More summaries from ADAO’s annual conference

April 3, 2008

Thanks to Jessica Like of the Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute for these additional summaries.

Session 4: Global Contamination and Advocacy
Barry Castleman, ScD, Environmental Consultant
U.S. Developments: Legal/ Judicial

Dr. Barry Castleman is without doubt the utmost authority on asbestos – its use or rather abuse – and its hazardous effects on humanity.  Dr. Castleman quickly summarized the developments on the Ban Asbestos Act which was unanimously passed through the Senate in October 2007.  What later came to light were significant changes amounting to asbestos allowance in products up to 1% by weight and providing no limitations on liability for those companies using asbestos in products.  Giving the audience some enlightenment on the legislative process, Dr. Castleman speculated that the bans changes may have appeased the committee in charge of sand and gravel amongst other appeasements in order to pass unanimously.

He reiterated the need for reasonable substitutes to be enacted quickly and better analysis to determine the presence of asbestos. In a humorous aside to the audience, Dr. Castleman asked for any insight on two specific lines in the ban which apparently have everyone baffled as to what the language actually means.  Due to time constraints, Dr. Castleman summarized his points quickly and it was unfortunate there was not more time to hear his opinions on the ban.

Dr. Bishakha Ghose, Head, Department of Community Medicine BGC Trust Medical College Chandanaish Chittagong, Bangladesh
Asbestos in Shipbreaking: A Deadly Reality in Bangladesh

US citizens have a reputation from remaining unaware of how our actions affect people throughout the world.  Dr. Ghose brought the message home to us as she discussed shipbreaking, a common job for workers in Bangladesh which brings retired ships into the shallow harbors and ports in order to slowly break them apart and reuse the materials.  Images of shoeless workers with white dust up to their knees and in their hair standing on beaches in front of ships whose hulls had been cracked apart by the workers flew across the screen.

Clearly these laborers who perform no easy task are largely exposed to asbestos, but Dr. Ghose informed the audience that the country does not acknowledge asbestos-related diseases and maintains that the work is safe and good stimulus for the economy.   More emphasis should be placed on the far-reaching affects of asbestos products.  We may be well aware of first-hand and second-hand exposure to smoking but with asbestos, everyone who comes into contact is at risk – first, second, third, fourth-hand exposure, etc. is just as deadly.

Robert Jones, Environmental Researcher Rhodes University
Trail of Tears: South African Communities at Risk from Environmental Exposures

A few years ago Robert Jones transplanted his family from Maryland to South Africa, a mid-life crisis he jokes.  But Mr. Jones decided to study and bring awareness to the environmental exposures South African communities are facing with asbestos.

Poignant pictures of small children in asbestos-laden schools, walking along asbestos-contaminated roads, to return home to their asbestos-filled homes highlighted the health risks many of these communities face.  Crocidolite, blue asbestos, is visible among the paths that locals use daily.  The rampant asbestos contamination (strewn across thousands of square kilometers) is due in part to the poor containment strategies of local mines and also the inadequate planning of local communities.  As an example, Mr. Jones referred to a school with known asbestos contamination that was slowly deconstructed brick by brick, scattered among the soil which was the site of the new school that took its place, hardly effective removal of the asbestos from that environment.

Mr. Jones is working with the community to create a safer environment and a better knowledge of the extant of the environmental hazards.

Laurie Kazan-Allen, Coordinator, International Ban Asbestos Secretariat
Global Panorama 2008

It would be impossible to miss the energetic Laurie Kazan-Allen anywhere, and she was in her element at the conference.  Ms. Allen is the Coordinator for the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, providing a conduit for information exchange between groups and individuals working to achieve a global asbestos ban and seeking to alleviate the damage caused by widespread asbestos use.

Quick to point out how asbestos industries have controlled the information on asbestos-related diseases, Ms. Allen quoted an article where an industry employee reiterated that asbestos does not cause health problems.  Her passion to raise awareness about asbestos and the despicable actions by companies who knowingly cover up the harmful effects of asbestos is unmatched.

Killing the Future

Ms. Allen works tirelessly to bring about a global ban and she updated the audience on a recent successful conference in Brazil where she was instrumental in bringing groups together to discuss the problems of asbestos and brainstorm solutions.  She praised the work of Dr. Barry Castleman, as well, a well established authority on asbestos and outspoken advocate who may be glimpsed at any asbestos conference around the nation.  Ms. Allen’s latest compilation, “Killing the Future: Asbestos Use in Asia” exposes the far reaching devastation of asbestos throughout Asia and is an eye-opener for anyone who has never stopped to wonder what happens to asbestos-contaminated products circulated throughout the world or sent abroad to be destroyed.


Japan: 45 more cases linked to asbestos exposure

March 31, 2008

TOKYO, JAPAN: A further 45 people have been confirmed with health problems after exposure to asbestos from a former factory site in Ota Ward in Tokyo, the ward office said Saturday (29 Mar).

One man in his 70s died in October of pericardial mesothelioma–a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos–and seven other people developed health problems after inhaling asbestos, according to the ward office.

Read complete story here.


French company hit with fines, prison, for poisoning workers

March 13, 2008

The Court of Appeal in Douai, northern France, has upheld the decision to fine a power generation equipment manufacturer that exposed its workers to harmful asbestos dust. The ruling is a first in France, as the company was also ordered to pay damages to all employees exposed to the risk, regardless of whether they had been directly affected or not.

From 1998 to 2001, workers at Alstom Power Boilers’ site in Lily-lez-Lannoy were exposed to asbestos dust in what the court described as a “deliberate violation” of the firm’s health and safety obligations. The list of Alstom’s failures included not providing sufficient information for workers regarding protection from the harmful substance.

As a result of sustained exposure, seven of the company’s employees died, and 30 per cent of the workforce developed some form of asbestos-related disease. On Thursday, 6 March, the French Court of Appeal ruled to uphold Alstom Power Boilers’ €75000 fine – the maximum penalty available. However, former plant manager Bernard Gomez, had his suspended prison sentence reduced – from nine months in the original judgement at the court of Lille in September 2006 to just three months. His €3000 fine was upheld at appeal.

In December last year, civil proceedings saw Alstom ordered to pay €10,000 in damages to each one of the 150 workers who were employed on the site during the three-year period.


Ford Motor Company appeals record asbestos judgment in Australia

March 12, 2008

Ford Australia has lodged an appeal against a landmark decision to award a former mechanic $840,000 compensation for exposure to asbestos when he worked at Ford car dealerships. Antonino Lo Presti, 58, was the first motor mechanic in Australia to win a successful negligence verdict against a car company for exposure to asbestos, last month in the West Australian Supreme Court. Mr Lo Presti used compressed air to blow out the brake drums and handled asbestos brake linings when brakes were serviced or changed between 1970 and 1971 at two Ford dealerships he worked at.

Complete story here.

Information about mesothelioma medical and legal options provided by the Law Office of Roger G. Worthington, P.C., www.mesothel.com.


Epidemiology of mesothelioma in South East England: multimodal treatment increases survival times

March 12, 2008

This study describes trends in the incidence of mesothelioma for men and women in South East England and the geographical variation at the level of primary care trust. It also describes treatment patterns by cancer network of residence, and relative survival by cancer network, disease stage and treatment modality.

5753 cases were extracted from the Thames Cancer Registry database. Men had five times higher incidence of mesothelioma than women. In men, there was an overall 4% increase per year between 1985 and 2002. Over the same period, the overall increase in incidence for women was 5% per year. The incidence was highest in men aged over 70 years and men aged over 80 years had the highest increase of 8% per year. The incidence rate ratio increased for men born between 1892 and 1942 and started to slow for those born from 1947 onwards. Areas along the Thames and its estuary had the highest incidence. There was some variation by cancer network in the proportion of patients receiving cancer surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. There were no discernable difference in relative survival by cancer network of residence or disease stage but those receiving combined treatment had higher 5 year survival.

Mesothelioma incidence has increased in South East England, particularly for men aged over 70 years. The highest incidence occurs along the Thames and its estuary reflecting areas of asbestos use in shipbuilding and industry in the past. More research is needed to understand the interrelationships of prognostic factors, treatment choices, and survival and to determine the best care and support for these patients and their families.

From PubMed: Thorax. 2007 Aug 3; The epidemiology and treatment of mesothelioma in South East England 1985-2002, Mak V, Davies EA, Putcha V, Choodari-Oskooei B, Moller H., King’s College London School of Medicine at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals, United Kingdom.

Information about mesothelioma medical and legal options provided by the Law Office of Roger G. Worthington, P.C., www.mesothel.com.


Mesothelioma science news update

March 12, 2008

1. Extrapleural pneumonectomy versus pleurectomy/decortication in the surgical management of malignant pleural mesothelioma: results in 663 patients
2. Occupational asbestos exposure and asbestos consumption in Korea
3. A conditional mouse model for malignant mesothelioma
4. Malignant mesothelioma in the Veneto Region (northeast Italy), 1988-2002
5. Defending the indefensible: chrysotile asbestos, 1912-2007


Asbestos study reveals exceptionally high mortality rate, mesothelioma among women

August 16, 2007

Click here for full Asahi Shimbun story

It was shocking enough to learn two years ago that dozens of workers had died of asbestos-related diseases at the former Kanzaki plant of Kubota Corp. in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture.

Then came word that many residents living or who had lived near the plant were dying from asbestos-related mesothelioma.

There was worse to come.

In May of this year, the Environment Ministry issued its first report on the health hazard, resulting in another “Kubota shock.”

Survey results showed that the mortality rate for women who lived near factories in Amagasaki that used asbestos was an incredible 68.6 times the national average.

Factory risk

Amagasaki has a population of 460,000. As an industrial hub, the city experienced rapid growth in the early Showa Era (1926-1989), during which Japan experienced devastating war and vigorous economic recovery.

The former Kubota plant was located in the Oda district near JR Amagasaki Station, which sprawled 3.3 kilometers east to west, and 2.3 km north to south.

The district is a melange of factories, residential homes and commercial facilities. It is one of the city’s busiest commercial districts.

According to the government survey, the ratio of Amagasaki residents who died from mesothelioma from 2002 to 2004 was 14.5 times higher than the national average for women and 12.1 times higher for men.

The figures were especially high for residents living in the Oda district: 68.6 times the national average for women and 21.1 times that for men.

The figures for the Chuo district, neighboring Oda, were 18.3 times for women and 5.7 times for men. There was a marked tendency for the mortality rate to be higher in areas closest to the factory.

Mesothelioma is an extremely rare form of cancer that can take 40 years to develop after inhaling asbestos fibers. For people who have never been exposed to asbestos, the rate of infection is roughly one or two in 1 million.

The Environment Ministry survey covered some 180,000 people who were tracked down from address records. During the three-year period, 42 had succumbed to mesothelioma.

Doctors suspected that at least 10 deaths were caused by “environmental exposure”–inhaling asbestos particles through the general environment high in atmospheric asbestos concentration.

The fact that women, who rarely work in jobs that expose them to the toxic substance, and who live in the Oda district, had a high mortality rate strongly suggests that the general atmosphere was filled with deadly asbestos fibers.