Congress finally probes link between pharma and researchers

October 16, 2008

Asbestos in particular, and science in general, have long been characterized by corrupt associations between researchers dependent on funding and pharmaceutical companies dependent on positive research outcomes in order to win FDA approval. The funding effect–a statistically bulletproof, demonstrable relationship between the funding source and a positive research outcome–is so well known that all reputable medical journals require funding source disclosure by researchers prior to publication.

Excellent books like “Doubt is their Product” by David Michaels and “Bending Science” by McGarity and Wagner explore this in detail.

Senators Grassley and Kohl have decided to probe more deeply for information about the financial links between researchers and companies that manufacture cardiovascular medical products. Story reported by the NYT.


Asbestos rife in Australia’s indigenous public housing

May 30, 2008

Asbestos has been found in run-down public housing and buildings in remote communities in the Northern Territory, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said last night. Tradespeople working in the communities raised concerns to the Government about the asbestos in August last year. But the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs waited two months to investigate.

Read the whole story here.

MN Governor inks cancer study

May 8, 2008

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty approved a $4.9 million dollar study of mesothelioma and taconite worker’s health Monday, after reaching a compromise with Range legislators. The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed at least 58 miners’ deaths due to mesothelioma.

W.R. Grace tries to define its way out of asbestos poisoning

April 17, 2008

This important news involving WR Grace and asbestos illustrates why the definition, diagnosis, and treatment of asbestosis and asbestos cancers should be on a clinical basis rather than a geological basis. W.R. Grace is trying to escape its liability for poisoning an entire city by claiming that what is asbestos now was not legally asbestos then.

This type of semantic gamesmanship clearly shows why asbestosis and asbestos cancers are what should define asbestos fibers, not a Congressional definition or legislative fiat. When certain materials cause death under defined clinical conditions, they are asbestos. The industry’s disingenuous claim, that even though the substance kills it belongs (or should belong, or might belong, or once belonged) to a different mineralogical nomenclature and is therefore beyond the reach of regulation, is horrific.

Anything less than a complete ban on asbestos continues to hold open the door for death motivated by greed. The asbestos industry plays to win. So must we.

Death rattle for Canadian chrysotile industry?

April 15, 2008

This story from yesterday’s Sherbrooke Record is a must-read for anyone interested in the pathos, misinformation, and outright dishonesty that still drives the asbestos industry. With mere annual sales of 200,000 tons per year, and unable to compete with paragons of worker safety like Russia, Brazil, China, and Zimbabwe, the chrysotile mines in Canada are slated for closing.

This article briefly touches on the dangers of chrysotile, notes that it has been banned worldwide with few exceptions, and closes with a moving discussion of the industry’s efforts to save asbestos mining through the most cynical ploy imaginable: as a crucial aspect of workers’ rights! There are no discussions of other workers’ rights such as health, occupational safety, or the right not to be exposed to lethal carcinogens, which the article grudgingly admits that chrysotile may perhaps possibly be.

For anyone who thinks that the global asbestos industry is dead, this article clearly lines out who the major players are, their strategy for selling in poor countries, and their attempt to circumvent science with fraudulent pretensions to concern for the job security of laborers. Incredible!

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.

Paul Zygielbaum letter to Congress regarding Ban Asbestos Act

April 3, 2008

Advocate, mesothelioma survivor, and businessman Paul Zygielbaum’s fax to the House Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials. Click here to read the Zygielbaum Letter to Congress.