Blog Archives

‘Groundbreaking’ cure for deadly asbestos-related cancer could be near

By Eric Gaillard, Reuters.com

Reuters-Eric Gaillard

Reuters / Eric Gaillard

A Kiwi professor has developed a new treatment that has already saved one man’s life and could possibly help thousands more defeat mesothelioma – an aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The disease results in death shortly after diagnosis.

ADRI researchers teamed up with a Sydney-based biotech company, EnGenelC, to use a “futuristic new drug delivery system that relies on nanotechnology and guiding antibodies.” Using animal models, human mesothelioma tumors have been treated with antibody-guided minicells containing microRNA mimics – a combination dubbed TargomiRs.

“We have found an amazing inhibition of tumor growth. The results were far in excess of what have been seen with other experimental therapies in this model, and we are very excited about it,” ADRI senior researcher Dr Reid said.
Putting the microRNA inside nanocells was pretty much like using a Trojan horse, Dr Reid told ABC Australia.

“A nanocell is a delivery vehicle. You can package basically anything in there that you like, so a chemotherapy drug — or in our case a mini-gene — and then it’s injected into the body.” 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 Drilling Mud: When the Mud Is Deadly

By Heidi Turner, http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com

Asbestos lawsuits often involve construction workers and employees who were exposed to products that were packed with asbestos, but some asbestos lawsuits involve drilling mud. Although drilling mud itself does not sound particularly harmful, according to lawsuits filed by people who worked with the substance, asbestos was used as an additive to drilling mud, putting people who work with the mud, such as mud engineers, at risk of asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos Drilling Mud: When the Mud Is DeadlyOne such lawsuit was filed in Louisiana state court, but removed to federal court in 2013. That lawsuit (Bridges et al v. Phillips 66 Co. et al., case number 3:13-cv-00477) was filed by 10 plaintiffs who allege they were exposed to asbestos, including handling asbestos and breathing it in, while working for a variety of companies including Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., and Shell Oil Co.

The plaintiffs further allege they developed illnesses related to asbestos exposure because of their work for those companies. They claim the companies knowingly used products that contained asbestos and, despite having information about the risks associated with using asbestos, continued to use those products.

Asbestos exposure has been a highly contentious area of litigation. Over the course of a career, employees could be exposed to asbestos from a variety of employers and product makers. Furthermore, symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses may not arise for decades after the exposure.

Among the illnesses linked to asbestos exposure are asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Drilling mud is used to keep the drill bit cool and to flush the well hole. It is usually mixed on-site, with asbestos mixed directly into the drilling mud because of its heat-resistant quality. Many workers, however, may not have realized the additive they were mixing into the drilling mud was toxic. They may have mixed the asbestos without wearing proper safety gear or taking proper measures. Read more

Mr Fluffy health crisis: Canberra family faces asbestosis diagnosis

Mr. FluffyBy 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

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

Asbestos Bill Invades the Privacy of Victims and Veterans | Commentary

By Susan Vento, http://www.rollcall.com

Since at least the early 1900s, the lethal risks of asbestos exposure have been known — and intentionally hidden from — American workers and their families by companies of all sorts whose bottom lines were more important than the well-being and very lives of their workers.

For many years, asbestos companies have lobbied at the state and federal levels to erode the constitutional and legal rights of those workers diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis and cancers caused by asbestos. Now they are lobbying Congress once again to delay and deny medical bill payments to those who are sick and dying.

The FACT Act is not about transparency at all. It requires the unbelievable disclosure on a public website of asbestos victims’ personal information, including the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, information about their finances, their children and other sensitive material that could subject them to identity theft and possible criminal mischief. The bill is completely one-sided — asbestos companies have no such “transparency” requirements. Read More

 

Asbestos Exposure, Asbestosis, and Smoking Combined Greatly Increase Lung Cancer Risk

-American Thoracic Society (ATS) via ScienceDaily

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. Read More

Jury awards more than $30 million to family in asbestos death

| AP Business Writer

The award is believed to be the largest in New Jersey for mesothelioma, an aggressive lung cancer, said the lawyer, Moshe Maimon.

The disease killed 50-year-old Mark Buttitta in 2002, although he had only handled auto parts containing asbestos while working summers at giant GM warehouses in New Jersey, Maimon said…..

National Infrastructure Decay Underscores Asbestos Crisis

Aging Structures Highlight Asbestos Complications in Renovation, Repair

Syracuse, New York 2/08/2008 07:52 PM GMT (FINDITT)

Recent reports of national infrastructure problems have illustrated a potential crisis in the coming years as antiquated asbestos fixtures will have to be removed to comply with federal guidelines.

Infrastructure may not be high on the list of perceived threats to our country’s safety and security but attention to the problem is gaining momentum following a slew of accidents in the summer of 2006, including a Manhattan steam pipe rupture and the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Few people realize however, that these infrastructure maladies are much more widespread and preventing their remedy in many cases is the complications of asbestos. While most asbestos-containing materials were banned nearly three decades ago, they still remain in most buildings that contained them originally. When these materials are left undisturbed and intact, they are generally harmeless. As they age however, they break down slowly, becoming increasingly more dangerous…

Full Story at TransWorldNews

Asbestos exposure will kill 300 workers a year: survey

Illness in B.C. from deadly fibres epidemic, union says

Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun

Published: Tuesday, February 05, 2008

About 300 construction workers in B.C. will die of asbestos-related diseases each year for the next five years, according to a survey by the B.C. and Yukon Building and Construction Trades Council.

The survey, which among other things concluded that workers in the province’s insulation industry have had heavy exposure to the deadly asbestos fibres, is supported by a Canadian physician involved in mesothelioma research and a professor in the University of B.C.’s school of environmental health.

WorkSafeBC also said Monday that although their claim numbers aren’t as high as those in the survey, asbestos-related deaths are spiking and now represent most of the deaths in B.C. from occupational disease.

For the whole story visit The Vancouver Sun