Archive for February, 2012

Asbestos: More Prevalent Than You Think

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Given the overwhelming evidence of asbestos’ harmfulness to human health and its connection to the deadly disease mesothelioma, many United States citizens are under the impression that by now, asbestos has been phased out of most domestically-produced materials. However, many people are not aware that the 1989 EPA ban on many asbestos products was successful appealed and radically altered in 1991 by the U.S. Fifth Court of Appeals.

According to the EPA on this webpage, “Newspaper and magazine articles, Internet information, and currently available (but outdated) documents from the EPA and other federal agencies may contain incorrect statements about an EPA asbestos ban.” As a result, many products produced or imported for use in the U.S. construction industry may still contain asbestos.

So what materials are banned in the U.S.? The Clean Air Act bans the use of most sprayed-on asbestos containing materials using more than 1% asbestos. It also bans preformed and wet-applied asbestos pipe insulation. The Toxic Substances Control Act also bans corrugated paper, commercial paper, rollboard, specialty paper, flooring felt, and any new uses of asbestos. There are many products, however, that were originally scheduled to be phased out by 2008, are no longer banned under TSCA. These include certain asbestos cement materials, asbestos clothing, asbestos transmission materials, roofing felt and roof coatings. The EPA throughly addresses these matters and more in the document entitled, “Asbestos Strategies: Lessons Learned About Managerment and Use of Asbestos,” published in 2003.

And how much asbestos is being used annually in the U.S.? Well, according to the EPA, in 2001, the U. S. imported roughly 13,100 metric tons of asbestos, mostly from Canada. According to one of the report’s graphs showing the uses of asbestos in 2001, the large majority (9,250 metric tons) of asbestos is used in roofing products. This is followed by 2300 tons used in gaskets. Friction products, coatings, compounds, and other products incorporate the remaining 1/20 of uses of asbestos in 2001.

When it comes to the EPA and mesothelioma, the EPA makes clear some troubling factors. First, they note that asbestos is perhaps the most well-researched toxic substance. Second, they admit that not only are the current restrictions likely not sufficient to adequately protect the health of workers and consumers exposed to asbestos, but also the current enforcement of the existing ban is also insufficient. In their clarification of the asbestos ban and phase-out, the EPA advises, “The EPA does NOT track the manufacture, processing, or distribution in commerce of asbestos-containing products. It would be prudent for a consumer or other buyer to inquire as to the presence of asbestos in particular products.” We will be looking further into this topic in future blogs.

Breakthrough Mesothelioma Case

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

On February 13, 2012, the Italian court announced a verdict that may have an impact on people and families around the world who are dealing with mesothelioma. Billionaires Stephan Schidheiny and Jean-Louis de Cartier, key shareholders in the company Eternit, a producer of fiber-reinforced cement, were each sentenced to sixteen years in prison for the failure to comply with safety regulations in their factories’ uses of asbestos. This class action law suit is being touted as the most significant suit yet, because criminal charges were actually placed on the owners who benefited from the profits of the negligent factories.

Invented in the late 19th century, fiber-reinforced cement products, generally containing a mixture of cement and asbestos, has been favored in construction for it’s relatively light weight along with its resistance to fire and water. Production of this material has reduced significantly since the public has been aware of the risks of exposure to friable asbestos.

Prosecutors in the Eternit case claimed that at least 1,800 people died as a result of asbestos-related diseases in the town of Casale Monferrato, where the largest of the company’s factories was located. According to some reports, the company conducted its asbestos disposal in the open, releasing clouds of friable asbestos into the air to settle and collect on the town’s streets. They also gave left-over asbestos to families to use at home. When evidence of the dangers of asbestos began to surface, the company apparently concealed it and continued harmful practices, intending to protect the company profits.

In addition to facing criminal charges, Schidheiny and de Cartier were ordered to pay €95 million (about $126 million US dollars) to families of the victims, as well as large sums to other entities and organizations, including trade unions and the town of Casale. This is a clear victory for asbestos awareness groups and advocates of mesothelioma victim’s rights.

One of the biggest challenges facing groups dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos is the inconsistency among trading nations in their asbestos laws and regulations. Many workers rights groups, environmental advocates, and asbestos awareness groups are hoping this case will have positive global impact on this issue.

 

Diagnosed with Mesothelioma?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Most people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma have gone to the doctor because of troubling or persistant symptoms. If the doctor suspects that a patient has mesothelioma, he or she will use certain tests to determine with certainty whether mesothelioma is actually present.

Symptoms of mesothelioma can easily be mistaken for symptoms of other illnesses, especially early on. As a result, many people are not diagnosed until symptoms have persisted for several months or have gotten noticeably worse. Symptoms of mesothelioma depend on the type of mesothelioma and vary from individual to individual. According to current medical knowledge, peritoneal mesothelioma, which takes place in the lining of the abdominal cavity, may include swelling and or pain in the abdomen, weight loss, vomiting and nausea. Pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs, on the other hand, is more likely to cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, sweating, isolated pain, muscle weakness, persistant cough, and fatigue. These symptoms may not all present at the same time, and are much more likely to the result of other problems. Only a series of exams can allow a doctor to determine the presence of mesothelioma.

In addition to a physical exam, your doctor may want to conduct one or more other tests. Imaging tests, such as tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), make it possible to look inside the body and identify cancerous masses. Blood tests can identify if certain substances are at characteristically elevated levels. Buildup of fluid in certain areas of the body can also be an indicator of mesothlioma. Removing and testing the fluid can show the presence of cancer cells. Finally, biopsies can also reveal the presence of mesothelioma. After a diagnosis is made and the extent of the disease is established, a course of mesothelioma treatment and mesothelioma therapy will be recommended.

 

Seeking Legal Help, Part 2 of 2

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

On our blog last week, we looked at why mesothelioma victims sometimes turn to the legal system for help. But many mesothelioma victims are hesitant to take action, because they are unfamiliar with the legal process, and the prospect of dealing with a legal battle may seem insurmountable given their physical condition. In truth, the process is more simple than you may imagine.

First, it is critical to select a lawyer carefully. Be sure that you understand who will actually be handling your case. Sometimes people hire a lawyer, not realizing that their case will be handed off to someone else. Finding this out after the contract is signed can be an unwelcome surprise at a difficult time.

Be sure to inquire into the case history and success record in handling mesothelioma cases. While a great track record does not guarantee success in your case, it does speak to the lawyer’s level of expertise and point to how they have handled similar cases. To better understand the magnitude of some asbestos cases, visit the asbestos lawsuit article.

You’ll also want to consider where your case will be tried. The scope of victims rights to compensation vary from state to state. While some states significantly restrict an injured person’s rights to these claims, other states, such as Texas, are known for speedy and fair trials. Speedy trials are especially important to victims who may have only a few months to live.

Finally, arm yourself with knowledge and support. Provided your health allows, do all the research you can about the causes of mesothelioma, mesotheioma victim’s rights and industries affected by mesothelioma. Research other cases like yours and the results of those trials. Rally your family and friends around you for support. Ask for the help you need (both logistically and emotionally) to take the next step. With the support of family and friends and an excellent lawyer, the resolution of your case may well bring some relief in a very difficult and challenging time. If you want more information about a possible suit or settlement, please fill out our online form.