Blog Archives

Kittens rescued from asbestos filled abandoned home

By Lauren Pullen, http://globalnews.ca/

kittensIt’s a dangerous place to call home, but a pregnant cat in Oliver chose the roof of a dilapidated, asbestos filled house as the birthing place for her litter of kittens.

Sparrow the one-eyed cat gave birth to her kittens in April. She refused to bring them down from the roof and spent the next ten weeks bringing them food and caring for the young critters. But when a neighbour found out the home was set to be demolished in the coming weeks, she jumped into action to save the animals, calling local non-profit rescue group AlleyCATS Alliance.

With the dangers faced going into the home, the rescue group knew it couldn’t save the cats alone, and called on crews from Total Restoration in Penticton to help. Read more

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Jury Awards Woman $13 Million for Asbestos Exposure

By Brian Melley, Associated Press

talcum powderA Los Angeles jury awarded $13 million to a 73-year-old woman who contracted a deadly disease from using asbestos-containing talcum powder manufactured by Colgate-Palmolive Co.

Jurors deliberated for two hours Tuesday before finding that New York-based Colgate was 95 percent responsible for Judith Winkel’s mesothelioma, a fatal lung disease, according to her lawyers. The verdict included $1.4 million in damages for her husband.

Winkel’s lawyers said she got the rare cancer from using Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder.

“This is an example of the legal system exposing what a company should have been honest about 50 years ago,” attorney Chris Panatier said. “Judith Winkel only wanted a jury to hear the truth about this product and hopefully to help others who are similarly exposed.”

While billions of dollars have been paid in verdicts and settlements to people sickened by exposure to asbestos, it’s often in cases related to use of the mineral in construction materials or insulation. Tiny fibers of the carcinogen can be breathed in and lodge in the lungs, leading to fatal illnesses such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The Food and Drug Administration conducted a study more than five years ago that found no asbestos in cosmetics it tested containing talcum powder. However, the agency said there’s been concern about asbestos contamination in talc since the 1970s. Some studies have shown a possible association between use of talc powders and ovarian cancer but have not conclusively linked the two, the agency said. Read more

DIY home renovations and asbestos – a dangerous mix

Posted by http://www.thefifthestate.com.au/

asbestos-exposureOn the eve of National Asbestos Awareness Day, the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia had warned of a “third wave” of exposure to asbestos, as DIY home renovations spike in popularity.

Friday, 28 November, marked National Asbestos Awareness Day, where groups came together to pay tribute to the thousands of Australians who have died from asbestos-related diseases. However, the day also exists to remind the community of the present threat asbestos poses.

Currently, 600 mesothelioma cases are reported a year, and this is expected to rise to more than 900 cases a year by 2020, with the National Health and Medical Research Council estimating that more than 25,000 Australians will die from mesothelioma over the next 40 years.

“There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres,” Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia president Barry Robson said.

“In the past, the first wave of people affected by asbestos-related diseases were those exposed to fibres in the mining and manufacturing process and their families. Then came the second wave, which were people exposed to fibres from using products in the workplace.

The foundation is warning of a “third wave” of asbestos-related diseases that will include people renovating homes without the proper precautions. Read more

Suburban asbestos deaths blamed on ‘factory of death’

By Ruth Lamperd, Herald Sun

Wunderlich AsbestosMORE than a dozen deaths in a Melbourne suburb have been blamed on an asbestos factory where children once played in piles of the deadly dust.

But the catastrophic effects of the Wunderlich factory in Sunshine North have not been revealed to residents despite owner CSR paying compensation to victims.

A five-month Sunday Herald Sun investigation can today reveal the tragic toll of Melbourne’s “factory of death”, which shut in 1983.

INTERACTIVE SPECIAL REPORT: DEVIL IN THE DUST

At least 16 people who grew up within 1km of the plant — none of whom worked there — have died of asbestos-related diseases, the latest on Thursday. Another eight are known to be sick.

Residents said that on some days asbestos would swirl in clouds above the suburb and a white powder would cover windows and car dashboards in the factory’s peak years from the 1950s until the 1970s.

Allan Brander grew up in a street north of the Wunderlich factory and spent many weekends riding his bike over hectares of waste.

His son, Damian, said his father died a painful death last year, five months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Read more

Contact the journalist: ruth.lamperd@news.com.au

“The disease ate him alive. If I grew up there I’d be concerned about my health now,” Mr Brander said.

State official fired after improper asbestos cleanup


BY Jordan Schrader, http://www.thenewstribune.com

prison

The state has fired the supervisor of an inmate work crew that used shoddy and potentially dangerous work practices in cleaning up asbestos, records show.

The Department of Corrections earlier paid a more than $70,000 fine and closed down its asbestos abatement program.

The agency deployed a crew of about eight male inmates from Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Littlerock in June 2013 to remove and dispose of 4,000 square feet of old vinyl floor tiles and adhesive in a dining area of the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Purdy.

In charge was Gary L. Baldwin, the head of the asbestos program. Baldwin is a 19-year veteran of the agency with 15 years as a certified asbestos supervisor and a clean record of performance evaluations.

At times, the inmates didn’t wear proper protective equipment or soak the dry material in water to keep dust out of the air. The crew continued working even after realizing the air-circulation system couldn’t be turned off, and it missed a spot while putting up a barrier around the dining area.

“Your actions potentially placed offenders, employees, and yourself at risk of life threatening diseases and death, as well as placed the agency at an enormous risk of future liability,” Danielle Armbruster, assistant director of DOC’s Correctional Industries, wrote in a letter dismissing Baldwin.

The agency provided the April 15 letter in response to a records request.

Baldwin is appealing the decision, the agency said. Attempts to reach him last week were unsuccessful.

When questioned by investigators, he alternately described what was done as common practice and blamed inmates for failing to follow procedures they had been taught.

Educational program executives sentenced for exposing high school students to asbestos

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, http://legalnewsline.com

Two former executives from a now-defunct nonprofit organization were sentenced to prison on Monday for exposing as many as 80 Merced County high school students to asbestos in an attempt to cut corners in asbestos removal.

Patrick Bowman and Rudy Buendia III pleaded no contest to federal charges of violating federal asbestos laws in May.

Bowman, who was also a teacher with the Valley Community School in Los Banos, Calif., served as Firm Build’s board president and coordinator of the Workplace Learning Academy, and Buendia was the nonprofit’s construction project site supervisor.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill of the Eastern District of California sentenced Bowman to 27 months and Buendia to 24 months in federal prison.

Joseph Cuellar, Firm Build’s former administrative manager, was also charged but filed a motion to withdraw his no contest plea, which was later denied. As a result, O’Neill gave Cuellar’s counsel until May 15 to file additional motions before moving forward with sentencing.

Firm Build had a contract with the Merced County Office of Education to provide job training and work experience programs to local “at-risk” high school students from the Workplace Learning Academy. The program was intended to teach trade skills to students as young as 14 years old.

The students would work for part of the school day and receive school credit for their work. Some were paid minimum wage for the work they performed, Bowman’s plea agreement states.

Instead, the trio knowingly used to students to remove asbestos during a demolition and renovation project at Castle Commerce Center’s Automotive Training Center, located at 2245 Jetstream Drive in Atwater, from September 2005 to March 2006.

The “defendants falsely represented that Firm Build, Inc. intended to perform a renovation construction project … with no disturbance or removal of any asbestos containing materials, including flooring, insulation and piping, when, in truth and fact, defendants knew that the renovation and construction project would involve the removal of asbestos containing materials,” the indictment states.

During the construction work, students and employees removed and abated between 700 and 1,000 linear feet of asbestos-containing pipe insulation.

The students were required to remove asbestos-containing materials without first learning proper removal methods and were not provided appropriate respiratory protection.

Job Coach Joe Gudino testified that they would cut through the insulation and pipes and let them drop to the ground, creating dust. He added that the insulation was “crumbly.”

Students also cut out the insulation, dragged it to dumpsters and removed the remaining dust with dustpans. They also occasionally used sledgehammers to remove pipe insulation and then used their hands or shovels to dispose of the material in dumpsters.

Job Coach Angelo Gonzalez testified that employees and students put the asbestos-containing insulation in garbage bags and wheelbarrows and disposed of it in dumpsters, which were picked up by the Central Valley Disposal to take to regular landfills.

According to court records, the men knew the building had asbestos in it when they negotiated the lease. Read More

Iowa’s asbestos inspectors overloaded

By Jason Clayworth, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

contained asbestosA contractor’s complaint has prompted closer scrutiny of possible asbestos exposure involving workers at a downtown Des Moines renovation project, but an inspector doesn’t even visit hundreds of sites across Iowa each year where workers could face risks from the cancer-causing material.

The routine lack of asbestos-handling inspections at construction sites in Iowa and across the nation represents a widespread failure to protect the public, environmental safety advocates say.

In Iowa, one inspector enforces U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asbestos removal regulations and oversees as many as 4,500 asbestos removal projects each year. Another inspector must try to enforce federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration asbestos regulations.

“It’s safe to say that enforcement of asbestos regulations nationwide is abysmal,” said Brent Kynoch of the Environmental Information Association, a group based in Maryland focused on health hazards in buildings, specifically asbestos.

“There are no budgets with either the state or federal governments to put the kind of inspection staff out there that we really would require to enforce the regulations,” Kynoch said.  Read More

Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries deny, delay asbestos, hazard claims, suits, insiders allege

By Mark Greenblatt, Scripps News

 

For months, mysterious white flakes and construction dust fell on Nancy Lopez’s desk in the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, Mo.

No question the debris was worse after renovation crews worked the weekend. But really, the mess was getting out of hand. On that Monday in 1983, Lopez grabbed a rag and started dusting.

The impeccably dressed young administrative assistant finished tidying her office and set to work. Unknowingly, she had brushed off her desk, into the air and into her lungs deadly asbestos fibers.

Those tiny fibers stayed with Lopez for decades, and, in 2009, at age 54, she learned she was dying from mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer. She sued the construction company and the county for negligence and punitive damages.

Lopez didn’t realize her suit would eventually pit her against the empire built by acclaimed investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. of Omaha, Neb., has become one of the most powerful forces in asbestos and pollution litigation in the world.

Berkshire’s reach has grown so vast that if you or a loved one files an asbestos- or pollution-related lawsuit in America, like Lopez, you’re likely to encounter a Berkshire subsidiary.

Scripps interviewed more than 20 sources — some confidential — reviewed dozens of lawsuits and spoke with former insiders, who all allege the Berkshire-owned companies that handle its asbestos and pollution policies — National Indemnity Co. and Resolute Management Inc. — wrongfully delay or deny compensation to cancer victims and others to boost Berkshire’s profits. In multiple cases, courts and arbitrators have ruled that the Berkshire subsidiaries’ tactics have been in “bad faith” or intentional.

Through 25 known deals, insurers like American Insurance Group, CNA Financial Corp. and Lloyd’s of London have paid Berkshire to assume their risk for tens of billions of dollars in future asbestos and pollution claims. Read More

Temple City disposes of more than 700 public documents due to asbestos contamination

By Zen Vuong, http://www.pasadenastarnews.com

The City Council passed a resolution Tuesday declaring seven filing cabinets’ worth of public records “toxic” and had a contractor dispose of the infected files on Wednesday.

The documents were contaminated with asbestos dust or friable asbestos, so safety was a concern, said City Attorney Eric Vail.

“Because paper is porous, there’s no way to save the paper, and they essentially become toxic,” Vail said. “You’d have to have someone in a hazardous material suit scanning the documents (if you want to preserve them). It’s very costly and it’s also very dangerous.”

City staff provided the public with a 36-page list of 759 documents that Alliance Environmental Group, an asbestos removal service, removed from the city’s premises on Wednesday. Documents are listed in categories such as permits, agreements (with companies), city charter, legal and conflict of interest.

The list includes “original certificate from Secretary of State declaring incorporation of the City of Temple City” and “Sunnyslope Water Company versus City of Temple City,” which is categorized under “legal.”

While exposure to tiny, flexible asbestos fibers causes some people to develop health problems, others are unaffected, reported the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Health dangers include chronic respiratory disease or lung, stomach and kidney cancers.

The public would misplace their concern if they worried the disposal of public documents dating back to 1964 and extending all the way to December 2012 is questionable, Vail said.

Other lawyers who specialize in public freedom of information rights are skeptical.

“Destroying documents that are less than two years old sounds like it violates the spirit of the public records act,” said Don Zachary, an attorney and adjunct professor at USC. “On its face, it sounds like this municipality is ignoring that reality in an effort to be super safe with regard to the asbestos dust.” Read More

 

Short-term asbestos exposure triggers mesothelioma

Reported by http://www.survivingmesothelioma.com

The recent death of a British man from mesothelioma is evidence of the destructive power of asbestos – even when exposure is short.

A British newspaper reports that Welwyn resident Roger Beale first began experiencing a classic symptom of mesothelioma, shortness of breath, nearly 4 years ago. Beale first noticed the problem while walking up stairs. After a chest X-ray, Beale’s symptoms were attributed to a chest infection.

But when his symptoms continued to worsen, Beale sought medical care again in January, 2010 and was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, an intractable cancer of the lung lining that is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. By November of 2010, Beale’s shortness of breath had gotten worse, despite regular monitoring and treatment and he died at the age of 67.

Although mesothelioma is alarmingly common in the UK, the region with the world’s highest per capita rate of the cancer, Beale’s case was unique. To his knowledge, his only known exposure to the asbestos dust that triggered his mesothelioma occurred in 1967 for only two to three days. It was during that time that Beale worked in a factory where he was required to cut asbestos with a circular saw. Without protection, Beale likely inhaled a substantial amount of the deadly asbestos dust that is the primary cause of mesothelioma. Read More