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June 23, 2018

Mesothelioma in southern Nevada likely result of asbestos in environment

Malignant mesothelioma has been found at higher than expected levels in women and in individuals younger than 55 years old in the southern Nevada counties of Clark and Nye, likewise in the same region carcinogenic mineral fibers including actinolite asbestos, erionite, winchite, magnesioriebeckite and richterite were discovered. These data, published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, suggest that these elevated numbers of malignant mesothelioma cases are linked to environmental exposure of carcinogenic mineral fibers.

Malignant mesothelioma is a fatal cancer associated with asbestos exposure that develops on the outer linings of the lungs. The 3-year survival rate is only 8% and there are limited therapeutic options. The incidence of malignant mesothelioma is higher in locations with known industrial and occupational exposure and for similar reasons the incidence is higher in men, with a male to female ratio of 4:1 to 8:1. The latency period for is 30-50 years so those diagnosed from occupational exposure are usually in their seventies whereas those diagnosed younger than 55 are rarely associated with occupational exposure. Asbestos is a commercial and regulatory term applied to six mineral fibers historically mined for industrial use. Naturally occurring asbestos is a term used to describe fibrous minerals that were not used commercially and therefore were not called asbestos and their use was and still is not regulated. Like asbestos, these naturally occurring fibers are natural components of rocks and soils and a potential source of exposure especially if these fibers become airborne through natural erosion or human activities producing dust.

Researchers from Hawaii, Nevada, and Pennsylvania examined malignant mesothelioma mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control by gender, age group, state, and counties for the period 1999-2010. The two southern Nevada counties of Clark and Nye were grouped together and the proportion of women and those younger than 55 years old in these two southern counties were compared to those in all other Nevada counties grouped together as well as the rest of the United States.

The male to female ratio of malignant mesothelioma in all Nevada counties excluding Clarke and Nye was 6.33:1, but in Clarke and Nye counties it was statistically lower at 2.69:1 (p=0.0468), which could not be explained by population demographics, as these were the same. The percentage of individuals younger than 55 was significantly higher in the southern Nevada counties compared to the remainder of the US counties (11.28% vs 6.21%, p=0.0249). Tremolite and actinolite, both members of the asbestos family, as well as erionite, winchite, richterite, and magnesioriebeckite are present in southern Nevada and all have been linked to cancer in humans.

The authors acknowledge that women and children can be exposed to fibrous minerals as a result of their husband’s or father’s occupational exposure when bringing these fibers home on their clothes. However, the authors conclude “in southern Nevada there are no major asbestos industries, thus this seems an unlikely hypothesis. Instead, the presence of asbestos and other fibers in the environment of Clark and Nye Counties, where a lower M:F sex ratio and an increased proportion of malignant mesothelioma are seen in young individuals, suggests that some of these malignant mesotheliomas are caused by environmental exposure which can happen when human activities and natural processes such as wind or water release fibers in the air.”

Michele Carbone, senior author on the study, states “further research is needed, including epidemiological, geological, mineralogical and health-based personal exposure studies in order to characterize the residential and occupational history of the malignant mesothelioma cases we studied, to highlight the highest risk areas within Clark and Nye counties, to identify the type of fibrous minerals and their precise distribution throughout Nevada, and to identify the activities responsible for the release of fibers in the air, which may be the cause of some of the malignant mesothelioma in this region.”

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The above story is based on materials provided by International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Mesothelioma in southern Nevada likely result of asbestos in environment

Study of Montana Mining Town Says Cleanup Working

A long-delayed risk study released Monday for a Montana mining town where hundreds of people have died from asbestos poisoning concludes cleanup practices now in place are reducing risks to residents.

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged there is no way to remove all the asbestos from the area and inhaling even a minute amount could cause lung problems.

The 328-page draft document will be used to guide the remaining cleanup of asbestos dust stemming from a W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine outside Libby, a town of 2,600 people about 50 miles south of the Canada border.

The scenic mountain community has become synonymous with asbestos dangers. Health workers estimate 400 people have been killed and more than 2,000 sickened in Libby and the surrounding area.

Dozens of sites across the U.S. received or processed vermiculite from Libby’s mine, which was used as insulation in millions of homes.

The EPA study used lung scarring ? not just cancer deaths ? to help determine how much danger asbestos poses to people who remain in Libby, where the contaminated vermiculite had been widely used in homes, as construction fill, and for other purposes before its dangers were known.

The EPA already has conducted cleanup work on more than 2,000 homes, businesses and other properties in the Libby area at a cost of roughly $500 million.

Concentrations of asbestos in the air around town is now 100,000 times lower than when the mine was operating from 1963 to 1990, the EPA said.

Those levels could be higher at the mine site ? where cleanup work has barely started ? and in areas where property owners have not given access to EPA contractors, the agency said.

“Where EPA has conducted cleanup, those cleanups are effective,” said Rebecca Thomas, EPA project manager in Libby.

She added that there will be some residual contamination left behind but only in places where officials determine there’s no threat of human exposure.

“As long as no one’s exposed to it, it doesn’t pose a risk and we’ll leave it in place,” Thomas said.

W.R. Grace and industry groups have criticized the EPA’s low threshold for exposure as unjustified and impossible to attain. They said the EPA limit was lower than naturally occurring asbestos levels in some places.

The criticism was one of the factors that delayed the risk study. In a report last year, the EPA’s inspector general said internal agency issues including contracting problems and unanticipated work also contributed to the delay.

W.R. Grace was “pleased to see EPA believes it has effectively managed the health risk to acceptable levels,” said Rich Badmington, a spokesman for the Columbia, Maryland-based chemical company

Still, the company believes the EPA’s threshold for exposure is too low, he said.

The town remains under a first-of-its kind public health emergency declaration issued by former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson in 2009.

Cleanup work is pending for as many as 500 homes and businesses in Libby and nearby Troy. Completing that work will take three to five years, Thomas said.

Because of the long latency period for asbestos-related diseases, it could be many years before some people in Libby develop medical complications.

Libby Mayor Doug Roll said moving forward with the study was critical for the tourism- and mining-dependent town. Roll said Libby wants to overcome its image of a poisoned community.

“Grace was the stumbling block, trying to put a bunch of their input into it,” Roll said. “We’re trying to get out from underneath this cloud and start promoting Libby as a place you can come and visit ? and not worry about the air quality.”

Original article:

Study of Montana Mining Town Says Cleanup Working

Geologists find natural asbestos fibers in Nev.

LAS VEGAS — Removing asbestos from an old building can be hazardous and expensive. So what happens if the ground outside is covered with the stuff for miles around?

That’s what a team of UNLV geologists is trying to figure out after the surprise discovery of potentially toxic, asbestos-type minerals in rocks and dust from Boulder City to the southeastern edge of the Las Vegas Valley.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas geology professor Brenda Buck said this marks the first discovery of naturally occurring asbestos fibers in Southern Nevada.

A peer-reviewed study detailing the find was published last month in the journal of the Soil Science Society of America.

So how worried should everyone be?

“At this point we know enough to know there is a hazard. We don’t know what the risk is,” Buck told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Until we know more, it would be a good idea to avoid dust from those areas.”

That could be a tall order.

The study area takes in all of Boulder City and a wide swath of the Eldorado Valley, with tendrils that reach to the shore of Lake Mead and into the oldest parts of Henderson.

“It’s not everywhere, but I think you’re going to have a hard time not finding it,” Buck said. “In every sample we looked at we found it. We found it pretty easily, too. I didn’t have to look very hard.”

For one test, Buck spent about three hours walking her horse along a dirt road in Boulder City. When she was done, she found asbestos fibers on her pants and her shoes.

“The last thing we want to do is upset people or cause a panic. But on the other side, we don’t want to give people assurances we can’t give,” said UNLV geologist Rodney Metcalf, who partnered with Buck on the study. “We can’t in good conscience say there’s no problem.”

The long, thin minerals were forged roughly 13 million years ago in the roots of volcanoes, also known as plutons. “Boulder City sits on top of one of these plutons,” Metcalf said.

The fibers have been weathering from the ground for the past 12 million years or so, giving them plenty of time to spread out, Buck said.

She specializes in something called medical geology, basically the study of the health impacts of minerals. She was in the midst of sampling arsenic in the dust blowing from Nellis Dunes when she came across a fibrous mineral in one of her samples. She later started talking to Metcalf about the asbestos-like fibers he was studying in northwestern Arizona, and the two decided to go looking for trouble in similar rock deposits in Southern Nevada.

What they mostly found was a mineral called actinolite, one of six types of asbestos regulated as a toxic substance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Buck said she notified “several people” at the EPA about her discovery.

Asbestos fibers can’t be absorbed through the skin, but if inhaled or swallowed they can spawn a range of deadly diseases that might not develop for a decade or decades.

The real “pathway to humans” is in the air, Metcalf said. The fibers are too tiny to be seen with the naked eye and so light that they can stay aloft indefinitely once they’ve been stirred up by the wind or the tires on a vehicle.

Asbestos exposure is linked to mesothelioma, cancer of the lungs, larynx and ovaries, depressed immune function, and other disorders.

“There’s no known safe amount,” Buck said. “The good news is not everyone who is exposed gets sick.”

Buck, Metcalf and company plan to continue their research and expand their study area under a three-year grant from the Bureau of Land Management.

That work will include taking a closer look at other potential trouble spots in Clark County, most of it contained within the roughly 1,200 square miles of desert between U.S. Highway 95 and the Colorado River from Boulder City to the southern tip of the state.

Buck said the bureau wants to know more about where such deposits are and what kind of risks they pose. “They’re worried about their workers,” she said.

Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Hawaii are in the early stages of tests to determine how carcinogenic the fibers in Southern Nevada might be. They also plan to conduct a health assessment to see if any documented cases of mesothelioma could be the result of “environmental exposure” in or around Boulder City, Buck said.

Metcalf said asbestos is actually a loaded term, with varying definitions used by doctors, geologists and environmental regulators. For example, he said, the fibers he has found in Mohave County, Ariz., do not meet the regulatory definition of asbestos. But that doesn’t mean they’re safe. In fact, they are similar to those found in Libby, Mont., where so much toxic soil was spread around by a nearby mine that the entire small town has been declared a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“You get this debate about is this asbestos or is it not,” Metcalf said. “It’s really not the issue. The issue is, is it toxic.”

Buck grew up in Montana and has cousins who got sick and died in Libby.

She said she started taking special precautions in the field after the first fibers were found around Boulder City. “As soon as I knew they were there, I sure as hell did. I wear a mask.”

The discovery also forced her to revamp her lab at UNLV to make it safer. “The whole point is don’t let it get into the air. You can’t just drag it in and expose everyone to it.”

For the same reason, Buck has decided not to take college students into the field with her to help collect samples as she normally would. She doesn’t want to expose them to something with the potential to shorten their lives.

“They’re just so young.”

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Geologists find natural asbestos fibers in Nev.

Mesothelioma: Two groundbreaking trials into treatments for asbestos-related cancer

Sep. 23, 2013 — University of Leicester researchers are leading two major trials into treatments for a type of cancer which affects those exposed to asbestos.

Professor Dean Fennell, of the University’s Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine, is leading two groundbreaking trials into mesothelioma — a form of lung cancer strongly linked with exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma most commonly starts in the inner lining of the chest wall, causing it to thicken, reducing lung capacity — which in turn puts a strain on other organs including the heart.

Since the 1960s, it has been known that the disease can be triggered by the inhalation of asbestos fibres.

Despite the UK’s ban on asbestos issued in 1985, the number of deaths caused by the disease each year has grown from 153 in 1968 to 2,321 in 2009 — the highest incidence in the world.

This number is set to continue to rise sharply over the next 20 years, with a peak coming in 2020.

Two studies involving the University of Leicester aim to test new potential treatments which could improve survival and quality of life for mesothelioma patients.

Meso2, a study funded by Synta Pharmaceuticals, aims to test the effectiveness of a drug called ganetespib in preventing mesothelioma tumours.

Ganetespib inhibits the action of a protein in cells called heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) — which is required for the stabilization and proper functioning of many proteins required for tumour growth.

The trial will involve around 140 patients across the UK, and is being led by Professor Fennell.

Professor Fennell said: “We think this is a new way of being able to target mesothelioma. Laboratory tests show ganetespib is extremely active in mesothelioma — and combined with chemotherapy, this treatment could shrink cancers down and improve symptoms for patients.”

The second trial is part of a global trial named COMMAND (Control of Mesothelioma with MAiNtenance Defactinib) sponsored by pharmaceutical company Verastem, which will investigate a new drug called defactinib.

The researchers believe the drug could help to inhibit focal adhesion kinase (FAK), which is critical for the cancer stem cells’ development into tumours.

The drug could potentially reduce the need for repeated chemotherapy treatment by killing cancer stem cells remaining following front-line therapy.

The trial will involve around 350-400 mesothelioma patients worldwide — and the University of Leicester is leading the study for the UK, which was the first country to open the trial worldwide.

Professor Fennell, who sits on the steering committee for the trial, said: “Cancer stem cells can cause cancer to return after chemotherapy, and the FAK protein seems to be something that cancer stem cells require. If you inhibit FAK protein, you may be able to target the cancer more effectively.

“We hope that both of these trials will be positive studies for mesothelioma patients.”

Original source: 

Mesothelioma: Two groundbreaking trials into treatments for asbestos-related cancer

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.”

Originally posted here – 

Doctors brace for 40 years of asbestos illness

Asbestos exposure, asbestosis, and smoking combined greatly increase lung cancer risk

Apr. 12, 2013 — The chances of developing lung cancer associated with asbestos exposure, asbestosis and smoking are dramatically increased when these three risk factors are combined, and quitting smoking significantly reduces the risk of developing lung cancer after long-term asbestos exposure, according to a new study.

“The interactions between asbestos exposure, asbestosis and smoking, and their influence on lung cancer risk are incompletely understood,” said lead author Steven B. Markowitz, MD DrPH, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences at Queens College in New York. “In our study of a large cohort of asbestos-exposed insulators and more than 50,000 non-exposed controls, we found that each individual risk factor was associated with increased risk of developing lung cancer, while the combination of two risk factors further increased the risk and the combination of all three risk factors increased the risk of developing lung cancer almost 37-fold.”

The findings were published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study included 2,377 long-term North American insulators and 54,243 male blue collar workers with no history of exposure to asbestos from the Cancer Prevention Study II. Causes of death were determined from the National Death Index.

Among non-smokers, asbestos exposure increased the rate of dying from lung cancer 5.2-fold, while the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure increased the death rate more than 28-fold. Asbestosis increased the risk of developing lung cancer among asbestos-exposed subjects in both smokers and non-smokers, with the death rate from lung cancer increasing 36.8-fold among asbestos-exposed smokers with asbestosis.

Among insulators who quit smoking, lung cancer morality dropped in the 10 years following smoking cessation from 177 deaths per 10,000 among current smokers to 90 per 10,000 among those who quit. Lung cancer rates among insulators who had stopped smoking more than 30 years earlier were similar to those among insulators who had never smoked.

There were a few limitations to the study, including the fact that smoking status and asbestosis were evaluated only once and that some members of the control group could have been exposed to relatively brief periods of asbestos.

“Our study provides strong evidence that asbestos exposure causes lung cancer through multiple mechanisms,” said Dr. Markowitz. “Importantly, we also show that quitting smoking greatly reduces the increased lung cancer risk seen in this population.”

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Asbestos exposure, asbestosis, and smoking combined greatly increase lung cancer risk