By Tara Culp-Ressler, http://thinkprogress.org
Several brands of crayons and toy detective kits have tested positive for asbestos, a knowncarcinogen, according to a report released this week by an environmental group that’s advocating for the government to crack down on the substance.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund partnered with two independent laboratories to test for asbestos in crayons and children’s crime scene fingerprint kits purchased at national retailers. Four brands of crayons and two crime scene kits came back positive with trace elements of the substance — even though toy manufacturers have previously promised to make sure their products are free from the potentially harmful material.
Products that tested positive for asbestos were all manufactured in China and imported to the United States. The toys essentially contain microscopic asbestos fibers that children may end up inhaling as they use them.
The risk of asbestos exposure from the products tested — which include crayons marketed with the popular characters Mickey Mouse, the Power Rangers, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — is relatively low. But environmental researchers and health experts argue that children shouldn’t be around asbestos all, particularly since the government has acknowledged there’s no “safe” level of exposure.
“Asbestos in toys poses an unacceptable risk to children,” Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrics professor at Mt. Sinai Hospital, explains in the EWG Action Fund’s report. Landrigan used to be a senior adviser to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on children’s environmental health. Read more
By Matthew Brown, Associated press
A 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
By Dane Placko, FOX 32 News Investigative Reporter
A southwest suburban contractor is suing the city claiming it hid dangerous asbestos buried under a construction site.
The site is now a police station on the near South Side at 14th and Blue Island.
The 12th District Chicago police station has been open for two years. However, the battle over what was discovered underground will rage on.
Fox 32: you call this an act of fraud?
“I did. And we do. We believe they fraudulently induced Harbour contractors to enter into the contract,” said attorney Charles Lewis.
Lewis represents Harbour contractors of southwest suburban Plainfield, which has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the Public Building Commission of Chicago. That agency, which is headed by the mayor and made up of political appointees, is in charge of building and financing new construction for the city of Chicago and Cook County.
In 2010 the Public Building Commission, or “PBC,” awarded Harbour a 20-million dollar contract to build the new police station at 14th and Blue Island, on the site of the old ABLA public housing project.
The PBC said that the site had been inspected by an environmental company and nothing dangerous was found. But soon after construction began, a subcontractor employed by Harbour discovered underground heating pipes wrapped in cancer-causing asbestos running throughout the property. Read More
An Illinois federal judge has barred a plaintiff alleging asbestos-induced lung cancer from relying on the any exposure theory at trial.
Judge John Z. Lee delivered the Dec. 22 opinion in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, rejecting the any exposure theory.
Defendants Crane Co., ExxonMobil Oil Corporation, Owens-Illinois, Inc., and Marley-Wylain Company requested the court to exclude the any exposure theory and to bar plaintiff Charles Krik from calling certain witnesses at trial who plan on relying on the any exposure theory in their testimonies.
Lee explained that the any exposure theory “posits that any exposure to asbestos fibers whatsoever constitutes an underlying cause of injury to the individual exposed.”
Krik claims he developed lung cancer as a result of asbestos exposure and sought to present testimony from experts Dr. Arthur Frank, Dr. Arnold Brody and Frank Parker, who intended to testify that each and every asbestos exposure caused the claimant’s lung cancer.
While the court denied the defendants’ motion to bar certain witnesses, Lee granted their request to exclude the any exposure theory. He concluded that Krik failed to establish that the any exposure theory is sufficiently reliable to warrant admission.
The court applied the Daubert factors when determining the issue of asbestos injury causation.
Applying the Daubert factors, the defendants argued that the any exposure theory is speculative and is not scientifically reliable because it ignores a “fundamental principle of toxicology – that the ‘dose makes the poison.’”
They added that the any exposure theory “allows a plaintiff to skirt this fundamental principle by wholly bypassing the dosage requirement.”
Krik, on the other hand, claimed the methodology used in the any exposure theory was proper.
He argued that Illinois law does not require plaintiffs to quantify their individual exposure levels in order to establish causation.
Lee wrote that even though Krik and his experts have acknowledged that asbestos-induced lung cancer is a dose-responsive disease, the plaintiff still intended to have his experts testify that any exposure to asbestos, regardless of dosage, is sufficient to cause an asbestos related disease.
Lee also notes that Krik failed to offer any expert testimony explaining how much asbestos exposure he actually experienced and whether the dosage was even sufficient enough to cause his disease.
“Krik’s argument that a single exposure or a de minimis exposure satisfies the substantial contributing factor test under Illinois law incorrectly states the controlling law: it is not that de minimis exposure is sufficient, but that more than de minimis exposure is required to prove causation,” he wrote. “Krik’s argument, therefore, is unavailing.”
Instead, the claimant relied on the any exposure theory to prove causation for lung cancer, a disease with many causes ranging from asbestos exposure to cigarette smoke.
Furthermore, the any exposure theory is inadmissible because Krik’s experts failed to base their opinions on facts specific to this case, the judge ruled. Read more
Posted by http://www.thefifthestate.com.au/
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
By Alex Strauss, http://survivingmesothelioma.com/
There is new evidence that some wine-making practices could increase the chance of developing malignant pleural mesothelioma. Italian researchers are reporting the first case of mesothelioma in a person whose only known exposure to asbestos was in the winemaking business.
The man worked for an Italian winemaker from 1960 to 1988. According to the authors of the new report, the winemaker treated the wine for impurities using a filter made of asbestos. As authors Alessandro Nemo and Stefano Silvestri of Florence’s Institute for Study and Prevention of Cancer explain, “The filter was created by dispersing in the wine asbestos fibers followed by diatomite while the wine was circulating several times and clogging a prefilter made of a dense stainless steel net.”
Drs. Nemo and Silvestri report that the asbestos exposure which probably triggered the man’s mesothelioma could have occurred during the mixing of dry chrysotile asbestos fibers into the wine as well as during the filter replacement. The researchers had to estimate the average level of the patient’s exposure and the cumulative dose since winemakers do not typically monitor airborne asbestos fibers.
Although this is the first mesothelioma case associated exclusively with the winemaking business, asbestos exposure in winemaking is not unheard of. Since 1993, the Italian National Mesothelioma Register has recorded 8 cases of mesothelioma where the patient spent at least part of his working life in the winemaking business. Read more
By Emma Macdonald, http://www.canberratimes.com.au
At least one Canberra family is grappling with a family member being diagnosed with asbestosis – the likely result of exposure to Mr Fluffy asbestos which they installed in their home in the 1970s – while other families are having health checks for potential lung damage.
Meanwhile, anger over ACT government inaction on the issue is mounting among Mr Fluffy homeowners who believe their contaminated houses present a sleeping giant of potential cancer cases.
The Mr Fluffy Owners and Resident’s Action Group – which has over 300 members since setting up last month – has provided a “community voice” section on its website to allow victims to express their fears without risking their anonymity.
Catherine (no last name provided) wrote of her experience having Mr Fluffy installed in her home in 1976 after “being assured it was mineral wool and definitely not asbestos. When we decided to extend our home in 1985 and this blue fluffy stuff blew all around the house, we discovered it was asbestos and we became homeless with our four kids for over three months while the asbestos was partially removed and the rest sealed into the roof cavity.”
The home was part of the $100 million federal government remediation program in the late 1980s. Catherine said the family moved out in 2000 and the house was burnt down in the bushfires of 2003.
“We have recently discovered that one member of the family has asbestosis – some calcification of the lungs – and is waiting to see a pulmonary specialist. We would be very interested in being part of a class action against the Commonwealth government and wonder why there has been no attempt at finding and prosecuting Mr Fluffy for causing such a huge environmental and public health disaster.” Read more
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
By Patricia Sullivan, http://www.washingtonpost.com
Residents of one of Alexandria’s largest affordable apartment complexes grilled federal regulators, local authorities and their landlord Saturday over the discovery of asbestos during renovations of their homes, angrily asking why it took three months for officials to halt the work.
Owners of the 530-unit Hunting Point on the Potomac, formerly Hunting Towers, received a rare stop-work order from the Environmental Protection Agency last week after inspectors discovered asbestos in the floors, doors and windows. The agency also found that workers were not taking legally required precautions.
During four visits to the 63-year-old complex since the beginning of the year, EPA officials found crumbling asbestos in apartments, halls and trash areas where windows and floor tiles are being replaced. No notice of the danger was posted, the EPA said, and workers did not seal the area to protect residents. No certified supervisor was on the job, nor were workers certified in the task of removing hazardous materials. The EPA has ordered testing for airborne asbestos fibers.
The stop-work order is an unusual action by the EPA; only five a year are typically issued, and they rarely involve occupied apartment buildings, an EPA spokeswoman said. Read More