake pads is a concern, given that most garages and body shops aren’t unionized, and subject to little regulatory oversight, says Jim Brophy, adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Windsor and former director of the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers in Windsor and Sarnia.

“Why would we be importing it especially into operations like brakes, where the very nature of brakes is that there is a wearing down of the pad. It’s endemic to the design of the thing.”

He’s critical of Health Canada’s message that asbestos doesn’t pose a big risk if fibres don’t become airborne. “That doesn’t talk about the real world. They don’t put asbestos in a bottle and leave it on the shelves. People are actually grinding it, they’re tearing it off, they’re blowing it around. This is what you do with brake shoes and other products that have asbestos (such as pipes).”

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Asbestos imports rising in Canada despite health warnings

Sheldon Silver-linked law firm has hand in asbestos funds

Weitz & Luxenberg, the law firm accused of exploiting its connection to Sheldon Silver in New York City’s asbestos court, has come under fire in another lucrative arena — multibillion-dollar bankruptcy trusts.

The East Village firm, which gained more than 100 mesothelioma clients in an alleged kickback scheme by the disgraced assemblyman, sits on 15 advisory committees for trusts set up by bankrupt companies to compensate victims — including Weitz’s own clients.

The loose system fosters a “fox guarding the hen house” culture, says a article published last month by Measley’s Asbestos Bankruptcy Report.

Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver

The 15 trusts guided by Weitz have paid out $12.2 billion between 2006 and 2013. Other trusts, which may also pay Weitz clients, have doled out $51.6 billion, the report says. Lawyers typically get at least 25 percent of the payments.

It’s unknown how many Weitz clients got payments — or whether any were funneled through Silver.

Perry Weitz, a partner in the firm, helped set up trusts for major companies such as Owens Corning, USG, and Kaiser Aluminum, his Web site boasts.

Trusts for asbestos-injured workers — who can file claims and also take active companies to court — still hold about $30 billion.

The system is rife with double-dipping abuse. Lawyers file trust claims blaming a client’s asbestos illness on bankrupt companies, but often hide those claims in lawsuits blaming active companies for the same illness.

For instance, Weitz & Luxenberg won a $25 million verdict against DaimlerChrysler in 2006 in a special Manhattan asbestos court where the firm files 50 to 70 percent of the cases.

At trial, Weitz shot down defense arguments that bankrupt Johns Manville, which made insulation and roofing, shared some blame for the worker’s exposure. “How should they be responsible?” the firm asked.

But a year after the trial, Weitz filed trust claims for the same client seeking payments from Johns Manville.

A Weitz spokesman said the firm had no comment.

In 2011, Weitz asked Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Sherry Klein Heitler to drop a requirement that plaintiffs disclose before trial any trust claims they had filed or intended to file.

Heitler, who was replaced as chief asbestos judge last week, denied the motion, but tweaked the rule, saying lawyers did not have to reveal trust claims “they may or may not anticipate filing.”

Her wording left wiggle room for potential fraud, Cardozo Law School professor Lester Brickman told The Post. Brickman, a leading expert on asbestos litigation, testified before Congress lastmonth in favor of a bill to curb the double dealing.

After Silver’s indictment last month, Weitz & Luxenberg claimed it was “shocked” that the former Assembly speaker had steered $500,000 in state grants to Columbia-Presbyterian mesothelioma researcher Dr. Robert Taub, who in turn referred the 100-plus patients.

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Sheldon Silver-linked law firm has hand in asbestos funds

ADAO Announces Global Experts to Present at the 2015 Conference

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which combines education, advocacy, and community to help ensure justice for asbestos victims, today announced the speakers scheduled to present at the upcoming 11th Annual Asbestos Awareness Conference, “Where Knowledge and Action Unite” , April 17-19 2015 at the Crystal Gateway Marriot in Arlington, VA. ADAO also will be celebrating its 11th year of asbestos awareness success since the organization’s inception in 2004. ADAO is the only U.S. nonprofit that organizes annual conferences dedicated to preventing and eliminating asbestos-caused diseases.

Nearly 40 renowned experts and asbestos victims from ten countries will present the latest advancements in disease prevention, global advocacy, and treatment for mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases. The April 18, 2015, conference includes four powerful, cutting–edge sessions:

  • Progress and Challenges from the Frontline
  • Medical Advancements: Diagnosing and Treating Mesothelioma and Other Asbestos-Related Diseases
  • Prevention: What Is It? Where Is It? What Do I Do?
  • Advocacy: Global Ban Asbestos Action

The conference underscores ADAO’s new “Hear Asbestos. Think Prevention.™” campaign, which is focused on continual global efforts aimed at preventing asbestos exposure to help end the tragedy of asbestos disease. ADAO began as a grassroots advocacy, spurred by Alan Reinstein’s mesothelioma diagnosis, beloved husband of the organization’s Co-Founder and President, Linda Reinstein.

“I look at where ADAO has come since I began this journey as the confused and angry wife of an innocent asbestos victim and it has made me realize even more how we are all connected by a strong thread of hope that weaves itself across continents and lives,” stated Ms. Reinstein. “As we celebrate the 11th year anniversary of ADAO and welcome our global supporters and speakers to this year’s conference, I’m reminded more than ever that there is strength in numbers.”

Collaborating with organizations around the world for a global asbestos ban since its inception in 2004, ADAO has become a leader in social media advocacy and community outreach for asbestos victims, their families, and loved ones to share support, resources, and provide hope. ADAO has shifted education and awareness activities into high gear – with an unparalleled effort to educate the public and medical community about asbestos-related diseases and preventing exposure. Responsible for three Surgeon General asbestos warnings and ten Senate Resolutions designating April as Asbestos Awareness Week each year, ADAO is recognized as one of the largest organizations fighting for justice on behalf of asbestos victims in the US and abroad.

The recently finalized conference list of speakers includes a highly esteemed group of research, advocacy, and medical experts from ten countries:

  • Arturo Aguilar, Filmmaker, Mexico
  • Syed Mezab Ahmed, World Asbestos Congress, Pakistan
  • Troi Atkinson, Mesothelioma Patient and 2015 Honoree, USA
  • Emily Bankhead, Mesothelioma Widow and 2014 Honoree, USA
  • Dr. Brad Black, Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director at Center for Asbestos Related Disease and ADAO Science Advisory Board, USA
  • Jill Cagle, Mesothelioma Widow and Singer, USA
  • Dr. Robert Cameron, University of California, Los Angeles and The West Los Angeles VA, USA
  • Barry Castleman, ScD, Author of the “Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects,” and ADAO Science Advisory Board, USA
  • Mark Catlin, Service Employees International Union, USA
  • Earl Dotter, Photojournalist, USA
  • Geoff Fary, Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, Chairman, Australia
  • Professor Dean Fennell, Chair of Thoracic Medical Oncology, University of Leicester and 2015 Honoree, United Kingdom
  • Dr. Raja Flores, Chairman, Department of Thoracic Surgery, Mount Sinai Health System and Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization Science Advisory Board, USA
  • Dr. Arthur Frank, Professor of Public Health and Chair Emeritus of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Drexel University School of Public Health and ADAO Science Advisory Board Co-Chair, USA
  • Fernanda Giannasi, Associação Brasileira dos Expostos ao Amianto (ABREA), Brazil
  • Marc Hindry, Association Nationale de Défense des Victimes de l’Amiante (ANDEVA), France
  • Dr. Philippe Gomes Jardim, The Brazilian Labor Public Ministry, Brazil
  • Doug Larkin, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, Co-Founder, USA
  • Richard Lemen, PhD, MSPH, Assistant Surgeon General, USPHS (ret.), Rear Admiral, USPHS (ret.) and ADAO Science Advisory Board Co-Chair, USA
  • Dr. Guadalupe Aguilar Madrid, Mexico
  • Dr. Luis Antonio Camargo De Melo, General Labour Prosecutor, Brazil
  • Captain Aubrey K. Miller, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Medical Advisor, Office of the Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, USA
  • Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH, Professorial Lecturer Dept of Environmental & Occupational Health Milken Institute School of Public Health George Washington University, USA
  • Patrick J. Morrison, Assistant to the General President for Occupational Health, Safety and Medicine, USA
  • Sandra Neuenschwander, Mesothelioma Mother, USA
  • Dr. Christine Oliver, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization Science Advisory Board, USA
  • Ellen Patton, Mesothelioma Patient and 2015 Honoree, USA
  • Dr. Jorma Rantanen, Professor at International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) and 2015 Honoree, Finland
  • Linda Reinstein, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, President/CEO, USA
  • Barry Robson, Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA), Australia
  • Domani Tripam, Mesothelioma Daughter, USA
  • Ellen Tunkelrott, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization Board Member, USA
  • Sue Vento, Widow of the late Congressman Bruce Vento, USA
  • Cameron Von St James, Mesothelioma Husband, USA
  • Yvonne Waterman, Ph.D. LL.M., The Netherlands
  • Dr. John Wheeler, Associate Director for Science at CDC/ATSDR, USA
  • Lou Williams, Mesothelioma Patient and Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA), Australia
  • Jordan Zevon, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization Spokesperson and Musician, USA

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.

ADAO will hold its Eleventh Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference on April 17 – 19, 2015, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA.

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 Announces Global Experts to Present at the 2015 Conference

Asbestos bombshell: Govt knew about Mr Fluffy risk 25 years ago

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Professor Bruce Armstrong, then Director and Professor of Epidemiology and Cancer Research at the NHMRC, wrote to the ACT Administration to “confirm and amplify” advice he had delivered to its Asbestos Taskforce which was handling the removal program pre self-Government.

Professor Armstrong acknowledged at that time it was already clear that Mr Fluffy had escaped from some roof cavities and had entered living spaces of a number of Canberra homes.

Using guidelines developed by the United States Research Council Committee on Nonoccupational Risk of Asbestiform Fibres, Professor Armstrong said the risk of mesothelioma or lung cancer for an average Australian over a lifetime was 26 deaths per million people.

But the risk to people living in homes with Mr Fluffy insulation skyrocketed to 650 deaths per million people.

“That is about 1 in 1000 lifetime residents would die in consequence of their exposure to asbestos in one of the affected houses. It should be noted that the National Research Council’s estimates were based on exposure to mixed asbestos fibres including chrysotile which carries a lower risk of mesothelioma than does amosite. Thus the risk in the Canberra houses would be likely to be greater than the above estimates would suggest.”

Professor Armstrong recommended the expeditious removal of the asbestos “from roof spaces as well as whatever asbestos had accumulated in the living spaces”. He also noted that residents would experience anxiety if they believed themselves to be exposed to asbestos.

In a separate report prepared by the former Chairman of the Occupational Health Guides Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council Dr David Douglas, children were a primary concern in terms of the need to remove Mr Fluffy from homes.

“Children are at are at particular risk because of the susceptibility of developing lung tissue to damage; and because of the long latent period during which changes can occur,” said Dr Douglas, a former Head of Scientific Policy for the United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive.

“In spite of difficulties in quantification, I would expect to see a measurable excess of asbestos-related disease in the occupiers,” he said.

Dr Douglas said the Mr Fluffy issue was “a public health asbestos problem far greater than any documented elsewhere in the world” and the levels of exposure to deadly fibres by the men who were hired to install Mr Fluffy by operator Dirk Jansen – including his sons – were “likely to have been as high as any ever recorded”.

Dr Douglas noted that occupiers of Mr Fluffy homes he had interviewed had “expressed anxiety not only about suffering an asbestos disease, but also the fear of asbestos disease and about their concern and frustration at their housing predicament.”

“Anxiety and fear are major causes of disability. The levels of both will rise the longer people continue to live in the asbestos insulated homes.”

Fluffy Owners and Residents’ Action Group founder Ms Heseltine said the passage of time had done nothing to change the nature of these risks faced by more than 1000 homeowners.

“I don’t see too many options here for the ACT, NSW and Commonwealth governments. They either decide that there is an acceptable death toll among the Mr Fluffy owner and resident population, or they come together to eliminate the risk.”

She said the 25 year-old advice was particularly heartbreaking in the case of Queanbeyan homes, which have never been remediated.

“It defies belief that the NSW Government has not revised its position that fibres do not pose a threat if left undisturbed. Dr Douglas’ report clearly states that material can escape through the tiles, and that wind and water damage and fires could result in high levels of exposure”, she said.

Ms Heseltine said anxiety and stress levels were “off the charts” in the owner and resident population in Canberra and Queanbeyan as people awaited a government decision on their homes.











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Asbestos bombshell: Govt knew about Mr Fluffy risk 25 years ago

Asbestos: the hidden danger lurking in your backyard

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It was the prospect of making hundreds of thousands of dollars’ profit that led to the illegal dumping operation.

If the contaminated soil had been dumped properly, the cost at an approved waste facility would have been $269,952. This is based on a NSW waste levy of $70.30 per tonne for contaminated materials.

The man who organised the trucks, Julian Ashmore, pleaded guilty in the Land and Environment Court in Sydney to illegal dumping, and admitted that he knew what he was doing was wrong and that Mr Zizza had no idea what was happening.

He told Environmental Protection Agency investigators and the Land and Environment Court that he took part in the dumping because he was scared for his life and that of his family if he did not comply with the instigator of the illegal scheme.

There is a lot of money to be made by bypassing the regulations and quietly getting rid of the contaminated waste. Many argue this is a driving factor behind the continued practice of illegal dumping.

Illegal dumping of asbestos has been a major problem around Australia particularly in NSW. The EPA has set up illegal dumping squads to try to stop rogue operators.

The EPA has also given almost $800,000 to 24 local government areas to run a pilot program called the Householders Asbestos Disposal Scheme. It is a 12-month trial which will run until next July allowing householders to deposit their asbestos waste at the council-approved facility for free. However the results won’t be known until late next year.

Asbestos products were totally banned in 2003 but the health-related problems from breathing in fibres are continuing as more asbestos is found in old homes, work sites and in old dumping grounds.

Inhaling the fibres can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer which can take up to 40 years to develop and for which there is no known cure.

The Australian Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA) has warned that one in every three houses in Australia built before 1982 has asbestos in it and thousands of workshops and homes have been built with asbestos roofs, floors and walls.

The foundation president Barry Robson applauds the move by councils to take asbestos waste for free but he says it has not totally eradicated the problem and there has been a number of dumping incidents that he knows of recently in southern Sydney.

Although things are improving, he says, the culture is slow to change.

“What we would like to see is like they are doing in Western Australia – having asbestos free days at all local tips,” says Mr Robson.

A 2012 review of the waste levy by KPMG found that there was no “conclusive evidence” that linked the levy to illegal dumping. The report found most illegal dumping was done by householders renovating on a small scale.

In a state government response to the widespread problem of asbestos, a cross-agency organisation, the Heads of Asbestos Co-ordination Authority (HACA), was established and has been working on a statewide plan targeting priority areas of research, risk communication, prevention and co-ordination to ensure safe management of asbestos and try to reduce the high incidence of asbestos-related disease.

HACA has become involved in co-ordinating responses to high-profile asbestos incidents including Mr Fluffy, the former contractor that used asbestos fibres for insulation in the roofs of many homes in Canberra and parts of NSW. It also looks at major natural disasters which cause widespread asbestos contamination such as the Blue Mountains fires last year. The chairman of HACA, Peter Dunphy, says his group has shown the value of cross-agency collaboration and has developed strong relationships with national and state government agencies, local councils, other key stakeholders and the public.

Mr Robson says new protocols which have been put in place by HACA are working well, as was demonstrated during the fires in Coonabarabran, Kiama and the Blue Mountains.

“It all came together with the agencies,” he said. “It was brilliant. In the Blue Mountains they moved 40,000 tonnes of suspected contaminated rubble. Things like that have never been done before.”

But while government responses to asbestos contamination issues are improving, the health-related issues are continuing to rise with the much-talked about third wave of asbestos disease victims emerging in Australia – a phenomenon which has not yet peaked. The first wave were workers who were mining the fibres and plant workers turning it into a range of building products.

The latest research shows that an increasing number of younger women are part of that wave and Associate Professor Rick van der Zwan, from Southern Cross University, said the rate of diagnosis of asbestos-related disease was increasing. Younger people are contracting the disease after being exposed as children to their fathers’ work outfits and as a result of family home renovations since the 1970s.

A parliamentary inquiry has been set up to investigate the use of asbestos by Mr Fluffy.

The cross-party inquiry will try to establish how many homes may have been affected. Mr Fluffy asbestos was pumped into roof spaces of houses in the ACT and some NSW areas in the 1960s and 1970s. A Commonwealth clean-up program was established in the 1980s and 1990s to try to remove the asbestos from ACT houses, but houses in NSW did not get the same assistance.

The government is now offering free testing and advice, during the next 12 months, on risk control for anyone who suspects they may have the Mr Fluffy product in their home.

However, Mr Robson says he has been receiving worried calls from home owners too scared to even reveal what suburb they live in.

He has urged them to come forward and get the testing. Residents can contact WorkCover NSW on 13 10 50 to arrange testing.

Meanwhile, Mr Zizza says that three years later the situation has not been resolved and the contaminated soil remains on his property. He says although he is innocent, his land has been ruined and he has fears for the health and safety of the families with children who live nearby.











Continued here:

Asbestos: the hidden danger lurking in your backyard

Asbestos poisoning victims want Yale honor revoked

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (AP) — Victims of asbestos poisoning in Italy are urging Yale University to rescind an honorary degree given to a Swiss man later convicted of negligence in some 2,000 asbestos-related deaths.

Stephan Schmidheiny, former owner of Swiss construction company Eternit, was convicted in 2012 by an Italian court and sentenced to 16 years for his role in the contamination of sites in northern Italy. An appeals court upheld the conviction for negligence in thousands of asbestos-related deaths blamed on contamination from the company and increased his sentence to 18 years.

Another appeal is pending and Schmidheiny is not in custody. He has denied wrongdoing.

Yale awarded Schmidheiny an honorary degree in 1996, citing him as “one of the world’s most environmentally conscious business leaders,” and praised his efforts to create sustainable development, the New Haven Register reported.

Lawyer Christopher Meisenkothen, who represents the Asbestos Victims and Relatives Association, said what happened in Italy is the exact opposite of what Yale cited.

“It flies in the face of actual history. This is a matter of honor for the Italian victims,” Meisenkothen said.

Yale said a decision to revoke an honorary degree must be by the Yale Corporation, the university’s governing body.

“The decision to award the degree was made by a committee that considered his full record as a philanthropist who used his wealth to fund sustainable development in Latin America and elsewhere, and a path-breaking international advocate of change in the way businesses address environmental sustainability, as well as a businessman who inherited and dismantled a decades-old family asbestos processing concern,” the statement from Yale said.

Yale should at least appoint a faculty committee to review the matter and make a recommendation, Meisenkothen said.

“A lot of this information was not available to Yale at the time they awarded the degree,” Meisenkothen said. “Yale is not our adversary. We just want to give them information they didn’t have before, so they can do the right thing.”

Some alumni and faculty, including 1992 graduate Christopher Sellers, have also urged Yale to revoke the honor.

“It shames me as a Yale graduate to think Yale isn’t willing to look at what it did here,” said Sellers, now a history professor at Stony Brook University. “For me, it’s pretty clear that if Yale had known in 1996 everything we know today, it wouldn’t have honored Schmidheiny with this degree.”

___

Information from: New Haven Register, http://www.nhregister.com

Original article:  

Asbestos poisoning victims want Yale honor revoked

Well: Landscapes Tainted by Asbestos

Brenda Buck, left, and Rodney Metcalf from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas examining rocks in Boulder City, Nev., for naturally occurring asbestos.Steve Andrascik/Las Vegas Review-Journal, via Associated PressBrenda Buck, left, and Rodney Metcalf from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas examining rocks in Boulder City, Nev., for naturally occurring asbestos.
Poison Pen
Poison Pen

Deborah Blum writes about chemicals and the environment.

For the past few years, Brenda Buck has been sampling the dust blowing across southern Nevada. Until recently, she focused on the risks of airborne elements such as arsenic. But then she started noticing an oddity in her samples, a sprinkling of tiny, hairlike mineral fibers.

She found them on herself as well. After a ride on horseback down a dirt road 20 miles south of Las Vegas, her clothes and boots were dappled with the fibrous material. Dr. Buck, a professor of geology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, turned to her colleagues to help identify it.

Their verdict: asbestos. And lots of it.

In a paper published late last year, titled “Naturally Occurring Asbestos: Potential for Human Exposure, Southern Nevada, USA,” Dr. Buck and her colleagues reported that the fibers were similar to those found at asbestos-contaminated Superfund sites and warned that they “could be transported by wind, water, cars or on clothing after outdoor recreational activities.” The research raises the possibility that many communities in the region, including Las Vegas, may face a previously unknown hazard.

Dr. Buck and her co-author Rodney V. Metcalf, a fellow U.N.L.V. geology professor, are now trying to quantify the range and the danger posed by natural asbestos-bearing mineral deposits spread across 53,000 acres, stretching from the southern shore of Lake Mead to the edges of the McCullough Range. “Nobody wants bad news — we’re all hoping the health risks will be very low,” Dr. Buck said in an interview. “But the fact is, we don’t know that yet.”

Similar concerns are arising in an unexpectedly wide swath of the United States: Naturally occurring asbestos deposits now have been mapped in locations across the country, from Staten Island to the foothills of the Sierras in California.

Elongated asbestos fibers are created by natural mineral formations. When they turn up in industrial products, it is because people have excavated them and refined them for use — a practice dating back more than 2,000 years. Ancient Greeks used asbestos to strengthen everything from napkins to lamp wicks.

Stories of asbestos-linked illnesses date back almost as long. But it was the post-World War II embrace of these fibers, in products ranging from insulating materials to ceiling tiles to roofing shingles, that provided undeniable evidence of health effects. By the 1960s, scientists had demonstrated that a chain of occupational illnesses, including a lung cancer called mesothelioma, could be directly linked to the presence of such mineral fibers.

The term asbestos technically refers to a group of six silicate-based fibrous minerals. But this definition may underestimate the extent of naturally occurring risks, scientists say. The mineral erionite, for instance, also forms needlelike structures, which have been linked to startlingly high levels of mesothelioma in Turkey and which have recently been discovered in the oil-and-gas boom regions of North Dakota. The discovery of airborne erionite fibers in North Dakota recently led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to describe it as “an emerging North American hazard.”

“Essentially, these fibers flow aerodynamically into the deep lung tissue and lodge there” said Geoffrey Plumlee, a geochemist with the United States Geological Survey in Denver. They remain embedded for years, like needles in a pincushion, spurring the onset of not only mesothelioma but also other lung cancers and diseases of the respiratory system.

By the 1970s such health effects were so well documented that the Environmental Protection Agency moved to limit asbestos use, and in 1989 the agency banned almost all industrial use of the minerals. But a recent cascade of research has renewed scientific worries.

For one thing, recent soil studies show that residential developments have spread into mineral-rich regions. California’s state capital, Sacramento, for example, spilled into neighboring El Dorado County, where, it turned out, whole neighborhoods were built across a swatch of asbestos deposits.

And sophisticated epidemiological studies have shown that this was more than an occupational health issue. The small mining town of Libby, Mont., provided one of the most dramatic case studies. Almost a fifth of the residents have now received diagnoses of asbestos-linked illnesses, from mesothelioma to severe scarring of lung tissue.

When these conditions began cropping up across the entire town in the late 1990s, investigators assumed that those sickened were all workers at a nearby mine. But the illnesses weren’t appearing only in mine workers. Family members were stricken, too, as were residents of the town who had nothing to do with the mining business.

Investigations by alarmed government agencies — including the E.P.A, the Geological Survey and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences — established that miners brought asbestos fibers back to town with them on clothes, vehicles and other possessions. But residents were also exposed to fibers blowing about the surrounding environment — and, to the dismay of researchers, people were being sickened by far smaller exposures than had been thought to cause harm.

“Libby really started the new focus on the issue,” said Bradley Van Gosen, a research geochemist with the Geological Survey in Denver. Dr. Van Gosen has been put in charge of a new U.S.G.S. mapping project, an ambitious effort to trace the minerals not only across Western mining states but also elsewhere, from the Upper Midwest to a rambling path up the Eastern Seaboard, starting in southern Appalachia and stretching into Maine.

Dr. Van Gosen said that most of the Eastern deposits were linked to an ancient crustal boundary, perhaps a billion years old, that underlies mountain ranges like the Appalachians. Wherever they are found, though, minerals in the asbestos family tend to form when magnesium, silica and water are transformed by superheated magma from the earth’s mantle.

In Western states, such filamented minerals tend to result from volcanic activity. In the Midwest, where fibers have recently turned up associated with mining interests in Minnesota and Wisconsin, geologists suspect they originated in ancient magnesium-rich seafloors. A recent study in Minnesota linked an increased risk of death among miners to time spent working in mines contaminated by such deposits.

“It has the potential to be a huge deal,” said Christopher P. Weis, toxicology adviser to the director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. “And we want to get the word out, because this is something that can be addressed if we tackle it upfront.”

Dr. Buck’s discovery of similar hazards in southern Nevada was the first time that naturally occurring asbestos had been reported in the region. At this point, she and her colleagues are simply trying to figure out the extent of the problem. A leading mesothelioma researcher, Dr. Michele Carbone of the University of Hawaii, is analyzing the fibers to help establish the magnitude of any health risk. Dr. Buck and Dr. Metcalf are expanding their sampling deeper into the Nevada desert, trying to build a better map of the hazardous regions.

“We live here. Our children are here,” Dr. Buck said. “We want very much to get this right.”

And they are approaching their discovery with personal caution. They now wear protective gear while sampling, and Dr. Buck has decided against taking her graduate students out for what appears to be risky fieldwork.

On a larger scale, researchers are investigating alternatives to creating large forbidden zones, such as wetting down roads or requiring that people in high-exposure areas wear protective masks and gear. But even small measures, like bathing after exposure and washing contaminated clothing separately, may help, Dr. Weis said.

“We can be smart and efficient about this, both at the government and at the personal level,” he said.

This article is from:

Well: Landscapes Tainted by Asbestos

Poison Pen: Landscapes Tainted by Asbestos

Brenda Buck, left, and Rodney Metcalf from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas examining rocks in Boulder City, Nev., for naturally occurring asbestos.Steve Andrascik/Las Vegas Review-Journal, via Associated PressBrenda Buck, left, and Rodney Metcalf from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas examining rocks in Boulder City, Nev., for naturally occurring asbestos.
Poison Pen
Poison Pen

Deborah Blum writes about chemicals and the environment.

For the past few years, Brenda Buck has been sampling the dust blowing across southern Nevada. Until recently, she focused on the risks of airborne elements such as arsenic. But then she started noticing an oddity in her samples, a sprinkling of tiny, hairlike mineral fibers.

She found them on herself as well. After a ride on horseback down a dirt road 20 miles south of Las Vegas, her clothes and boots were dappled with the fibrous material. Dr. Buck, a professor of geology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, turned to her colleagues to help identify it.

Their verdict: asbestos. And lots of it.

In a paper published late last year, titled “Naturally Occurring Asbestos: Potential for Human Exposure, Southern Nevada, USA,” Dr. Buck and her colleagues reported that the fibers were similar to those found at asbestos-contaminated Superfund sites and warned that they “could be transported by wind, water, cars or on clothing after outdoor recreational activities.” The research raises the possibility that many communities in the region, including Las Vegas, may face a previously unknown hazard.

Dr. Buck and her co-author Rodney V. Metcalf, a fellow U.N.L.V. geology professor, are now trying to quantify the range and the danger posed by natural asbestos-bearing mineral deposits spread across 53,000 acres, stretching from the southern shore of Lake Mead to the edges of the McCullough Range. “Nobody wants bad news — we’re all hoping the health risks will be very low,” Dr. Buck said in an interview. “But the fact is, we don’t know that yet.”

Similar concerns are arising in an unexpectedly wide swath of the United States: Naturally occurring asbestos deposits now have been mapped in locations across the country, from Staten Island to the foothills of the Sierras in California.

Elongated asbestos fibers are created by natural mineral formations. When they turn up in industrial products, it is because people have excavated them and refined them for use — a practice dating back more than 2,000 years. Ancient Greeks used asbestos to strengthen everything from napkins to lamp wicks.

Stories of asbestos-linked illnesses date back almost as long. But it was the post-World War II embrace of these fibers, in products ranging from insulating materials to ceiling tiles to roofing shingles, that provided undeniable evidence of health effects. By the 1960s, scientists had demonstrated that a chain of occupational illnesses, including a lung cancer called mesothelioma, could be directly linked to the presence of such mineral fibers.

The term asbestos technically refers to a group of six silicate-based fibrous minerals. But this definition may underestimate the extent of naturally occurring risks, scientists say. The mineral erionite, for instance, also forms needlelike structures, which have been linked to startlingly high levels of mesothelioma in Turkey and which have recently been discovered in the oil-and-gas boom regions of North Dakota. The discovery of airborne erionite fibers in North Dakota recently led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to describe it as “an emerging North American hazard.”

“Essentially, these fibers flow aerodynamically into the deep lung tissue and lodge there” said Geoffrey Plumlee, a geochemist with the United States Geological Survey in Denver. They remain embedded for years, like needles in a pincushion, spurring the onset of not only mesothelioma but also other lung cancers and diseases of the respiratory system.

By the 1970s such health effects were so well documented that the Environmental Protection Agency moved to limit asbestos use, and in 1989 the agency banned almost all industrial use of the minerals. But a recent cascade of research has renewed scientific worries.

For one thing, recent soil studies show that residential developments have spread into mineral-rich regions. California’s state capital, Sacramento, for example, spilled into neighboring El Dorado County, where, it turned out, whole neighborhoods were built across a swatch of asbestos deposits.

And sophisticated epidemiological studies have shown that this was more than an occupational health issue. The small mining town of Libby, Mont., provided one of the most dramatic case studies. Almost a fifth of the residents have now received diagnoses of asbestos-linked illnesses, from mesothelioma to severe scarring of lung tissue.

When these conditions began cropping up across the entire town in the late 1990s, investigators assumed that those sickened were all workers at a nearby mine. But the illnesses weren’t appearing only in mine workers. Family members were stricken, too, as were residents of the town who had nothing to do with the mining business.

Investigations by alarmed government agencies — including the E.P.A, the Geological Survey and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences — established that miners brought asbestos fibers back to town with them on clothes, vehicles and other possessions. But residents were also exposed to fibers blowing about the surrounding environment — and, to the dismay of researchers, people were being sickened by far smaller exposures than had been thought to cause harm.

“Libby really started the new focus on the issue,” said Bradley Van Gosen, a research geochemist with the Geological Survey in Denver. Dr. Van Gosen has been put in charge of a new U.S.G.S. mapping project, an ambitious effort to trace the minerals not only across Western mining states but also elsewhere, from the Upper Midwest to a rambling path up the Eastern Seaboard, starting in southern Appalachia and stretching into Maine.

Dr. Van Gosen said that most of the Eastern deposits were linked to an ancient crustal boundary, perhaps a billion years old, that underlies mountain ranges like the Appalachians. Wherever they are found, though, minerals in the asbestos family tend to form when magnesium, silica and water are transformed by superheated magma from the earth’s mantle.

In Western states, such filamented minerals tend to result from volcanic activity. In the Midwest, where fibers have recently turned up associated with mining interests in Minnesota and Wisconsin, geologists suspect they originated in ancient magnesium-rich seafloors. A recent study in Minnesota linked an increased risk of death among miners to time spent working in mines contaminated by such deposits.

“It has the potential to be a huge deal,” said Christopher P. Weis, toxicology adviser to the director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. “And we want to get the word out, because this is something that can be addressed if we tackle it upfront.”

Dr. Buck’s discovery of similar hazards in southern Nevada was the first time that naturally occurring asbestos had been reported in the region. At this point, she and her colleagues are simply trying to figure out the extent of the problem. A leading mesothelioma researcher, Dr. Michele Carbone of the University of Hawaii, is analyzing the fibers to help establish the magnitude of any health risk. Dr. Buck and Dr. Metcalf are expanding their sampling deeper into the Nevada desert, trying to build a better map of the hazardous regions.

“We live here. Our children are here,” Dr. Buck said. “We want very much to get this right.”

And they are approaching their discovery with personal caution. They now wear protective gear while sampling, and Dr. Buck has decided against taking her graduate students out for what appears to be risky fieldwork.

On a larger scale, researchers are investigating alternatives to creating large forbidden zones, such as wetting down roads or requiring that people in high-exposure areas wear protective masks and gear. But even small measures, like bathing after exposure and washing contaminated clothing separately, may help, Dr. Weis said.

“We can be smart and efficient about this, both at the government and at the personal level,” he said.

Continue reading:

Poison Pen: Landscapes Tainted by Asbestos

Asbestos found in the air we breathe

News 3 has correction to a story which aired Thursday, Jan. 9 on News 3 live at 7. We reported that the small town of Libby Montana was evacuated because of asbestos contamination from a mine. This is similar to the natural occurring asbestos discovered near Boulder City and Henderson. Libby was not evacuated. The Environmental Protection Agency declared a public health emergency in Libby in 2009 and ordered a cleanup of homes in the area.

LAS VEGAS — What’s in the air you breath?

A study by researchers at UNLV found asbestos in the air in Boulder City and southern Clark County. Researchers call our air hazardous and now other universities are joining in to find out how dangerous it is and to study possible cancers associated with it.

Researchers stay away from the word panic but that isn’t because it’s not dangerous. It’s just too early in the study to worry.

“What we have identified is a hazard and people should have the opportunity to know about it so they can make choices,” said UNLV Professor Brenda Buck, who is behind the research

The geologist was in the middle of a different study when she found naturally occurring asbestos outside boulder city
The same type of asbestos known to cause cancer and mesothelioma.

The comparison is Libby, Mont., a town with several illnesses related to the same type of asbestos found here in Nevada.

Link:  

Asbestos found in the air we breathe

The Asbestos Scam


In May, Carolyn McCarthy, a nine-term congresswoman from Long Island, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her treatment began almost immediately, causing her to take a lengthy absence from her office while she fought the disease. At the same time, McCarthy, 69, ended a pack-a-day cigarette habit that she’d had for most of her life, presumably because she understood the link between cigarette-smoking and lung cancer. Scientists estimate that smoking plays a role in 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.

“Since my diagnosis with lung cancer,” she wrote in a recent legal filing, “I have had mental and emotional distress and inconvenience. I am fearful of death.” She added, “My asbestos-related condition has disrupted my life, limiting me in my everyday activities and interfering with living a normal life.”

Asbestos-related?

Yes, that’s right. It’s hard these days for smokers to sue tobacco companies because everyone knows the dangers of cigarettes. Instead, McCarthy has become part of a growing trend: lung cancer victims who are suing companies that once used asbestos.

With asbestos litigation well into its fourth decade — the longest-running mass tort in American history — you’d think the plaintiffs’ bar would have run out of asbestos companies to sue. After all, asbestos lawsuits have bankrupted more than 100 companies. Yet McCarthy has found more than 70 additional companies to sue, including General Electric and Pfizer. Asbestos litigation, says Lester Brickman, a professor at Yeshiva University and perhaps the most vocal critic of asbestos lawsuits, “is a constant search for viable defendants.” Because asbestos was once such a ubiquitous product, there is always somebody else to sue.

Let me stipulate right here that exposure to asbestos can be deadly. The worst illness it causes is mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that essentially suffocates its victims to death. If it were only the real victims of asbestos-related diseases who sued, there would be no issue. That’s how the tort system is supposed to work.

But, over the years, plaintiffs’ lawyers have brought tens of thousands of bogus cases. They took doctors on their payroll to industrial sites, where all the employees would be screened for signs of an asbestos-related disease. They found some real cases, of course — along with many that could never have stood up in court. Nonetheless, by bundling real cases with phony ones — and filing giant lawsuits — they took down one company after another.

The bankrupt company would then put money aside in a trust that would parcel out payments to asbestos victims. The trusts have billions of dollars to disburse and are largely controlled by the plaintiffs’ lawyers. It is a compensation system that runs alongside the tort system.

Eventually, the judiciary got tired of dealing with all the “nonmalignant” cases, as they are called, relegating them to the trusts. At that point, the lawyers mainly handled mesothelioma cases, of which there were some 2,500 a year, and which could generate large payments — usually between $500,000 to $5 million.

But, soon enough, the asbestos lawyers came up with a new tactic: finding lung cancer victims who had some exposure to asbestos. All of a sudden, lung cancer cases exploded in volume. “There is nothing new in the science to suggest an upsurge in cases,” says Peter Kelso, an asbestos expert with Bates White Economic Consulting. “It is just basically due to economic incentives.” That is, by bundling lung cancer cases with other cases, the plaintiffs’ lawyers could bring a new set of companies to heel. For many companies, it is cheaper to settle than fight.

Which brings us back to Congresswoman McCarthy. Her claim for “asbestos exposure” is that when she was young, her father and her brother worked as boiler makers, and she came into contact with asbestos dust because they all lived under the same roof. Plus, she says in her legal filing, she “visited and picked up my father and brother at the various work sites, including Navy Yards, Bridges, Hospitals, Schools, Powerhouses, and other sites where I breathed the asbestos dust.”

Her lawyer at Weitz & Luxenberg — which has feasted for decades on asbestos lawsuits — told The New York Post that “it has been conclusively proven that cigarette smoking and asbestos exposure act synergistically to cause lung cancer.” Actually, it hasn’t been: There are plenty of studies saying there is no synergy at all. At best, the science is muddled.

Not that that matters. No doubt McCarthy’s lawsuit will be bundled by her law firm with other cases to force a company that had nothing to do with her disease to pay up. I hope McCarthy wins her battle with lung cancer. It is an awful disease. But the right thing for her to do is drop this lawsuit. All it has really accomplished is showing how asbestos litigation is a giant scam.


Source: 

The Asbestos Scam