Posts Tagged ‘asbestos’

The History of Asbestos

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Although archaeologists have found evidence of asbestos almost 3000 years ago, the first known common uses of asbestos occurred in ancient Greece. The fibers were frequently woven into the clothing made for slaves until the fire resistant properties of the material became known. At that point, asbestos material quickly became regarded almost as valuable as gold. The Greeks also used asbestos fibers in royal clothing, table linens, and insulation for ovens. The ancient Romans were also aware of the material’s properties, using asbestos in construction, head dressings, and in table linens. The Romans would toss soiled napkins into the fire and then remove them to reveal the clean surface. The dangers of asbestos were also documented at this time. In fact, a Roman doctor named Pliny the Elder noted that the slaves who worked in asbestos mines developed a “sickness of the lung” which may well have been mesothelioma.

The history of asbestos shows that uses of asbestos began to decline after the fall of Rome. It was not until the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s that use of asbestos really took off on a global scale. As more factories were opened, asbestos was commonly used as insulation against the high temperatures generated by the steam-powered machines. Asbestos was also used to insulate pipes, turbines, ovens and kilns. As the demand for asbestos increased, more asbestos mines were opened, and by the turn of the century, doctors were reporting illnesses of the lungs in mine workers. However, these early health concerns about the material did not slow its use as asbestos was continuously used as an insulator in the construction of trains, ships, and automobiles. It was also used in housing construction in siding, cement and insulation.

As early as the 1920’s, medical research began to show a link between asbestos and certain types of cancer. Some asbestos manufacturers took actions to hide the truth about mesothelioma-linked materials from public awareness. However, in the 1970’s the dangers of asbestos finally became known to the public, and the U.S., along with many other countries, began to create and enforce regulations that limited the use of asbestos in the interest of public health.

Unfortunately, people who worked in the industries affected by mesothelioma did not find out about their own illness until decades later. Mesothelioma victims often experience no symptoms until decades after their exposure to asbestos. By the time a diagnosis is made, victims of mesothelioma sometimes have only months to live. While taking legal action against negligent companies was initially difficult due to the many years between exposure and symptoms, courts in many states can be sympathetic to the needs of mesothelioma victims and generally supportive of their right to compensation.


Possible New Mesothelioma Treatment

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

In June of 2011, the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Medicine published the results of promising new research in the treatment of mesothelioma. The study, involving 28 patients, compared the traditional method of extrapleural pnumonectomy (EPP), which involves the removal of a lung, and a unique combination of lung-sparing surgery and photodynamic therapy (PDT). To the surprise of the researchers, the patients who received PDT and lung-sparing surgery have, as a group, shown an unusually long survival rate.

Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer that usually develops in the lining of the lungs called the pleura. Initially, mesothelioma tends to develop slowly, usually developing 10 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Because mesothelioma presents few symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage, the large majority of patients are given less than a year to live.

In this study, 14 of the 28 patients studied received a traditional course of mesothelioma treatment. Because the malignant cells can envelope the entire lung, the traditional EPP method of treatment involves a combination of lung removal, chemotherapy and radiation. After treatment, this group had an average survival rate of 8.4 months, which is consistent with historical results from this type of treatment. The results of the PDT group, however, surprised researchers.

The 14 patients who received the alternative treatment underwent a less extensive “lung sparing” surgical procedure, which involved the removal of a limited amount of lung tissue. This procedure was combined with PDT, which uses light both to diminish the disease and to stimulate the immune system. PDT, which stops at the tissue itself, is also much less invasive than radiation, which penetrates the entire body. The results of this approach far exceeded the expectations of researchers. In fact, two years after the study began, the median survival rate of this group of patients has not been reached.

The Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program continues to study these and other methods, offering a truly multidisciplinary approach to the study of mesothelioma, mesothelioma treatment and mesothelioma therapy.


Asbestos, Mesothelioma and the EPA

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created by an act of Congress to protect the air, land, and water of the United States.  Since then, the responsibilities of the EPA have expanded to include the protection of US citizens from environmental contaminants. One such contaminate is asbestos, a fibrous mineral linked to Mesothelioma and lung cancer. The EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), have together created regulations and guidelines to promote safe handling of asbestos and asbestos disposal in industries and homes.

The EPA is responsible for enforcing two laws that impact the uses of asbestos—the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Nation Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Asbestos (Section 112 of the CAA) identifies who is required to notify local and state agencies prior to demolition, and in some cases, obtain certification and licensing. This is because disturbing materials that contain asbestos may be more dangerous than leaving them alone, as certain types of asbestos only become “friable” (or airborne) when disturbed.

The TSCA addresses both the regulation of asbestos contamination in public and private schools, and the requirements regarding the use of accredited inspectors and abatement contractors when addressing asbestos remediation in schools, and public or commercial buildings.

In addition to the regulation of asbestos use, abatement and remediation, the EPA provides information to the public on the dangers or asbestos and the proper handling of it. For more on asbestos, mesothelioma-linked materials and asbestos-related health infirmities like Mesothelioma, check out the EPA asbestos webpage.  For more information from the EPA about what to do if you think you might have asbestos in your home, click here.  To find out if your state has training and certification programs for asbestos abatement contractors, call the TSCA Assistance HotLine at (202) 554-1404.



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.


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.

New Chemotherapy Combination

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

In recent years, several clinical trials have shown promising results for the detection and prevention of mesothelioma. Here we will review these treatments and their potential effectiveness.

Chemotherapy is one form of mesothelioma treatment. To date, only one chemotherapy treatment (the combination of Alimta and Cislatin), has gained FDA approval. But new medications on the horizon may bring some good news to mesothelioma patients. A new drug, Onconase, may be one of the very first stem cell medications to make it all the way through clinical trails. This drug has a low toxicity, and is designed to shrink and then eliminate mesothelioma tumors. The FDA has placed Onconase on a fast track for approval because of its potential for helping mesothelioma patients. Yet another promising drug currently in clinical trails is Veglin. Veglin works by stabilizing and shrinking tumors. This drug is currently being tested on patients at the Keck School of Medicine at The University of California.

In addition to chemotherapies, other therapies are showing promise as well. Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy is now being used across the country. This type of radiation is more precise in its delivery, making the treatment potentially more effective. There are also gene therapies under trial that reportedly use genetically modified viruses to stimulate the immune system to kill cancer cells. And photodynamic therapy uses light to kill cancer cells.

When it comes to mesothelioma prevention and early detection, breakthroughs are happening in that area as well. The Fujirebo Diagnostics test, still under research, is the first biomarker test to use a simple blood screen to detect the presence of biomarkers for mesothelioma. Early diagnosis of mesothelioma is important for providing effective treatment, yet it is also a rare occurrence, as most mesothelioma patients do not notice their symptoms until it is too late.

While these research trials show great promise, it may be years before the treatments become available to the public. This is because the approval process is designed to ensure that patients are kept safe from dangerous side effects and that the effectiveness of the drug is proven.

If you would like more information on mesothelioma, its causes, or treatments, you are welcome to review our mesothelioma articles. If you feel we could be of assistance, please complete our online form, and we will be contact with you as soon as possible.


Do Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Differ?

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

A person who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or know someone who is, may have trouble understanding the cancerous condition and how it is distinct from other forms of cancer—in particular, lung cancer. The two forms of cancer are actually quite different. So what, exactly are the differences and what impact do those differences have?

One important difference between lung cancer and mesothelioma is how the two forms of cancer develop. Mesothelioma develops as an interconnected network of many tumors over a large area of tissue. Over time, the boundaries between healthy and cancerous tissue become indistinguishable. The structure and growth pattern of this form of cancer may dramatically limit options for patients receiving mesothelioma treatment. In many cases, removing malignant tissue becomes very difficult, if not impossible, because of the number of masses and the size of the affected area. Radiation works best on smaller areas of tissue, limiting its effectiveness with mesothelioma. Unfortunately, in many cases chemotherapy may not be sufficient to treat the large number of tumors. Eventually, these networks of masses overtake the tissue, limiting the movement of that tissue. Unfortunately, they tend to develop long before they become noticeable to the victim. By the time symptoms from the tumors are noticed, it is often too late for effective treatment.

The structure and growth of lung cancer is very different from that of mesothelioma. With lung cancer, tumors grow as distinct, individual masses, and boundaries of these masses are very clear. This is true even when there are several masses. While these isolated tumors can become very large and just as life threatening as mesothelioma, treatment may be more effective. Because the masses are so distinct, when caught early enough, they can sometimes be surgically removed. Radiation and chemotherapy tend to work better in these cases as well.

Other differences between these two forms of cancer include their rarity and their causes. In general, the incidence of mesothelioma is much smaller than that of lung cancer. Likewise, the causes of lung cancer can vary and overlap (including exposure to pesticides, heavy metals, pollutants, radon, and/or smoking), while mesothelioma causes are generally linked to asbestos exposure.

While there are many differences between these two forms of cancer, the early warning signs (when detected) of lung cancer and mesothelioma may be very similar. If you or someone you know is experiencing unusual and persistent respiratory symptoms, contact a doctor, as early detection may have a very real impact on the effectiveness of treatment.

For more information on mesothelioma, visit our mesothelioma and asbestos FAQ page, or read some of our mesothelioma articles.



Mesothelioma Settlements

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Mesothelioma treatment has shown progress in recent years, including methods that may help extend life expectancy. Although there has been overall improvement in the treatment of mesothelioma, sadly, there is no cure for this devastating disease. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery comprise the most common treatments for mesothelioma. While none of these has resulted in a cure, the most effective treatment for lengthening life expectancy is pneumonectomy. Pneumonectomy involves the removal or a lung or part of a lung along with intensive chemotherapy.

As cancers go, the incidence of mesothelioma is comparatively rare. This fact comes with both benefits and disadvantages. Although this reduces the likelihood of any one individual contracting mesothelioma, the rarity of the disease has also led to fewer research dollars and a generally slow progress towards effective long-term treatment. Many people, however, have found assistance through Mesothelioma settlements.

One key factor in the history of asbestos and mesothelioma settlements is the degree to which major industries knew of the risk to their workers. A study at Harvard University showed that the annual number of mesothelioma cases among males in the U.S. neared its peak in 2000 and was expected to decline to approximately 500 cases per year by the year 2055. The heightened levels of exposure to asbestos in the 1930s through the 1960s coincided with in a spike in mesothelioma many years later. As various industries became aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure, their response to this risk varied. As a result, some industries took the measures needed to protect their workers, while others did not.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you might want to consider talking to a law firm that specializes in mesothelioma to find out whether you are entitled to mesothelioma settlements.  If you have questions, start by taking a look at our Mesothelioma FAQ, or simply contact us by filling out this online form or calling 800-723-3216.


Industries Exposed to Asbestos

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

In the recent past, concern about exposure to asbestos has increased, along with the rise in known incidents of asbestosis, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Statistics have shown that past (and in some cases, current) employment in certain industries has come with an increased risk of asbestos exposure.


In the 1970’s, research showed a probable link between cancer and the use of asbestos in brake shoes, pads and clutch discs. Many automobile assembly workers, auto mechanics, brake repair experts and production workers were exposed to asbestos on a regular basis. Since the 1990’s, the majority of these products have been manufactured with materials that are currently considered non-carcinogenic. However, mechanics working on older model cars may still be exposed to asbestos. The U.S. Department of Labor offers significant information on the history and handling of these and other mesothelioma-linked materials in high-risk industries.

Construction and Demolition

Before the mid-1970’s, asbestos was used in insulation around piping and boilers, as well as a strength-building additive in concrete slabs and pillars.  In even earlier decades, as far back as the 1930’s, asbestos was commonly sprayed onto materials, exposing workers to particles that could be easily inhaled.  While the use of asbestos has been banned in many applications, today, asbestos is still used in roofing tiles, slating and as an additive to cement. Construction and demolition workers may encounter asbestos when working with older materials or certain asbestos containing materials that have been damaged. High-risk jobs have included or may include bricklayers, drywall installers, inspectors, insulators, masonry workers, plumbers, construction workers, plasterers, roofers and other construction-related jobs.


Because of potential exposure to insulation and other construction materials, linemen, powerhouse workers and electricians may be at a higher risk for asbestos exposure. In addition, electrical cloth, panel partitions and wiring could contain asbestos.


In World War II, shipyard workers were exposed to many tons of asbestos, as it was used to line boilers, wrap pipes and cover parts. As a result, U.S. Navy personnel, sailors, laggers, longshoremen and yard workers were commonly exposed to asbestos, resulting in higher-than-average rates of mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases in this group as well.


In the early 1980’s, the U.S. Navy began to shift from asbestos-containing materials to other materials. Prior to this change, asbestos was used in a variety Naval aircraft parts, including insulation and brake linings. Asbestos was released into the air during the installation and handling of insulation, as well as in the use and repair of brakes. Additionally, some epoxies and glues used in aircraft construction also contained asbestos. If the glue or epoxy was disturbed, the asbestos became airborne (or friable).

Other industries that have historically come in contact with asbestos include crane operators, manufacturers, machinists and asbestos textile mill workers. For more information, visit our mesothelioma articles, or our page on the history of asbestos.


Mesothelioma: Asbestos Contamination

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

The media has given a great deal of attention to various consumer products known to contain asbestos and can cause Mesothelioma. However, few people are aware of the potential dangers of asbestos contamination in other products, such as vermiculite and talc.

Vermiculite is a mineral that expands when heated to a high temperature and is lightweight and resistant to odor and fire, making it desirable for use in a number of products such as insulation. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the large majority (more than 70 percent) of the vermiculite used in products between 1919 and 1990 came from a mine near Libby, Montana. Because there was also a deposit of asbestos in the mine, the vermiculite from the Libby mine became contaminated.

Vermiculite insulation is a loose, pebble-like material that was poured into the wall or attic. It is usually grayish brown or silver-gold, and vermiculite pieces vary in size. The EPA advises that, because of the likelihood of contamination, homeowners whose homes contain vermiculite should assume it contains asbestos and refrain from disturbing the insulation to test it. Read our Vermiculite and Mesothelioma articles to have a better understanding of how Mesothelioma can be associated with Vermiculite.

This may include taking extra precautions when moving around the attic or hiring a contractor to do so. For example, if a contractor must do work in the attic, you may want to consider the possibility that insulation could be transferred to other areas of the house through ducts or by traveling on clothes. For more information, you can read the EPA fact sheet on protecting your family from contaminated vermiculite insulation (or en Español – PDF).

Talc is a mineral that is used in many cosmetic and other consumer products. It is present in talcum powder, facial powders, chalk and some crayons. When broken down to a smooth power, talc becomes absorbent and reduces friction. Unfortunately, like vermiculite, talc can also be contaminated when mined from areas that also contain asbestos. Its wide use in skin products made talc a particular concern in the past because it could be inhaled easily. According to the American Cancer Society, all household talcum products are supposed to now be free of asbestos. This requirement has been in effect since the 1970’s.

If you have other questions concerning exposure to products that may contain or asbestos-related diseases, visit our Mesothelioma and Asbestos FAQ or read our Mesothelioma articles.