Archive for October, 2011

Asbestos Containing Materials

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Asbestos has been a highly desirable material for more than 2000 years for its fire-retardant qualities. Although lung problems were noticed in ancient Greece and by Roman slaves who wove asbestos into cloth, it wasn’t until 1924 that the first diagnosis of “asbestosis” was made following the death of a 35-year-old woman who had been working with asbestos since she was 13 years old. In the 1920’s and 30’s, medical journals began publishing the results of studies that showed links between asbestos and cancer. Since then, governments around the world have implemented laws and regulations to protect their citizens.  However, companies around the world are still manufacturing products that include asbestos or are handling products that still contain it.

Today many workers around the world are still being exposed to mesothelioma-linked materials. In Minnesota, a team of health professionals is studying deaths caused by mesothelioma among workers who mined asbestos-laced taconite in the Iron Range. These professors from the University of Minnesota have shown the incidence of death from cancer to be considerably higher than normal. They recently increased the total of deaths in 2010 to 82 from the previous 63, after tracking workers who left the state and later died from mesothelioma.

Within the same week, a group of former Scottish ship workers were successful in their case against several insurance agencies that were trying to avoid compensating the workers for damages associated with exposure to asbestos in the shipyards. The companies were attempting to overturn the Damages Act of 2009 (an Act of the Scottish Parliament), which allows patients suffering from pleural plaques to file claims for compensation. These pleural plaques are malformations of lung tissue that develop around asbestos fibers and may later develop into mesothelioma. The insurance companies claim that the pleural plaques present no symptoms and therefore cause no physical harm, therefore requiring no compensation, as damages are nonexistent. Advocates of the act claim that the compensation is necessary, as many of these patients are aware that their condition could may develop into mesothelioma, requiring a great deal of expense to cover mesothelioma treatment and therapy.

In Australia, a group of shipyard workers complained that the ship they were working on contained a large amount of asbestos in the gasket material. The workers claim to have been exposed for up to 24 hours. Apparently the boat, a tugboat, was built in China, where uses of asbestos are frequent.

So far, some industries’ regulations of asbestos use have not accounted for the reality that China and other countries are  mining asbestos and exporting it. A combination of inconsistent regulations, global trade and the challenges of enforcement make it very difficult to protect workers in some areas and industries around the world.


Chrysotile Asbestos and Vermiculite

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

In recent years, Do-It-Yourself home improvement projects have become more popular. Homeowners are using the Internet to educate themselves on how to do anything from electrical work and small plumbing projects to drywall repair. Unfortunately, many homeowners are unaware of the potential risks of exposure to asbestos. While some homes today do contain some asbestos, little attention is given to the potential dangers because undisturbed, asbestos-linked materials may pose little or no risk to health.

According to the EPA, 70% of all vermiculite sold in the US between 1919 and 1990 came from a mine in Libby, Montana, which was later discovered to be contaminated with asbestos. When tearing down walls or working in the attic, disturbing vermiculite insulation may result in exposure to asbestos. If you have a question about whether your insulation is vermiculite, visit the EPA’s website on vermiculite, where they have photos showing the various forms of vermiculite insulation.

Some older homes contain vinyl floor tiles, which also contain chrysotile asbestos. When left alone, this form of asbestos poses little risk, because it is sealed inside the mastic, or adhesive matrix. However, when these vinyl floor tiles are removed without proper precautions, asbestos may be released into the air. When taking on a DIY project that involves the use of mesothelioma-linked materials, it is also important to consider asbestos disposal.

There are, in fact, many uses of asbestos in construction materials. Asbestos is still used as an additive to some cement mixes, as well as certain roofing tiles. With DIY projects on the rise, people working in older homes may inadvertently damage an asbestos-containing material. For that reason, it is critical that all DIY projects start with research and planning. If you have any questions about mesothelioma or the uses of asbestos, visit our mesothelioma and asbestos FAQ page.


Palliative Care for Mesothelioma

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Victims of mesothelioma face a number of challenging symptoms that can make an already difficult process even more stressful. Fortunately, good quality palliative care may help relieve or at least manage many of these symptoms. Palliative care is care designed to make patients as comfortable as possible.

Dealing with pain is often an unfortunate part of mesothelioma. However, pain can sometimes be successfully managed with pharmacological therapy that follows the World Health Organization’s pain ladder, a stepped approach to pain medication that is based on the severity of pain and the source of the pain. A good pain management plan is an important part of mesothelioma therapy and should be designed by a pain management specialist.

Shortness of breath and fatigue are other common symptoms that can sometimes be helped through a variety of treatments. Medications and/or oxygen are sometimes used to treat shortness of breath. Relaxation, changes in position can also sometimes make a difference. Nutrition, stress management, or exercise may help alleviate fatigue, depending on the reasons behind the fatigue.

Mesothelioma patients sometimes develop dry mouth as a result of dehydration, medication or treatment side effects, depression, anxiety or dehydration. Whatever the cause, dry mouth can be relieved in a number of ways. When appropriate, increasing fluids can help. But sometimes, dry mouth persists. In that case, sucking on ice chips or Vitamin C tablets, chewing gum, or using an air humidifier can all help alleviate a dry mouth.

Loss of appetite is another common problem with patients suffering from mesothelioma. Nutrition is a big part of a mesothelioma patient’s overall well being. Loss of appetite can result in loss of weight, which can complicate and exacerbate some symptoms. Eating smaller, more frequent meals that are high in calories and protein can help maintain a patient’s balanced nutritional Intake.

Cancer patients can also encounter problems with their skin. Itchy or dry skin, rashes, sores and ulcers can all be part of a cancer patient’s reality. Drinking plenty of water and using adequate moisturizers can help dry skin. A bath filled with baking soda can sometimes reduce itching. Clean sheets and towels free from heavy detergents will help as well.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may want to spend some time reading our mesothelioma blog and mesothelioma articles. Being informed is one of the best strategies for planning quality palliative care.


MARF Mesothelioma Awareness Day

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

September 26th was National Mesothelioma Awareness Day, and all over the country, groups and organizations planned events to call attention to the disease mesothelioma and pay tribute to its victims. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation started Mesothelioma Awareness Day in 2004.

According to Maja Belarmic, the foundation’s Director of Outreach, the disease is not getting the attention it deserves because of its rarity. The foundation hopes to raise money to fund research, develop better treatments, and hopefully a cure. Currently, the most effective approved mesothelioma treatment may extend life for an average of three months.

Not only have there been few breakthroughs in the early detection and treatment of mesothelioma, but also the likely cause of mesothelioma, asbestos, is still relatively widespread. According to the foundation, the nation is likely to see an increased rate of cases as a result of the September 2001 collapse of the Twin Towers, which released hundreds of tons of asbestos into the air. While asbestos presents little danger when left undisturbed, when asbestos fibers become friable (released into the air), they can then be inhaled into the lungs, where then can cause great damage depending on the type of asbestos, length and level of exposure and other factors.

While the last four decades have seen regulations with regard to the handling and uses of asbestos, asbestos is not banned in the United States, a fact that has been a point of debate.

In 2007, “Meso Awareness Day” raised over $4 million dollars toward research and treatment of the disease. The day has gained momentum every year since it’s beginning, so this years fundraising is likely to well exceed that amount.

In some cases, victims have developed mesothelioma as a result of working in industries affected by mesothelioma. In these cases, victims are sometimes awarded settlement to help compensate for expensive medical bills, as well the pain and suffering incurred by the victim and their loved ones. To find out more about possible compensation for victims of mesothelioma, visit our Mesothelioma Victim’s Rights page or fill out our online form, and we will be in contact with you as soon as possible.