Blog Archives

US cleanup would leave some asbestos in contaminated town

By Matthew Brown, Associated press

LibbyA long-delayed cleanup proposal for a Montana community where thousands have been sickened by asbestos exposure would leave some of the dangerous material inside houses rather than remove it, as government officials seek to wind down an effort that has lasted more than 15 years and cost $540 million.

Details on the final cleanup plan for Libby, Montana, and the neighboring town of Troy were to be released Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Health workers have estimated that as many as 400 people have been killed and almost 3,000 sickened by asbestos dust from a W.R. Grace and Co. vermiculite mine that operated outside Libby for decades.

Asbestos-containing vermiculite would be left behind only where it does not pose a risk of exposure to people, such as underground or sealed behind the walls of a house, EPA Libby team leader Rebecca Thomas said.

“You might have vermiculite in the walls. But as long as it’s sealed within plaster or behind drywall and nobody can breathe it, it does not pose a risk,” Thomas said.

Some residents worry the material eventually would escape. An EPA research panel concluded last year that even the slightest exposure to asbestos from Libby can scar lungs and cause other health problems. Read more

A Slippery, Asbestos Slope

By Ginger Christ, ehstoday.com

skiingThe EPA is requiring an Idaho ski and snowboard park owner to clean up debris contaminated with asbestos after the company improperly demolished buildings on its property.

Gateway Parks LLC in January 2014 purchased property next to its existing park near Eagle, Idaho, to expand operations.

The company in May 2014 had an asbestos inspection completed on eight buildings on the new site in preparation of demolition of said buildings. Asbestos was found and the consultant submitted a bid for abatement, which Gateway Parks rejected.

Gateway Parks instead in mid-2014 demolished some of the buildings without safely removing the asbestos or notifying the EPA. Read more

W.Va. Senate unanimously passes asbestos trust claims act

By Chris Dickerson, http://legalnewsline.com/

The West Virginia Senate on Friday unanimously passed Senate Bill 411, creating the Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act and the Asbestos and Silica Claims Priorities Act.

The bill, which was sponsored by Kanawha County Republican Senator Tom Takubo, establishes legal standards and procedures for the handling of certain asbestos and silica claims. Additionally, the bill establishes medical criteria procedures, statute of limitations standards, and requires disclosure of existing and potential asbestos bankruptcy trust claims.Asbestos Tape

“As a pulmonary doctor, I’m pleased that the Senate voted today with full bipartisan support to protect funds for West Virginians who are affected by asbestos-related injuries,” Takubo said. “We must ensure funds are healthy five to 10 years from now to help pay for medical bills and family expenses, and this legislation will allow us to do that.”

Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson), Senator Ryan Ferns (R-Ohio), Senator Ed Gaunch (R-Kanawha) and Senator Jeff Mullins (R-Raleigh) also were sponsors of the bill.

“This bill would promote honesty in litigation and help juries reach fully informed decisions as to the cause of a person’s asbestos-related disease,” Carmichael said. “Other states have laws similar to this one, including our neighboring state, Ohio. 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.

Asbestos removal starts at Clovis ‘haunted house;’ demolition to follow

BY Bonhia Lee, http://www.fresnobee.com/

hauntedasbestosMotorists driving by Wolfe Manor in Clovis will see some activity at the “haunted house” this week — not the paranormal kind, but enough to stir up some curious spirits.

Asbestos removal in the nearly century-old house, which was once used as a Halloween attraction and featured on a number of ghost investigation television shows, began Monday, paving the way for demolition of the building early next month.

The city of Clovis has forged ahead with plans to clean up the 1.25-acre property, southwest of Sierra Vista Mall on Clovis Avenue, after trying to work with owner Todd Wolfe on giving the house and the land a new life.

“We’ve been working with Mr. Wolfe for at least the last five years to do something with this site,” said John Holt, Clovis assistant city manager. “Ultimately, he was either unwilling or unable to either have investors put money in the project.”

Wolfe, however, is still trying to sell the house and even offers to donate it for free to the right buyer who is willing to move it. If all his efforts fail, he hopes to at least be given some time to salvage anything of historical value from the house so he can sell it later.

“We thought we had more time,” Wolfe said.

Clovis designated the house “unsafe to occupy” about two years ago. Then the city’s Board of Appeals declared the vacant house a nuisance last year and a danger after finding 22 building code violations.

The city described the structure as “unsightly and in a state of disrepair.” The roughly 5,000-square-foot house had excessive “cracking, peeling, chalking, dry rot and warping.” Read more

Rottnest Island: Asbestos confirmed in material found near holiday villas

By Nicolas Perpitch, http://www.abc.net.au/

asbestosislandIt said it was of very low risk, but the Australian Medical Association said that response was not good enough and all asbestos should be removed from the island’s accommodation.

Perth man Donovan Pryor last week alerted the authority to the substance, which he found outside bungalows in the Bathurst area, north of Thomson Bay.

The authority fenced off the area and sent samples to the mainland for testing.

It now says it has been advised the substance was white asbestos.

It said the material was intact and non-friable, and in this condition, it was of very low risk to anyone staying in the units or passing by.

Acting chief executive Greg Ellson said Rottnest is safe for visitors.

“Our first concern is the safety and peace of mind of our visitors,” he said.

“When this material was reported, we acted immediately to fence off the area.

“As a precaution, the site was fully remediated using a licensed asbestos management operator the following day.”

Mr Ellson said it was “regrettable that media reports have alarmed the public in this instance”.

The confirmation the material is asbestos comes despite comments by the authority’s chairman, John Driscoll, last week that all known asbestos from buildings on the island was inert and “not a threat”. Read more

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.

Why Is Asbestos Still Killing People?

asbestosis of the lung

By Nic Fleming, http://www.psmag.com

Health fears associated with asbestos were first raised at the end of the 19th century. Asbestosis, an inflammatory condition affecting the lungs that causes shortness of breath, coughing, and other lung damage, was described in medical literature in the 1920s. By the mid-1950s, when the first epidemiological study of asbestos-related lung cancer was published, the link to fatal disease was well established.

“Asbestos-related diseases disproportionately affect working-class people in semi-skilled or unskilled jobs, their relatives, and others who lived near the factories. There was this tremendous death toll but it didn’t have big repercussions because they were ‘just working-class people.”

Yet in 2012, rather than falling, worldwide asbestos production increased and international exports surged by 20 percent. A full ban did not come into force in the U.K. until 1999, and the European Union’s deadline for member states to end its use was just nine years ago. Today, asbestos is still used in large quantities in many parts of Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America, while even in the U.S. and Canada, controlled use is allowed.

The remarkable endurance of this magic mineral turned deadly dust is a complex tale. One of scientific deception and betrayal, greed, political collusion, the power of propaganda, and, above all, the willingness of some executives to knowingly subject hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people around the world to severe illness and even death in the pursuit of profit.

You may not have to look hard to find asbestos where you live or work. Many buildings still have asbestos-based components, including pipe insulation, decorative coatings, ceiling boards, fireproofing panels, window in-fill panels, and cold water tanks.

Research into precisely how asbestos causes mesothelioma and other forms of lung cancer is ongoing. The fibers are so small that most can only be seen under a microscope. Billions can be inhaled in a single day with no immediate effect, but longer-term the consequences can be deadly.

The fibers can become lodged in the lining of organs such as the lungs, causing damage that interrupts the normal cell cycle, leading to uncontrollable cell division and tumor growth. Asbestos is also linked to changes in the membranes surrounding the lungs—the pleura—including pleural thickening, the formation of scar tissue (plaques), and abnormal collections of fluid (pleural effusion).

“There is absolutely no doubt that all kinds [of asbestos] can give rise to asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma,” says Paul Cullinan, professor of occupational and environmental respiratory disease at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London. “It’s probably the case that white asbestos is less toxic in respect to mesothelioma than the amphiboles. The industry tries to argue that you can take precautions so that white asbestos can be used safely, but in practice, in the real world, that is not what is going to happen.”

This is the firm scientific consensus. But not everyone agrees.

“One of the first things that strikes you when you look at asbestos is just how long ago it was discovered to be toxic,” says Geoffrey Tweedale, former professor of business history at Manchester Metropolitan University. Following a U.S. legal case in 1995, Tweedale and fellow historian David Jeremy obtained a copy of the T&N company archive. They studied the almost one million documents and Tweedale went on to co-write two books on asbestos and the industry.

What this extraordinary collection of internal papers showed was how much some senior figures in the asbestos industry knew about the damage they were causing to their workers, and how their response was to launch a campaign of scientific concealment and distortion, and public misinformation that dates back over 80 years and continues today.

In 1927 a doctor called Ian Grieve wrote a detailed study of the health of workers at the J.W. Roberts asbestos textile plant in Leeds. He used X-rays to confirm his evaluation that the hand-beating of asbestos mattresses for locomotives (to remove lumps) could cause asbestosis within five years. A government inquiry set up a year later found that a quarter of workers with five or more years of experience in asbestos textile factories had fibrosis, rising to half of those who had worked in the industry for 10 years. Regulations on dust control, medical surveillance, and compensation were introduced in Britain in 1931.

Two years after Grieve’s findings, executives from U.S. asbestos companies Johns-Mansville (the owners of the Jeffrey Mine) and Raybestos (a manufacturer of automotive parts) asked Metlife, the country’s largest insurer, to investigate whether the mineral was an occupational hazard for workers at five textile mills. It was found that only 17 of 108 male workers studied and three of the 18 women were free of asbestosis. These results were not published. Read more

After 24 Years, Program Employing Inmates for Asbestos Removal Comes to an End

By Rick Kornak, http://www.mesothelioma.com

Washington state’s Department of Corrections (DOC) has put an end to a 23-year-old program that employed inmates for asbestos abatement projects.

Although the DOC has claimed the matters are unrelated, the program’s termination comes not long after a recent investigation by the Department of Labor and Industries, which found that seven crew workers at the Washington Corrections Center for Women may have inhaled asbestos-containing dust in June, 2013. The work involved two nine-hour shifts of removing contaminated floor tiles.

“They were allowing the workers to be exposed to asbestos,” said Elaine Fischer, a spokeswoman for the Department of Labor and Industries. Although the amount of exposure is unclear, Fischer pointed out that any inhalation of asbestos fibers can be detrimental to one’s health. “There’s no minimum safe amount of exposure,” she said. Inhaling airborne asbestos fibers can lead to a variety of respiratory health problems, including fatal afflictions, such as mesothelioma.

The DOC was originally fined $141,000 for the violations, but this amount was halved when the agency agreed to do additional training and purchase more equipment. The inmates were trained and certified for asbestos removal, but the investigation done by the Department of Labor and Industries led to the discovery that proper procedures were not being followed at all times. The contaminated material was not always wet down, as it should be, and masks, gloves, and other protective equipment was worn inconsistently. Read More