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Mesothelioma in the News

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Health risks of asbestos are unacceptably high

Dockyard workers file human rights lawsuit against government

Dec 18, 2009



Last Thursday, several dockyard workers filed a human rights lawsuit claiming that their right to life, their right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, their right to a private and family life, and their right to information were infringed by various government bodies.

Continuous and heavy exposure to the three forms of asbestos namely crocidolite, amosite and chrysotile when working at the dockyards has led to medical complications such as pleural effusions, asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma – in some cases followed by death.

Given that the hazardous effects of asbestos have been well-known for decades renders both the withholding of information by the concerned authorities, and the exposure to asbestos that was allowed to happen, particularly shameful and debasing, the suit claims.

The aim of the application is to highlight the responsibility of the defendants with respect to the applicants and their families who for years have now been living in fear and with a substantially reduced quality of life attributable to asbestos exposure.

Dr Juliette Galea and Dr Alistair de Gaetano signed the applications.

In October 2008, the first Maltese judgment concerning exposure to asbestos, which led to the death of a dockworker, was handed down by theFirst Hall Civil Court and is now awaiting an Appeals procedure.
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Mesothelioma Risk Multiplied by Environmental Asbestos Exposure

Posted on Monday, November 30, 2009.

asbestos plantWorking in an asbestos plant has long been linked to an increased risk for mesothelioma, but new research finds that living near one of these plants may also increase a person’s risk of developing the disease. Leftover waste from asbestos facilities may contribute to as many as ten additional cases of mesothelioma each year in neighboring communities, according to a recent study in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.

Given the relative rarity of mesothelioma, the increased risk to people living near an asbestos plant is significant. “This is a substantial increase over the expected incidence, we assume roughly two to three times higher than expected,” says lead study author Alex Burdorf, a professor of Public Health atErasmusUniversity in theNetherlands.

Research has already established a link between on-the-job asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. People who have worked in shipyards and other facilities that process asbestos face a significantly higher risk for the cancer than those in the general population. However the risk to people living near asbestos facilities has been unclear.

“It is a long debate as to whether this environmental pollution may result in additional mesotheliomas,” Professor Burdorf says. “This requires a good method of exposure assessment.” A few previous studies have investigated environmental asbestos exposure by gauging residents’ distance to the plant.

Professor Burdorf and his colleagues decided to try a slightly different approach to get a better idea of mesothelioma risk among people living close to an asbestos-processing plant. They looked at both the number and size of polluted sites, and the number of households that were in close proximity to contaminated areas.

The researchers focused on residential areas close to an asbestos-based cement plant in thevillage ofGoor. Between the 1930s and 1970s, this plant distributed asbestos waste to local residents to harden the ground in their yards and driveways, a practice that left the soil in the area polluted.

The researchers ranked nearby postal areas by their level of asbestos exposure: low (0-1 polluted site), intermediate (2-5 polluted sites), and high (6 or more pollute sites). They also analyzed air samples to determine the concentration of asbestos fibers in the air.

In total, the study identified and included 416 sites with asbestos pollution. Nearly 300 of these sites had asbestos waste material at ground level, where it could increase mesothelioma risk. The postal code areas with the highest level of exposure contained, on average, 33 asbestos-contaminated sites. The researchers also noted significantly higher concentrations of asbestos fibers in the air within 5 meters (16 feet) of asbestos-polluted roads.

The researchers determined that people living in residential areas near polluted sites were being exposed to asbestos concentrations at levels high enough to lead to between two and ten additional mesothelioma cases each year.

In an effort to reduce asbestos exposure, in 2003 the local government launched the Clean Up Asbestos Act – an initiative to remove remaining asbestos from the soil in contaminated areas. Professor Burdorf says that cleaning up asbestos pollution should eventually reduce the number of mesothelioma cases in the area studied. However, because mesothelioma can take decades to emerge after asbestos exposure, the results of this clean-up effort may not be seen for decades.

Driece HAL, Siesling S, Swuste PHJJ, Burdorf A. Assessment of cancer risks due to environmental exposure to asbestos. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. Published online October 28, 2009.



© Surviving Mesothelioma and Cancer Monthly.  All rights reserved.

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Former junior high school coach battling cancer always believed in QHS football team

Quincy High School’s Josh Weisenburger shakes hands with Bill Behymer, who coached most of the current Blue Devils when they played junior high school football, after a recent game. Behymer is currently battling mesothelioma. (H-W photo/Michael Kipley)


Published: 10/22/2009 | Updated: 10/30/2009


Herald-Whig Sports Writer

Brian Lewton knows his phone is going to ring early Saturday morning and his step-father, Bill Behymer, will want to break down theQuincyHigh School football team's regular-season finale at Chatham Glenwood.

"I bet we'll talk for an hour and a half," said Lewton, a member ofQuincy's coaching staff.

That's only if Behymer waits until Saturday to call.

"Sometimes he calls me late on Friday night," Lewton said.

The impatience is understandable.

Behymer still considers the Blue Devils his boys, having coached them in seventh and eighth grade when he planted the notion they could someday win a Western Big Six Conference championship.

At that time, such a notion seemed a little far-fetched.

"My brother played for Quincy High when I was that age, so I don't know if I believed it or not," said junior quarterback Mitch Marold, who helped QHS finished second in the WB6 with a 4-1 record. "But Coach Behymer was the first one to enter that into my mind."

His opportunities to see it happen are dwindling. Behymer is battling mesothelioma, a form of cancer in which malignant cells form in the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall.

Lewton noted the cancer is aggressive by nature, but Behymer is maintaining as much of a normal routine as possible. That includes staying up-to-date with the progress of the QHS football program.

"He's anxious to see what is going to happen this Friday," Lewton said.

Having seen this team up close gave Behymer a feel for what it might accomplish.

Three weeks ago, despite chilly temperatures on a windy Friday night, Behymer bundled himself up in a QHS football jacket and sat in his wheelchair on the track near the north end zone at Flinn Stadium as the Blue Devils dispatched Galesburg 27-14.

Afterward, the players one-by-one stopped to shake hands or hug Behymer as they made their way to the locker room.

"I think it meant a lot to him," senior defensive end Josh Weisenburger said. "I thought I saw his eyes tearing up when he was over there shaking everybody's hands. It meant so much for him to be a part of something like that.

"He's pretty much the one who helped show us we could be as successful as we are today. He was the first one to put in our minds to be a family. He brought us all together."

Together, they showed their appreciation.

"He was so joyful that the kids remembered him and the coaches went up and talked to him," Lewton said. "He was so thankful he was able to share another opportunity out on the football field with the kids. That's really special for him.

"He put the football mentality into those kids."

They haven't forgotten that.

"He means a lot to us since he brought us up from the beginning," Marold said. "It was good to see him out of the house and enjoying it."

Behymer is enjoying the Blue Devils' success as much as anyone, something Lewton discovers every Saturday morning when he answers his phone.

"He's very thankful for the success (QHS coach Rick Little) has had and he knows Rick's been putting the kids in great situations to be successful," Lewton said.

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At $100 a click, Mesothelioma is no cancer on keyword search

Written on October 15th 2009

Author by Gavin Dunaway  |



search.jpgADOTAS - If you asked the average person what word is worth $100, it’s doubtful he or she would quickly reply, “mesothelioma.”However, that mouthful of a word is worth $99.44 for a keyword search on Google last month, according to the AdGooroo “Search Engine Advertising Update: Q309.” Yahoo! offered a far better deal on mesothelioma at $60.68 per click.

For the non-oncologist set, mesothelioma is a form of cancer typically caused by exposure to asbestos. Apparently lawyers searching for victims/potential plaintiffs of the chronic condition have ratcheted up paid-search ads based on lawsuits — it would seem a bit easier than chasing ambulances.

AdGooroo CEO and Founder Rich Stokes also predicted in the report that average cost per click will remain flat through 2010 while top-priced keywords will transpose up and down, which he said suggested industry maturation.

The (just ever so) slightly more common “auto insurance comparison” brought in a modest $55.20 per click on Bing.

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Mesothelioma lung cancer claimsHollywood journalist’s life

2009-10-12 22:57:03 (GMT) ( - Justice News Flash, Mesothelioma Asbestos)

Wiki Image:Army Archerd dies from mesothelioma lung cancer.

World War II Navy veteran and Hollywood journalist, Army Archerd, dies from mesothelioma cancer due to asbestos exposure while serving the U.S. military.

California asbestos exposure alerts-Navy veteran Army Archerd dies from mesothelioma cancer.

Los Angeles,CA–Military veterans, the entertainment industry, and the American press mourn the recent death of Army Archerd, a Navy veteran who served theUnited States military during World War II. Archerd died on September 8, 2009, at the age of 87 from mesothelioma lung cancer that he contracted after exposure to asbestos during his military days. After Archerd served in the U.S. Navy he became a Hollywood journalist and is responsible for setting up the Wilcox Avenue Associated Press Bureau in 1945 inLos Angeles. Unfortunately, like many United States Armed Forces veterans, Arched was unaware of his asbestos exposure and the possibility of developing malignant diseases like mesothelioma lung cancer.

Tens of thousands ofUnited States military personnel who worked with asbestos fibers, while performing their armed forces duties, have been diagnosed with an asbestos related illness or disease. Primary and secondary exposure to toxic asbestos fibers can lead to chronic respiratory conditions like asbestosis and fatal cancers like mesothelioma. A diagnosis of mesothelioma is currently a death sentence because there are no known cures. Doctors and surgeons who specialize in the treatment of fatal cancers like mesothelioma, which can affect the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart, can only treat the symptoms of the disease.

The number of people exposed to asbestos while enlisted in the U.S. Navy and other branches of the Armed Forces are staggering. Naval personnel who served on ships and worked in areas like the boiler room and engine room, where asbestos was used to insulate pipes and equipment to prevent fires, were placed at a higher risk of developing asbestos exposure related illnesses and diseases. Veterans who worked as plumbers, welders, pipe fitters, insulators, boilermakers, and electricians in shipyards and aboard ships were also at high risk of illness and usually were unaware of this risk. TheU.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies have determined no level of human exposure to asbestos is safe.

Typically, after someone has been exposed to toxic asbestos fibers, it takes a minimum of 20 years for the negative affects of the exposure to the material surfaces. Chronic illnesses and lethal diseases like mesothelioma cancer can remain latent for several decades. Some studies reveal as many as 30% of all Americans diagnosed with mesothelioma are veterans who were exposed to asbestos fibers while serving their country.Hollywood journalist and entertainment industry reported Army Archerd was one of the thousands of unfortunate veterans who was repeatedly exposed to the lethal material and was unaware that toxic substance was going to cause his death some 50 years later. TheHollywood reporter who spent his entire life writing for the entertainment industry and wrote the “Just for Variety” column until September 1, 2005, had no idea that even though he survived World War II, his active service days would give him a mesothelioma death sentence. Asbestos also took many other veteran’s lives due to exposure to the toxic fibrous material while serving their country and awarding them with chronic illnesses and fatal diseases. The U.S. Department of Asbestos Affairs does not include mesothelioma on its recognized list of service related medical conditions. Veterans may seek medical care for their asbestos-related disease if they can prove to the government they contracted their illness during their service time.

California mesothelioma and asbestos related illnesses education by legal news reporter Heather L. Ryan.

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Beaumont firefighter survives serious surgery

Captain David Chesser diagnosed with rare form of cancer

July 08, 2009 10:02 AM

Ashley Gaston

Beaumont Fire Captain David Chesser is in ICU at anOmaha,Nebraska hospital.  Chesser was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.  Doctors did several hours of surgery and removed most of the cancer.  They had to remove Chesser's spleen, part of his pancreas and his appendix. 

Captain David Chesser has been serving theSoutheast Texas community for 35 years.  

Beaumont Professional Firefighters Local 399 is sponsoring a benefit raffle to help raise funds to assist Captain Chesser with expenses related to his medical treatment.

Tickets are available from anyBeaumont firefighter or you can contact the Fire Marshal's Office at 409-880-3905 for more information.

Tickets are $5 each and there are seven chances to win one of the following prizes:

1.DeepSea Fishing Excursion for 6

2. Remington 798 30-06 Hunting Rifle

3. Pearson Archery Hunting Bow Package

4. Czech VZ-24 98 Manzer 257 Caliber Rifle

5. One-night Hotel Spa Package for 2 at the Elegante Hotel

6. Sliced Cooked Brisket (Big Rich Courville's)

7. Sliced Cooked Brisket (Big Rich Courville's)

The drawing will take place at Number 1 Fire Station, 747 College, on August 1, 2009. You do not need to be present to win.

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Minnesota Miners Learn More about Mesothelioma Study

by Stephanie Hemphill,Minnesota Public Radio - June 25, 2009

Eveleth, Minn. — About 70 miners and retired mine workers crowded into a meeting room in Eveleth on Minnesota's Iron Range on Thursday. They were there to hear about a major study of lung health in taconite workers, which is just getting underway.

Northeastern Minnesota has twice the expected rate of mesothelioma, a rare, fatal disease that usually attacks the lining of the lung. At least 58 people have been diagnosed with the disease so far.

An early study by the Minnesota Department of Health concluded that the illness was caused by exposure to "commercial" asbestos --- the asbestos used in many industries as an insulation and fire safety material.

But after the Health Department delayed release of new data on mesothelioma deaths, the Minnesota Legislature directed theUniversity ofMinnesota to do a more comprehensive study.

The meeting was one of several being held on the Range to explain the lung health survey that will take place over the next two years.

The U'sSchool ofPublic Health needs to find 1,200 mine workers and 800 spouses to participate. They'll receive physical checkups, breathing tests, x-rays, and blood work to identify any health problems.

This study is looking for problems other than cancer. Many retired miners complain of shortness of breath and other difficulties.

The information gained from this survey will be combined with other studies to try to determine whether the asbestos might be in the taconite ore itself.

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Prayer helped stabilize man’s cancer

Don Merten.jpg

By Claudia Loucks
Don Merten of Geneseo believes in the power of prayer. He was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in May and recently learned his condition had ‘stabilized.’


By Claudia Loucks

Cambridge Chronicle

Fri Jan 02, 2009, 03:58 PM CST

Geneseo,Ill. -

When Don Merten was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, he did not ask, “Why me?” but asked instead, “Why not me?”

After months of chemotherapy treatments inChicago, Merten learned just prior to Thanksgiving that his condition is “stable.” 

He said he has been able to see Christ working in his life throughout his diagnosis and his treatments. He knows he is not cured, and he knows his cancer is not the type to be considered in “remission,” but he said he has been told it is “stable,” and he believes that condition is a Christmas gift from Christ.

“I have always believed in Jesus Christ,” he said.  “When this cancer came, I felt like Jesus was giving me a second chance at life.  I can feel his presence all the time, and that is why I ask, ‘Why not me?’”

In May of this year, Merten developed a cough that he said, “just wouldn’t go away.”
“I was getting short of breath,” he explained.

After a visit to the family doctor, he was put on antibiotics.  When those didn’t help, he made a return visit to his doctor who found, from an X-ray, that Merten’s left lung was filled with fluid. 

That doctor made an appointment for him with a specialist in the Quad Cities.

That visit led to having his lung drained and the exploratory surgery that found the cancer.
Merten and his wife, Karen, are members ofGraceUnitedMethodistChurch in Geneseo, and Merten said his pastor, the Rev. John Davis was at the hospital in the Quad Cities when he received the diagnosis that he was living with a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

When Rev. Davis shared the result of Merten’s exploratory surgery with his church congregation, the prayer chains were activated.

Wendy Boone, the Mertens’ daughter and also a member of Grace United Methodist, said the many prayer chain members within the church spread the word about her dad to others outside the church.

“I could feel the prayers,” Merten said. “I don’t even know how many prayer chains I was on, but it was fantastic.”

Boone, a dental hygienist, said the type of cancer her father has can be dormant for anywhere from 20 to 40 years before it ever surfaces.

“My dad was exposed to asbestos when he served in the Navy, and that was when he was 20 years old,” she said, adding that her dad is now 62.

Boone said the cancer is in the lining of her dad’s lung.

“In a healthy person, the lining of the lung is thin like a grape skin, but in my dad, it was as thick as the skin on a grapefruit,” she said. “That continues to thicken with this type of cancer and eventually keeps the lung from expanding and that is what was making it more difficult for him to breathe.”

Boone said the oncologist in the Quad Cities told the family it would be an uphill battle.  “They did not feel comfortable treating it because they had not seen many cases like his and they sent us to the University of Chicago Hospital,” she said.

Merten began his chemotherapy treatments on June 11, and he made the trip to theChicago hospital once every three weeks for 18 weeks.  Each chemotherapy treatment took about six and one-half hours.  His treatments are now 35 minutes every three weeks. He has a CAT scan every five weeks.

“The heavy rounds of chemotherapy have shrunk the cancer a total of 30 percent,” Boone said.

After not being able to work for about five months at his job in the maintenance department with the Geneseo School District, Merten is now back at work full time.

Boone said when the family first learned of her dad’s type of cancer, she was told by those in the medical field that her dad “would not be here for Christmas.”

“Shortly after we learned of my dad’s cancer, I found a Bible verse that reads, ‘Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain,’ and I know all the prayers out there have helped us learn to dance.

“We believe in the power of prayer,” Boone said.  “The prayers, our faith and our hopes, along with the power of everyone else’s prayers have helped our family.  Many times we were the ones leaning on my dad because we were not strong enough and God gave him the strength to carry all of us.”

“We know we have a Christmas miracle in my dad,” she said.

The Mertens also have a son, Don, of Port Byron.
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Mesothelioma Mortality Should Peak in 2010

By Charles Bankhead, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Published: April 23, 2009


ATLANTA, April 23 -- The mortality benefits of restricting the use of asbestos should begin to appear after 2010, when deaths from malignant mesothelioma are expected to peak, according to a report from the CDC.

The number of malignant mesothelioma deaths increased from 2,482 in 1999 to 2,704 in 2005, Ki Moon Bang, Ph.D., of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and colleagues reported in the April 24 issue ofMorbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

However, annual mortality remained stable at 14 deaths per 1 million in 2005, compared with 14.1 per 1 million in 1999. The rate for the entire study period was 13.8 per 1 million.

"Because mesothelioma manifests 20 to 40 years after first exposure, the number of mesothelioma deaths will likely peak by 2010," the authors wrote.

Although the health threat posed by asbestos has decreased, it has not disappeared, they emphasized. Asbestos continues to be imported legally for use in certain construction and transportation products.

Moreover, carbon nanotubes used increasingly in manufacturing may share the same carcinogenic potential attributed to asbestos in mesothelioma.

In 1975 the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of asbestos in most types of residential and commercial insulation materials. In 1989 the EPA attempted to implement a total ban on the use of asbestos. The ban was overturned on appeal in federal court in 1991.

Since then, the EPA has taken the position that only certain types of products have been exempted from the ban.

Nonetheless, "an estimated 1.3 million construction and general industry workers potentially are being exposed to asbestos," the authors wrote.

To characterize recent trends in mesothelioma deaths, NIOSH investigators analyzed multiple cause-of-death datasets and determined that 18,068 people died of malignant mesothelioma from 1999 to 2005.

Men accounted for 80.8% of the deaths and whites for 95.1%.

Mesothelioma mortality risk increased with age -- 311 deaths involved people younger than 45 compared with 8,858 deaths in the 75 and older age group.

The authors reported that 26 states had mesothelioma death rates that exceeded the national average, including six states that had death rates >20 per 1 million or greater:Maine (27.5),Wyoming (22.2),West Virginia (21.0),Pennsylvania (20.8),New Jersey (20.2), andWashington (20.1).

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established a workplace permissible exposure limit (PEL) for asbestos in 1971. As recently as 2003, 20% of air samples in the construction industry exceeded the PEL.

Mesothelioma mortality is not expected to return to background levels for another 50 years.

"Ensuring a future decrease in mesothelioma morality requires meticulous control of exposures to asbestos and other materials that might cause mesothelioma," the authors concluded.

Primary source:Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Source reference:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "Malignant mesothelioma mortality -- United States, 1999-2005"MMWR 2009; 58(15): 393-96.

Download Complimentary Source PDF

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Research centre pledge..but payout fight goes on

By Emily Cook on Jul 22, 09 10:41 AM

THE Daily Mirror won a victory for workers last night with our Asbestos Timebomb campaign.

Jack Straw said he wants to set up a national research centre to study asbestos-related illnesses - one of our key demands.

But there was disappointment as thousands of victims of pleural plaques were left waiting to hear if they will get compensation.

The Justice Secretary told MPs he wants to make theUK a "global leader" in research and treatment of conditions caused by asbestos. He also said he wants to speed up compensation claims for those who develop serious illnesses such as mesothelioma.

But on the key issue of getting cash for people suffering pleural plaques, he said there would be no decision until after summer.

Lawyer Adrian Budgen, who represents asbestos victims, said: "We are hugely disappointed the Government has still not come to a decision on pleural plaques.

"It is now nearly a year since the Government opened a consultation on the disease and we have been waiting since last December, nearly nine months, for an official response.

"It is unfair to keep sufferers of this disease waiting to hear whether they can receive compensation for their condition."

Pleural plaques cause scarring of the lungs and are an early sign of lung cancer linked to asbestos. Thousands of workers, mainly in the construction industry, have been affected and more than 6,000 are awaiting news of compensation.

But the disappointment was offset by the news the Government is looking at fresh medical evidence on pleural plaques from theUS. Alan Ritchie, of builders' union UCATT, said: "While further delay is frustrating, it is preferable they make a fully informed decision."

Mr Straw also said he would look at forming an Employers Liability Insurance Bureau - another key Mirror demand.

It would be a fund of last resort for workers who can't trace insurers.

TUC chief Brendan Barber said: "We welcome news the Government is looking to support research into asbestos-related diseases.

"The announcement to look at ways of tracing insurers is welcome but the Government needs to set up a system for workers to ensure they still get full compensation."

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Asbestos campaign exclusive: Links to ovarian cancer and cancer of the larynx confirmed

By Emily Cook on May 26, 09 02:06 PM


Asbestos exposure can cause ovarian cancer and cancer of the larynx, experts have confirmed.

The warning comes from a group of 27 World Health Organisation scientists.

They also say there is "limited evidence" that the fibre can raise the risk of cancers of the bowel, the stomach and the throat.

It is already established that asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma - cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen and lung cancer.

The new classification is reported in the Lancet Oncology medical journal.

Doctors, charities, unions and MPs, backed by the Mirror, are calling on the Government to create a new £10million centre for asbestos-related disease.

Leading lung surgeon John Edwards (seen above) of Sheffield'sNorthernGeneralHospital, said yesterday: "More research needs to be carried out and we need more funding to do this."

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How an entire generation of carpenters has been blighted by asbestos cancer

By Mike Swain on Mar 4, 09 10:01 AM in History of Asbestos

carpenter 040309.jpg

The horrifying legacy of workers exposed to asbestos in the 60s can be revealed today.

Researchers have found one in 10 carpenters who were young men at that time will die from the disease.

Their fate was caused by health and safety blunders that led to millions of tonnes of asbestos being imported intoBritain.

Used in virtually every building site in the 60s and 70s, it was cut up by carpenters and spread into homes, schools, hospitals and offices without people realising it was dangerous.

Their risk of dying from mesothelioma is now one in 17 but they have just as high a risk of getting lung cancer - increasing the chances of death significantly.

The study found that one in 50 plumbers, electricians and painters and decorators born in the 40s will also die of mesothelioma and the same number again from lung cancer.

Professor Julian Peto, of Cancer ResearchUK which carried out the study, revealed: "Huge quantities of these asbestos materials were brought in fromSouth Africa.

"It was being sawed up on every building site without any control at all.

"It just wasn't appreciated that exposure was heavier and it was far larger numbers of people exposed. It was an error by science and society."

He added: "We have shown that the risk in some occupations, particularly the building industry, is higher than we previously thought.

"If you are exposed in your 20s you have a huge lifetime risk of mesothelioma."

Prof Peto contacted 622 mesothelioma patients in theUK through doctors and hospitals over five years.

The study, published today in the British Journal of Cancer, shows men born in the 40s who worked as carpenters for more than 10 years before they reached 30 have a lifetime risk of the disease of one in 17.

For plumbers, electricians and decorators born in the same decade who worked in the trade for more than 10 years before they were 30 the risk is one in 50 and for other construction workers it is one in 125.

Asbestos is still in more than 500,000 non-domestic buildings - posing a risk to young construction workers today.

Two thirds of men and a quarter of women have worked in jobs with potential exposure to asbestos.

TheUK has now got the highest mesothelioma rate in the world.

The background rate for people with no known exposure to asbestos is four times the world average.

That is why the Mirror is calling for all asbestos surveys carried out under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 to be made public.

Workers in schools, hospitals and other public buildings have the right to know how much asbestos is around them.

Professor Peto added: "Our main conclusion is that end-user exposure to brown asbestos is a major cause of the extraordinary rate of mesothelioma in British men born in the 40s.

"You can see people in the national statistics who were carpenters when they were 65 whereas what matters is if they were carpenters when they were in their 20s. In our study 21 per cent had been carpenters at some time."

Steve Coldrick, of the Health and Safety Executive which commissioned the study, added: "It makes very grim reading for people in these occupations who will end up with this dreadful disease. Our lungs weren't intended to be vacuum cleaners.

"We don't want this dreadful legacy to be going on for another 50 years.

"The trouble is it's not visible. You can't see it. But once it's in your lungs there's nothing you can do."

Professor Peto's research also shows rates in women have gone up threefold in the last 25 years. Two thirds of cases cannot be explained and appear to be due to general exposure in every day lives.
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40 billion reasons why asbestos litigation will grow
12/30/2008 4:15 PM By Staff Reports 

Forty billion dollars of designated funds currently available in court-established trust funds is providing abundant incentive to already rich attorneys with asbestos-settling know-how.

That could help explain whyMadisonCounty's asbestos docket is surging after some years of decline.

Dr. Charles Bates and Dr. Charles Mullin, in their report "State of the Asbestos Litigation Environment-October 2008," surveyed information obtained from roughly 40 asbestos personal injury bankruptcy trusts. The authors state the trusts have a combined value of $33 to $40 billion in liquid assets, not including insurance.

"The availability of such a large magnitude of assets in asbestos trusts is a relatively new phenomenon," the authors wrote. "Of the confirmed trusts, only 12 have been processing claims continuously for more than three years."

The first downturn in the continual rise of asbestos litigation came from roughly 2002 to 2006, when events conspired to increase the pressure on plaintiff's attorneys whose legal strategies raised questions and increased pressure for tort reform. Techniques like mass screenings, combining cases and suing on the behalf of those who had yet to become ill from asbestos exposure fell out of favor, leading to a decline in the overall number of cases being filed each year.

But the downturn was short-lived, especially in specific courts sprinkled throughout the country. Places likeLos Angeles andSan Francisco,Delaware andIllinois, where a combination of liberal courts and pro-worker juries have proved lucrative for those suing large corporations.

Couple that with billions in available cash in trust funds, not to mention the relative ease in which a settlement with a trust can be obtained, many believe the next big push in asbestos litigation is under way.

Thomas Anapol, a plaintiff's attorney fromPhiladelphia, summed up the trends saying "to paraphrase the immortal Mark Twain, the news of the demise of asbestos litigation has been greatly exaggerated. Asbestos litigation is alive and well."

The role of trust funds

Asbestos litigation reached a fevered pitch around the turn of the century, growing to as many as 300,000 new cases in 2003. The Manhattan Institute called asbestos litigation, the "longest-running mass tort inU.S. history and arguably the most unjust."

The RAND Institute estimated that by 2002, 8,400 defendants had been sued by nearly three-quarters of a million plaintiffs. In 1986, the Johns Manville Corp. - the world's largest corporate asbestos producer -- filed for bankruptcy. Roughly 80 major corporations soon followed, which led to the rise of asbestos trust funds. The Manville Trust, easily the biggest as the company had a market share of roughly 25-40 percent, was funded with more than $4 billion.

As other major companies began to emerge from bankruptcy, the courts established trust funds with specific terms of settling outstanding cases.

"For example, asbestos manufacturer Owens Corning and its Fiberboard subsidiary's six-year bankruptcy proceeding resolved in October 2006 with the Bankruptcy Court requiring the company to fund the Owens Corning Asbestos Trust in the amount of roughly $4.5 billion," Anapol said.

"Several dozen other former asbestos suppliers and manufacturers have followed the route of bankruptcy and now have trusts approved by the court."

Case in point, W.R. Grace, a global specialty chemicals and materials company that faced roughly a million asbestos-related lawsuits, emerged from bankruptcy court in 2008 with a trust estimated at $2 billion in assets to be paid over a 30-year period.

The cases are refiled against the trust, rather than the actual business. Filing a claim is now highly organized, and streamlined, according to Anapol. "When claims are approved, each trust has a specific payment schedule and amount, which is based on the severity of the injury. Depending on the fundings in the trust, each claim ranges in value from a few hundred dollars for mild asbestosis ... to tens of thousands of dollars for mesothelioma."

Volumes of legal briefs and mountains of paperwork have been replaced by online processing forms that streamline the settlement process.

The one quirk in the system is that the actual amount of settlements is rarely made public, for very practical reasons.

"They don't want the solvent defendants to know how much dough they are getting from the trusts," aChicago defense attorney said of the plaintiff's attorneys he opposes in court.

But some data from the trusts has been made public.

In their study, Bates and Mullin relied heavily on the example set by the Manville Trust, which saw a high of more than 70,000 new claims against it in 2000, drop to a low slightly more than 4,000 in 2005.

While claims by those already sick from asbestos exposure stayed relatively stable, "most of the change has been driven by falling levels of recruiting nonmalignant claims. By comparison, mesothelioma diagnoses have been stable."

The Manville trust is an illustration, not a whole picture of all claims. But, as the authors point out, it is the only trust that has made data about the date of diagnosis publicly available. But, "this is not a serious drawback," the authors wrote. "Virtually all claims do eventually file against the Manville Trust. Thus the trust's experience is a good approximation of the overall asbestos litigation universe."

In courts across the country settlements of a consistent amount are documented. Most are sealed, but some are not. For example, inCookCounty any wrongful death settlement must be filed in the court, making them public. While they don't stipulate the death was specifically asbestos related, attorneys on both sides are paying close attention.

"It seems some trusts are paying better than others," aChicago defense attorney said. "You look through the dockets and you see the same companies paying the same amount, like Owens Corning paying $203,000 and change in case after case. It's really good money and all you have to do is file some paperwork and say some doctor said the guy died from asbestos exposure."

The rise of cases

With money in trust funds available and easily obtained, it makes sense that a court likeMadisonCounty, known as friendly to plaintiffs, has grown along with the revenue increase of the asbestos trust funds.MadisonCounty's docket hit a low around 260 in 2006. The number of cases filed by the end of 2008 is expected to be nearly three times that amount.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that roughly 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are filed each year.

But plaintiff's attorneys say the rise is not just fueled by money. The latency period for the development of mesothelioma ranges from as little as 10 years to as many as 50 years.

"As a result, mesothelioma continues to rear its ugly head decades after the world learned of the dangers of asbestos and decades after asbestos products were removed from the market," Anapoli said.

Medical advances have also shown a greater range of diseases that stem from asbestos exposure in recent years, according to published reports.

That said, plaintiff's attorneys are well aware that every client signed means another chunk of the billions in trusts can be obtained.

"Once a person with mesothelioma hires a law firm, that law firm has acquired an economically valuable asset," Kirk Hartley, aMadisonCounty defense attorney said. "Once the asset is in hand, it seems pretty obvious that a well-run plaintiff's firm acts like an investment banking firm in that the firms seeks to leverage up the value of the asset by running through a decision tree analysis touching on numerous factors that may influence the value of the asset."

The more "assets" a firm has, the greater its leverage. Recruiting clients to gain a greater share of that $40 billion trust fund pie remains, as it was in the feverish days of the 1990s, a critical component in the asbestos industry.

"Internet recruiting of mesothelioma claimants is a big part of the tort litigation industry," Hartley said. "The word 'mesothelioma' generates annual seven-figure revenues for Google and perhaps other providers of search engines."

At the time W.R. Grace announced its final settlement, Grace defense attorney David Bernick said the asbestos trust was necessary because of the high number of frivolous lawsuits filed against the company. Bankruptcy, he said, was the only way for the company to survive the "money machine" of plaintiff's attorneys.

"It was a total money machine based upon the ability to name the same companies again and again and again," Bernick said of the asbestos lawsuit craze.

"It was driven by the whole idea that the more people you can name, the more people you can settle with, the more money there is to be made," he said.

The defense rests

With 40 billion reasons to continue to obtain clients and seek settlement claims, the hope for slowing the renewed growth of the asbestos industry needs something drastic to change the course of events.

That drastic change, many say, is easier said than done. However, as judges, lawyers and lawmakers agree, the only way to impact genuine change is to stop the trend of easy settlements and instead challenge cases in court.

Judge Daniel Stack ofMadisonCounty said plainly that defendants must take cases to court if they hope to limit the number of cases processed by the court, and to change the pattern of financial settlements.

"If more and more people pushed to trial rather than settling, the judges would have to reconsider the convenience," Stack said.

Corporations have always been afraid of trials where a jury could award enormous sums, far greater than the actual amount paid by settling with a trust. If some settlements go larger, the rest could all gain in value, according to attorneys on both sides.

TheChicago defense attorney said the most recent verdicts inMadisonCounty, albeit on smaller cases, "have been defense verdicts or settlements that are very low."

Still the major corporations are unwilling to push the issue in court, he said.

"Judge Stack has said the defense has to take it to trial," the attorney said. "But basically no one big enough has said 'this has got to stop' and taken the risk to take it court. It's a lot to ask of a defendant to be willing to take that risk. I have not yet had a client who said 'screw this, I'm going to take that risk.'"


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A rare survival story in a brush with a rare and deadly cancer

M.K Smith, Star Tribune

Heather Von St. James, ofRoseville, found she had mesothelioma when her daughter Lily was a newborn. “I claim cured,” she says of her faceoff with a killer.

Heather Von St. James calls herself "the poster child for hope after meso." She has been disease free for 2 1/2 years after a radical surgery and treatment for the asbestos-related cancer -- mesothelioma.

By PAT PHEIFER, Star Tribune

Last update: August 27, 2008 - 12:44 AM

Featured comment

What a great story! May Heather continue to do well and never have to deal with mesothelioma again. Unfortunately, many people with … read moremesothelioma are not that lucky yet. Therefore, more funding is needed to research effective treatments for the disease so that it will hopefully be a treatable disease for all. People may be suprised to learn that asbestos is still imported and used in theU.S. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, theU.S. imported and used an estimated 1,820 tons in 2007, an estimated 84% for roofing materials. The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a bill to ban the future importation of use of asbestos (it is already banned in 40 countries) and to provide funding for research into effective treatments for asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma. You can tell your representative to support the bill from or from To read move about mesothelioma, please go to Also, Friday, September 26, 2008 is Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

Dying was not an option, Heather Von St. James says as her 3-year-old daughter, Lily, rushes in and out of the dining room, climbing on her lap, then dashing off again. ¶ But dying was a terrifying possibility when doctors found a lump the size of an orange in Von St. James's left lung when Lily was only 3 months old. The diagnosis was mesothelioma -- a rare and often fatal form of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Now, just over 2 1/2 years after undergoing radical surgery to remove her left lung, the lining around her heart, half of her diaphragm, her sixth rib and a few lymph nodes to be on the safe side, all traces of the cancer are gone.

"I claim cured," says Von St. James.

Dr. David Sugarbaker, who heads the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham & Women's Hospital inBoston, said Von St. James is a shining example of the progress he is beginning to see in the fight against a disease that traditionally carried a maximum survival of 12 to 18 months.

"I am the poster child for hope after meso," the 39-year-oldRoseville woman said.

Sugarbaker, who treated Von St. James, is only slightly more circumspect. "What I can say is that right now in this present moment she is disease-free," he said.

About 2,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in theUnited States each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Unusually high rates of the disease have been reported among men fromMinnesota'sIronRange since the late 1980s. The state Department of Health has so far identified 59 cases among mine workers and is planning a study with theUniversity ofMinnesota aimed at determining what might have caused the illness.

Sugarbaker said the disease has a 20- to 35-year latency period and traditionally has been diagnosed in people with direct exposure to asbestos, but doctors are seeing more patients with secondhand, nonoccupational exposure.
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Widow speaks out about Government’s compassion for Mesothelioma victims

Compensation for Mesothelioma

28th June 2006

Barbara Sharp’s husband, Ronald died aged only 59 from the deadly asbestos cancer, mesothelioma, which he contracted after many years working as a scenic painter in the film industry during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

A recent House of Lords decision meant that because only one of the three companies he worked for could be traced and had valid insurance, his widow would only be able to claim a percentage of the full compensation owed to her. After a campaign involving Thompsons Solicitors, trade unions and asbestos support groups, the Government has said that it plans to amend the Compensation Bill to reverse this decision and ensure that victims of mesothelioma and their families receive the full compensation they deserve.

The insurance industry would save tens of millions of pounds if the decision was not reversed while thousands of victims of the fatal illness, and their families, would lose compensation.

Husband died after exposure to asbestos

Mrs Sharp said: "No amount of money will bring back my husband Ronnie. However, his former employers, who exposed him to the asbestos that killed him, should be made to pay full compensation. Only one of the three employers who exposed him can be traced and was insured, and until the ruling is reversed they will only have to pay a percentage of the compensation claim.

“This battle has spoilt Ronnie’s memory. I didn’t expect to have to fight insurance companies when I should be grieving. I certainly didn’t expect to lose my husband, my children’s father, so young due to the negligence of his former employers. If the Barker decision is not reversed quickly, they will escape full punishment.”

Support from Trade Union

Ronald Sharp was a member of the trade union, BECTU and they have supported his widow with her claim for compensation. After the Government’s announcement, the assistant general secretary of BECTU, Gerry Morrissey said “I am glad the Government is acting to restore justice by ensuring those whose lives have been devastated by this terrible disease will receive full compensation. BECTU will continue to campaign for justice for all asbestos victims and their families.''

Act Quickly

The main problem now is that the Government must act quickly to reverse the decision to avoid some victims missing out on their compensation just because their case is due to be heard in Court soon. David Stothard, Mrs Sharp’s solicitor at Thompsons said "The government has shown real compassion and a commitment to sufferers. This is exactly what we have been urging it to do. We said we wanted clear, swift and decisive action to reverse the impact of Barker. This amendment will restore the right to full compensation and benefit thousands of mesothelioma sufferers and their families. It is vital that this amendment becomes effective without delay."

But because there are some mesothelioma sufferers and their widows whose compensation claims will be decided by the courts in the near future, Mr Stothard stressed that the amendment must cover all claims, present and future.

More information about mesothelioma

If you or someone you know has been injured by asbestos and you would like to know more about making a compensation claim, telephone us on 08000 224 224 or complete one of our online compensation claim forms.
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