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Mesothelioma deaths inU.K. – Asbestos Trades –Mesothelioma Lawsuit
BBC report estimates 100,000Mesothelioma deaths possible
November 14th, 2008 by Wendi Lewis
A news report from BBC Radio estimates up to 100,000 people coulddie ofmesothelioma in theUK within the next 20 years. An expert interviewed for the story saysmesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects thelining of the lungs, is the “biggest public health disaster the world has ever seen.”
BBC reporter AndrewHosken talks to people in northeastEngland, a heavily industrialized area where therate ofmesothelioma has been steadily increasing. It is believed mostmeso victims in this area wereexposed to asbestos through their jobs inship building andsteel manufacturing.
Listen to the BBC Report.
Model Predicts Mesothelioma Mortality to Increase to 2016
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Work funded by HSE has revealed an increase in Mesothelioma mortality inGreat Britain, with 1705 deaths recorded in 2006.
The 2005 a statistical model used to project the future burden of Mesothelioma mortality contained uncertainties. In this new report, the model has been refined and credible intervals for model parameters as well as prediction intervals for future cases of mortality amongst males are presented.
The report concludes that Mesothelioma mortality amongst all males is expected to keep increasing, reaching a peak at around 2,040 deaths in the year 2016, with a rapid decline following the peak year. Around 91,000 deaths are predicted to occur by 2050 with around 61,000 of these occurring from 2007 onwards.
Comment: This report highlights the very real hazard presented by asbestos containing materials present in many existing buildings. Management of asbestos and control of any work which may disturb asbestos are key to minimizing exposure today. Refurbishment work involving plumbers, joiners, carpenters and electricians poses the greatest risk.
Hospitals in theUK Treating Rising Number of Mesothelioma Patients
Posted on December 2nd, 2009 by Deon Scott
According to a recent report hospital in the UK have been treating a rising number of malignant mesothelioma cases over the past decade, with the numbers suggesting that Mesothelioma cases have almost doubled in the past ten years.
Over the past year hospitals across theUK treated nearly seven and a half thousand cases of mesothelioma, which is a form of asbestos cancer that is caused by long term or high level exposure to asbestos dust and fibers. This compared to just under three thousand eight hundred cases that were treated ten years ago.
The numbers have sparked fears over an asbestos time bomb, which could suddenly explode resulting in huge number of people developing this cancer, which can lies dormant for many decades before manifesting. Once diagnosed many patients only live for a matter of months.
One MP said that the numbers showed that we were now seeing the effects of the conditions that many workers had to operate in in previous decades. He said: “We’re seeing the legacy of workers exposed to asbestos in the 1960s.”
Business First,India Imported 3 Tons of Asbestos
Despite it being a proven carcinogen,India imported 3 lakh tonnes of asbestos in 2006
GOPAL KRISHNA – Dec 09, 2009
At the upcoming fourth UN meeting to be held in the last week of October in Rome, the Indian government is expected to once again remain consistent in colluding with the corporate interests of the asbestos industry against manifest public interest. White asbestos or Chrysotile fibre constitutes about 95 per cent of the world production and commercial use of asbestos primarily in the construction industry.
All kinds of asbestos including chrysotile cause cancer and according to World Health Organisation, “there is practically no safe level of exposure or use of asbestos against cancer”. It is a “silent killer” in that its effects are both gradual and not easily noticeable. But asbestos poisoning reaches everyone from the person mining it to the ultimate consumer of products containing asbestos.
Irrespective of the political party in power, India has opposed the inclusion of chrysotile, a lethal fibre in the list of UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals in International Trade at the three previous conferences of the parties to the convention against the interest of the Indian workers and citizens.
Asbestos is a generic term used for several naturally occurring fibrous, silicate materials and is used in a variety of everyday as well as industrial applications. Broadly there are three varieties of asbestos referred to as blue, brown and white Asbestos; all of them tend to break into microscopic fibres. Because of their small size, once released, they remain suspended in the air. Asbestos fibres are indestructible — they are resistant to chemicals and heat.
The threat from inhalation of asbestos fibre was known as far back as 1924. But this fact was not disclosed to workers involved in the asbestos industry. By the mid-1930s, it was proved that a small amount of asbestos fibre in the lungs could be fatal.
Asbestos-induced diseases like Mesothelioma and asbestosis currently kill more people than any other single work-related illness. These diseases have no cure. Worse, once the exposure has taken place, merely removing the victim from the site does not limit or arrest the progress of the disease nor the risk of cancer.
White asbestos continues to be in use inIndia although blue and brown asbestos are banned. It is used mainly for water pipes or as roofing sheets in the construction industry. Asbestos dust can be inhaled while drilling a hole, cutting a pipe, repairing, renovating or demolishing a building. Clinical reports show that asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer can show up even 25 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos.
Chrysotile is a convicted mass killer. There is no single product in day-to-day use at work or at home that strictly needs to be made from deadly asbestos. Even then, over 3,000 workplace and home-based products contain this poison. Cellulose fibre, PVA fibre, clay, stone tiles and steel are all good substitutes for asbestos. Although expensive at first, they work out to be cheaper in the long run because of their long life.
Few months back Dr Anbumani Ramadoss helplessly informed the parliament on asbestos "A lot of poor people use it. As regards the issue pertaining to banning of asbestos, on health grounds, the government certainly has not taken it up. It is an occupational hazard and people working in the asbestos factories are prone to lung cancer, but we are taking the enormity of the usage of asbestos. Mostly, poor people in the villages use it. Hence, I cannot take a decision on this issue."
Indeed it is for the Union Commerce Ministry to take a decision and amend the existing import policy for chrysotile without which the alarming rise in the asbestos consumption is unlikely to change. As per data released by the U.N. Statistics Division,India imported about 306,000 tonnes of asbestos in 2006. Of which, 152,820 tonnes was imported fromRussia and 63,980 tonnes fromCanada. It is estimated that cumulative asbestos consumption will exceed 7 million tonnes by the end of 2008. Of the total sales of asbestos cement products, more than half goes to the rural sector, while 20 and 30 percent are in the urban and industrial sectors, respectively. This is all the more dangerous given the sad state of medical facilities in rural areas. In any case asbestos diseases are preventable but incurable.
It is unpardonable for the ministry of commerce to succumb to pressures from the domestic asbestos industry which has been lobbying with the help of Chrysotile Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association and Asbestos Information Centre, both corporate NGOs and sharing the same platform with the international asbestos producers using the International Chrysotile Association.
Some 50 countries have banned asbestos to safeguard their citizens and workers but Indian government officials, like R K Vaish, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests have, astonishingly objected to the extension of prior-informed consent to cover white asbestos as a hazardous material subject to trade control.India has consistently joined hands withRussia andCanada — from where most of the asbestos is imported— to scuttle attempts to include the material in the international list of chemicals under the Rotterdam Convention. The Convention, which came into force in February 2004 under the United Nations Environment Programme, is a globally-binding instrument that provides an early warning system and transparent information on chemicals that have been banned or restricted by at least two countries.
The Indian government’s current stance at the upcomingRome meeting goes against the interests of Indian workers and citizens.India must disassociate itself from Russian andCanada, which have successfully blocked consideration of a proposed UN initiative on trade in white asbestos with support fromRussia and 12 other asbestos-producing countries. The recent years have witnessed global movement against asbestos gaining ground amid reports of asbestos companies going bankrupt due to their huge compensation liabilities. Following on the footsteps of Europe, the latest countries to ban asbestos areSouth Africa,Japan andAustralia.
Unmindful of the fact that “poison” does not become “non-poisonous” as a result of advertising and public relations campaigns, the asbestos producing countries and asbestos industry continues to support mythical “safe” and “responsible” use of white asbestos turning a blind eye towards disastrous health consequences.
The story of such criminal recklessness by the asbestos industry has been documented in a recently released dossier titled "India's Asbestos Time Bomb". The dossier recommends, "The only way for the government to remedy the situation created by the asbestos industry is to implement a complete ban on the mining, manufacture, use and trade of all kinds of asbestos including chrysotile (white asbestos)."
While the reality is quite grim as far as the workers and consumers are concerned, industry continues to enjoy the patronage of the central and state governments. So much so that on 24 September, 2008 an investment advisory said, "If I were to sell my house and buy a stock I would probably buy this (Visaka Industries) asbestos-cement (AC) sheets manufacturing stock because it is coming at a very good valuation and there is a significant increase in profits expected over the next two years."
A paper titled Asbestos-Related Disease inIndia notes: "Although mesothelioma, asbestos related lung cancer are recognised worldwide, inIndia, neither one of the diseases is commonly reported. This is not surprising as inIndia, cancer is not a notifiable disease.” It has resulted in the failure of the medical professionals who are not trained to issue asbestos related diagnoses, leaving the victims with no option but to die a slow and painful death.
It is noteworthy that under massive criticism from all quarters both the ministries of Environment and Forests and Labour and Employment admitted on 17 March 2008 in the Rajya Sabha and on 20 March 2008 in the Lok Sabha that the government has undertaken a conflict of interest ridden study to give clean chit to chrysotile, a human carcinogen.
Earlier in its 2001 verdict, Appellate Body of World Trade Organisation while upholding chrysotile ban inFrance had soundly rejected the "controlled use" and safe use argument of the Canadian asbestos industry. In its 95th Session of the International Labour Conference on 14 June 2006, International Labour Organisation adopted a resolution for the elimination of all forms of asbestos from future use as the only way forward for protecting workers. It passed this resolution: "Considering that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are classified as known human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a classification restated by the International Programme on Chemical Safety (a joint Programme of the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme)".
In the light of the an unprecedented occupational health crisis due to ongoing asbestos exposure, environmental, labour and human rights organisations have called upon the government to support the inclusion of chrysotile in the list of the Convention.
What is most alarming is that as of now there is a political consensus to promote its use inIndia. The acts of omission and commission by all the agencies that are working in tandem with Russian and Canadian asbestos producers must be brought under a scanner to set matters right. Insulated from media's attention inIndia, death toll due to asbestos is rising at an alarming rate. Even as such manifest acts of corporate crimes are underway routinely without any conviction till date, all news agencies remain dogmatically focussed on street crimes. Both state and central governments have devised a very simple way of responding to it. They have ensured that the deaths caused by asbestos are not recorded by any institution. As it stands now, Indian asbestos industry is well-insulated from the ongoing global ban on asbestos.
UBC: Asbestos on campus not harmful
Hazardous product found in SUB, Hebb Theatre, Totem
A recentUbysseyinvestigation has discovered that asbestos still exists in buildings on campus, but the university assures that its presence is not harmful.
In recent years, it has been discovered that the inhalation of asbestos can lead to life-threatening diseases such as mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, or chronic inflammation such as asbestosis. The use of asbestos was banned in the early 1970s due to health effects; however, it is still prevalent in buildings. According to UBC Department of Health, Safety, and Environment’s (HSE) website, “Of the one million square metres of floor area UBC has, approximately 84 per cent contains some form of asbestos-containing material.”
Buildings such as the SUB, the Buchanan buildings, the Hebb buildings,TotemPark, Place Vanier Residence andAcadiaPark are just some of the notable buildings that are known to have asbestos within their architecture.
Cheryl Peters, a researcher of occupational and environmental exposures from CAREX Canada, a group of scientists involved in research towards cancer prevention programs and based in the UBC School of Environmental Health, states that while asbestos exposure is dangerous, the effects are not immediate.
“Asbestos is definitely a deadly carcinogen in the sense that the cancers stemming from its exposure are extremely dangerous. For example, most people who have been exposed to asbestos and are diagnosed with mesothelioma die within a year of the diagnosis. But the effects of exposure might only surface after decades,” said Peters, adding, “It’s only dangerous if it’s exposed and people breathe it in.”
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral characterized by fibrous crystals. There are two categories of asbestos: friable and non-friable. Friable asbestos, the more fragile of the two, can easily be crumbled or powdered by hand. Non-friable asbestos, on the other hand, will not easily shed fibres under normal day-to-day use.
Asbestos was used frequently in construction from the 1940s to the 1980s because of its prized fire-resistant properties, durability and strength. Asbestos was used as an additive to strengthen cement and plastics, essential in creating fireproofing material and for soundproofing. In addition, it was used to manufacture ceiling and floor tiles, adhesives, drywall, plaster and paints.
In a November 8 CTV article on asbestos, it was reported that recent figures from the federal government show that the number of new cases of mesothelioma per year in the country increased 67 per cent over the last 15 years, from 276 to 461. In BC, deaths from asbestos-related diseases have increased as much as 69 per cent between 2002 and now. In 2008,Canada exported 175,000 tonnes of raw chrysotile, a form of asbestos, mostly to developing nations such asIndonesia,Sri Lanka andBangladesh.
HSE assures us that the presence of asbestos in the buildings on campus is not harmful.
“UBC has adopted the regulations of all provincial and federal regulatory agencies as the minimum standard by which asbestos is handled, including Sections 6.1 to 6.32 of the BC Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and Safe Work Practices for Handling Asbestos [WorkSafeBC],” said Guy Champagne, HSE’s asbestos program coordinator.
UBC has been running the Asbestos Management Program, which has been working to control and curtail the threat of asbestos.
“The Asbestos Management Program has established asbestos reduction priorities which include removing the following: asbestos-containing spray insulation; suspended asbestos ceiling tiles; asbestos texture coat ceilings and mechanical insulation,”Champagne said.
According toWorkSafeBC, Sections 6.1 to 6.32 do guarantee the limitation of asbestos exposure in workplace environments through methods of containment or encapsulation in the affected areas. Contrarily, Section 6.71 also deals with the management of asbestos but states, “The employer must ensure that a friable asbestos-containing material in the workplace is controlled by removal, enclosure or encapsulation so as to prevent the release of airborne asbestos fibre.”
The removal of all asbestos-containing material on campus costs upwards of $3 per square foot. During the renovation ofBuchananBuilding A, $41,000 was spent on asbestos abatement alone. To completely rid the campus of asbestos would mean the rebuilding of some 840,000 square metres of floor area around UBC, which could cost millions.
UBC students have mixed feelings about this. Though the risks of asbestos exposure can be fatal, some students on campus seem unfazed by knowledge of asbestos present in classrooms or residences. “As UBC is comprised mostly of ‘old’ buildings, this is hardly surprising,” first-year Science student Angus Lim said.
Other students are more concerned about the issue. Jessica Zhang, a student from the Science One program, said that “Asbestos are carcinogens, and anyone who cares about the potential risk of cancer that is caused by the walls here in UBC should be very concerned.”
National Asbestos Awareness Week Celebrated byAustralia
Submitted by Ketan Mukherjee on Sat, 11/28/2009
It might have been forgotten for some time, but the issue ofasbestos related diseases and how the country is under increasing threat from the same has now come back with full force, and to ensure that more and more people know about the problem, Australia is celebrating this week as the National Asbestos Awareness Week, and it aims to, in addition to letting more and more people know about the issue, commemorate those people and lives which have been affected by asbestos-related illnesses.
WHO recently revealed thatAustralia andBritain have the highestrate of asbestos induced cancers in the world. InAustralia alone, about 500 men and 100 women contract the cancer every year, and since the records began in the early 1980s, they have already recorded about 10,000 cases of its cases.
Medical authorities have estimated that by 2020,Australia will have about 13,000 cases of a common asbestos related disease, Mesothelioma, and a further 4,000 cases of cancer induced due to exposure to asbestos.
The Australian Government has announced that it is completely committed to combating with the growing problem. PM Kevin Rudd recently announced that the state would inject loans worth $320 Million with the NSW Government to contribute to theJames Hardie asbestos victims, in addition to injecting $5 million to the new Bernie Banton Centre, the world’s first dedicated asbestos research institute.
Asbestos lung cancer cases rocket
27/11/2009 – Mirror.co.uk
A type of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos has almost doubled in 10 years, figures show.
Hospitals treated 7,349 cases of deadly mesothelioma over the past year, compared with 3,773 in 1998-9. The increase underlines fears of an "asbestos timebomb" as the disease can lie dormant for decades.
The statistics were revealed in response to a Commons question from Labour MP Stephen Hepburn.
He said: "We're seeing the legacy of workers exposed to asbestos in the 1960s."
Asbestos screenings urge for workers
From:AAP -November 25, 2009 5:18AM
THE NSW Government is urging people who may have been exposed to asbestos to undergo medical screening.
Attorney-General John Hatzistergos yesterday encouraged workers to get tested for asbestos-related illnesses, which are often fatal, during Asbestos Awareness Week.
"Occupational health and safety regulations require employers to provide health checks for employees who are exposed to hazardous substances such as asbestos or crystalline silica," he said.
"(It is) an appropriate time for people to seek out information about the potential risks of being exposed to asbestos."
Asbestos is a carcinogen and inhalation of its fibres can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, scarring of the lungs.
Workers are able to undergo screening at the Dust Diseases Board inSydney or on the mobile Lung Bus, which will be inNewcastle today.
The Lung Bus checkup includes an X-ray, lung function test and examination by a doctor.
Earlier this month the state and federal governments announced they would lend $320 million to the compensation fund set up for James Hardie asbestos victims.
For more information about these services contact the Dust Diseases Board's occupational screening co-ordinator on (02) 8223 6600.
Asbestos: A shameful legacy
The authorities knew it was deadly more than 100 years ago, but it was only banned entirely in 1999. The annual death rate will peak at more than 5,000 in 2016 – now MPs have a chance to do the decent thing.
Even as the Sanders brothers posed for these photos, each was already sentenced to a terrible death decades later. Why? They had hugged a family friend who worked at the local factory
They called it "the Barking cough". First it began like any other: a tickle in the chest and slight pain on breathing. Then, within a matter of months, the sufferer was in agony, gasping for air and eventually suffocating to death as a vicious cancer attacked their lungs waiting for the final lingering, inevitable end which might not come for decades.
The legacy of theCapeAsbestos factory in Barking, eastLondon, where asbestos-related cancers continue to kill scores of residents, is a deadly one. Hundreds of people have died since the factory closed in 1968.
The story of Barking's "industrial killing machine" is a story repeated up and down the country where thousands of Britons continue to be blighted by their industrial past. Exposure to asbestos is now the biggest killer in the British workforce, killing about 4,000 people every year – more than who die in traffic accidents. The shocking figures are the grim legacy of the millions of tons of the dust shipped toBritain to make homes, schools, factories and offices fire resistant. It was used in products from household fabrics to hairdryers.
Those most at risk are ordinary workers and their families. Whether it was dockyard workers who unloaded the lethal cargoes, or those in the factories exposed to the fibres, or the carpenters, laggers, plumbers, electricians and shipyard workers who routinely used asbestos for insulation – all suffered. So did the wives who washed the work overalls and the children who hugged their parents or played in the dust-coated streets.
The exposure to asbestos inBritain is largely historical but the death toll is alarmingly etched on our future. Asbestos fibres can lie dormant on victims' lungs for up to half a century; deaths from asbestos inBritain will continue to rise until 2016.
Nor is it confined toBritain. The World Health Organisation says asbestos currently kills at least 90,000 workers every year. One report estimated the asbestos cancer epidemic could claim anywhere between five and 10 million lives before it is banned worldwide and exposure ceases.
Asbestos was hailed as the "magic mineral" when its tough, flexible but fire-resistant qualities were realised, but for more than a century doctors and others have been warning of its dangers. Asbestos dust was being inhaled into the lungs where it could lie unnoticed before causing crippling illnesses such lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma which one medical professor has described as "perhaps the most terrible cancer known, in which the decline is the most cruel".
For people such as those in Barking who have seen their neighbours, relatives and friends suffer this excruciatingly painful and distressing death, there can be little consolation when they discover the first signs of asbestos exposure on their own lungs. These scars, known as pleural plaques, can be a warning that they too may develop one of the fatal cancers that inhaling the lethal fibres can result in.
On Wednesday, a meeting between MPs and government lawyers will determine if people suffering from pleural plaques can be paid the compensation that many believe they deserve. For 21 years, sufferers of pleural plaques were compensated by their employers for the scars caused by exposure to the deadly fibres, but in 2007 this was overturned by a Law Lords ruling. Politicians and medical experts accuse the Government of pandering to the insurance lobby and claim they are now ignoring crucial new medical evidence which reveals the physical and mental toll of pleural plaques.
In Dagenham Working Men's club, up the road from the site of the Cape asbestos factory, members of the local GMB laggers' branch gather for a beer to discuss the one deadly issue that continues to plague their members: asbestos. Jimmy Parrish, branch chairman, has a list of 67 of their 300 or so members affected by asbestos-related disease since 1998. Many of them were diagnosed with pleural plaques and 30 are now dead. "Hitler killed only one of my uncles," said Parrish. "Cape killed the rest."
Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham, said the lack of compensation for pleural plaques sufferers was scandalous. "If that amount of death occurred in any other profession it would be a national scandal," he said. "It's a working-class disease and it doesn't get the attention it should do: it's a life sentence. You've got to think about the corporate interests of insurance companies and compare that with a lagger. There's no equivalent in the power game here. The insurance industry says there's no link between pleural plaques and fatal forms of asbestos disease, but figures from the GMB suggest otherwise.
"It's extraordinary what's going on in our area. It's an epidemic. There's barely a family that doesn't have some experience of asbestos-related disease and it's going to get worse; it's not even at its peak yet."
The Barking and Dagenham Asbestos Support Group describes theCape factory at Barking as an "industrial killing machine". Between 1981 and 2005, the number of men dying from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in Barking reached 187, making it the worst area ofLondon for asbestos-related disease and in the top 10 for theUK. It was not just workmen who suffered. Barking has the highest rate of mesothelioma for women in the country, with 60 women dying from the disease between 1981 and 2005. But these official figures are just the start. Since asbestos can lie dormant for up to 50 years, many people have long since left the area. Geoffrey Tweedale, an asbestos industry expert, said: "No one knows the death toll, but it's possibly in the thousands.Cape never had to release their records."
Although there were other sources of exposure in the area,Cape's processing of the fibres was on a different scale. The factory employed more than 10,000 people from the time it opened in 1913 to its closure in 1968.
Cape insisted asbestos was harmless even after the factory in Barking closed. Richard Gaze, former chief scientist forCapeAsbestos, defended its record throughout the 1970s until he died of mesothelioma himself, aged 65, in 1982.
Workers were told that drinking half a pint of milk would prevent illness and were left to toil in the thick dust with no masks. Dust from the building spewed on to the streets from giant fans, leaving cotton wool-like wisps to settle on the streets. The streets "looked like Christmas", residents recall. Children inNorthburySchool, which was adjacent to the factory, used to gather up this "snow" and throw it at each other.
Peter Williams of Field Fisher Waterhouse, solicitors specialising in asbestos disease, said, "I thinkCape would have known that asbestos was highly dangerous. From the people we've spoken to that worked in the factory and lived in the surrounding area, no precautions were taken and no one fromCape ever mentioned it was dangerous."
Today, the Hart's Lane estate lies where the factory used to be. The only visible sign of its industrial past is a road name –CapeClose – but the legacy has lasted far longer than anyone might have guessed. Successive tests between 1997 and 2003 found asbestos dangerously near the surface in the soil of the estate.
Rita Ashdown, who died from mesothelioma in 2002, was among the first to perish. She insisted her exposure was from the 13 years she lived on the estate. The council's insurers paid her £40,000 compensation but denied responsibility. Now Dennis Gaffney is dying from the same disease and believes he too was exposed after spending time on the estate in the 1970s.
A spokesman for Barking and Dagenham council said it had commissioned "extensive independent experts' studies" of the Hart's Lane estate, most recently in 2006. "The studies concluded that any risk to the health of the estate's residents or visitors from asbestos is insignificant," he said.
On Wednesday MPs and others will meet government lawyers to press for the controversial 2007 Lords decision on plaques to be challenged. Andrew Dismore MP, who is attempting for a second time to get a bill through the House of Lords which would challenge the decision, said: "It's a manifest injustice. The law treats psychological injury differently from physical injury. The insurers are obviously trying to minimise their loss and the Government also has a potential liability for some of these cases. Come what may this issue has to be resolved."
Those with pleural plaques are 1,000 times more likely to suffer from an asbestos-related cancer than the rest of the population, but a government-commissioned report which has been used to justify the continued lack of compensation for sufferers said that the risk of pleural plaques sufferers contracting lung cancer was "very small". Dr Robin Rudd, the country's leading expert on asbestos-related disease, said the report had disregarded the latest evidence. "It's not a medical question," said Dr Rudd. "Jack Straw is just using medical evidence as a smoke screen. The report missed the last 10 years of medical evidence."
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said the House of Lords decision had raised "extremely complex and difficult issues which have required very careful consideration within Government". She added that the issues were still being actively considered "in order to be in a position to publish a final response as soon as possible".
Cape claimed it was unaware of the dangers, but as early as 1898, the chief inspector of factories in theUK reported that asbestos had "easily demonstrated" health risks. In Barking itself, alarm bells sounded in 1929 when the medical officer of health wrote in his annual report: "Many people in Barking are suffering from diseases of the lungs due to the inhalation of asbestos dust." By 1945, the medical officer wrote that asbestos was a "deadly and dangerous commodity" that should probably be banned.
A company spokesman said, "Cape has taken a very responsible approach to dealing with this issue, establishing an independent fund over two and a half years ago for the benefit of all claimants. The scheme covers all types of disease, paying compensation to claimants where due."
It was the ill-health of those living near the Barking factory that precipitated a nationwide shift in attitudes to using asbestos. A 1965 report showed that there had been a spate of mesothelioma cases among residents living near theCape factory. The factory closed three years later, but its legacy will continue to be marked by graves.
Asbestos: Case studies...
The man exposed from visits to the estate (after the factory was gone)
Dennis Gaffney, 84, is dying from mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos on the Hart's Lane estate which was built on the site of the oldCape factory. In the early 1970s, Dennis used to drive his wife Lily to see her mother, Lizzie Potter, four times a week after work. Mrs Potter had just moved into a brand new house built on the estate where the factory had been. Building work was still going on at the time and Dennis used to wait outside in his car with the windows down while his wife chatted to her mother. "I had a new car and I didn't want to get involved in women's talk, so I thought I'd leave them to it," explains Mr Gaffney. Sometimes when he got bored he would walk around and watch what was going on with the builders. It is now known that asbestos was not properly removed from the ground after the factory was shut down, but as Mr Gaffney wandered around the building site he had no idea of this. "There must have been dust in the air because there was no other time I could have been exposed to asbestos," said Mr Gaffney, who used to work in marketing. "I've had a biopsy and I'm still uncomfortable on my chest, but they just tell me to keep taking paracetamol."
The school boy whose 'snowball' fights in the yard killed him
George Dickerson used to have "snowball" fights with the thick white dust that gathered in the sports fields ofNorthburyInfant School he had no idea that his game would prove deadly. George, who spent his working life helping adults with learning difficulties, died from mesothelioma in 2006 aged 76 because his schoolyard was always showered in asbestos dust from the adjacent factory. His daughter Jane said: "He used to tell us about huge extractor fans that churned chunks of asbestos dust on to the lane that led to the school sports field. They used to collect it and bash it all together for snowball fights. As soon as he was diagnosed he knew it was from playing in it as a child. He was angry that nothing was done to protect local residents."
The wife killed by her husband's overalls (and the family destroyed by dust)
Jacqueline Merritt spent years washing her husband Don's overalls and shaking the dust off them. Don had worked forCape and his clothes were covered in asbestos. In 2004, she died from mesothelioma, aged 60, and now her husband Don has pleural plaques on his lungs and worries he'll go the same way. Not only did he lose his wife to the deadly fibres, but his brother Fred and his brother-in-law Len Sturrock also died from asbestosis. "Me and Jacky had three boys together and they all missed their mum when she died and still do. My brother Fred worked with it for just eight weeks and he died 15 years ago. Asbestos has had a massive effect on our family."
The child killed by the hug he gave a family friend
Gordon Sanders, when he was still a schoolboy, used to get visits most days from his parents' best friend, Jimmy Dows, on his way home from work at theCape factory. He loved kids, and when he came round, still in his dusty overalls, Gordon and his younger brother Philip would hug him and jump all over him. After Jimmy left, Gordon's mother would shake out the mat and leave newspaper to collect the dust. In 2005, Gordon, who was by then a primary school headteacher, died from mesothelioma, aged 57. Philip also died from lung cancer in 1988, when he was 35. At Gordon's inquest, the Coroner said that Philip's death was most likely also related to exposure to the fibres. Gordon's wife Ethel said: "The kids would crawl all over Jimmy because he was such a nice bloke. Nobody had any idea how bad the dust was. It's such a nasty disease. It's a feeling of gradually being suffocated. Gordon felt robbed of his future life with us. It seems so unjust that there was such a lack of regard for the health of people living in the area."
The mother killed by a deadly housing estate
Rita Ashdown had no idea when she moved into her new home in 1972 that it would kill her. The flat was on the Hart's Lane estate, built on the site of the oldCape factory. In 2002 she died from mesothelioma, aged 62. Her son, Eddie, said: "In 2001, tests showed that there was asbestos just a foot under ground. It wasn't until she was diagnosed that we started to think how she could have got it. We lived there for 13 years."
The lagger who mixedCape's asbestos with his bare hands
Graham Taylor is living on borrowed time. When the 61-year-old was 15, he worked forCape for a year, mixing drums of asbestos with his bare hands and without a mask. Four years ago he was frighteningly short of breath and saw a doctor. He was quickly diagnosed with asbestosis, and told he had between two and five years left. "When we'd finish work we'd look like we had jumped in bags of flour. My lungs are turning to concrete. I've been handed a death sentence andCape wanted to quibble about money."
The family wiped out by asbestos
June Gibson's mother, Amy West, and her aunt, Maud Raisbeck, died of asbestosis aged 43 and 28 in the 1920s and 30s after working in theCape factory. "The only compensation my mum got fromCape was an Italian marble gravestone," June, 79, said. "She weighed four stone before she died." Now June, who never worked there herself, has shadows on her lung too.
The former pro-footballer who can hardly walk
Peter Bragger, 60, was a semi-professional footballer and former captain of theEngland under-18 team. Now walking to the phone leaves him struggling for air. He worked forCape from 1964 as a lagger. "I was first diagnosed with pleural plaques, but now I've got asbestosis. I've had a lower lobectomy which removed part of my lung. My life has been cut short."
The asbestos researcher
Marjorie Wells's job during the Second World War was to work in the lab at the Barking factory checking which lengths of asbestos fibres gave the best finish. Now 85, she is dying of mesothelioma. "There was dust everywhere, but it didn't worry me at all. We just carried on with our normal lives afterwards," said Marjorie. "It was a shock when I found out that's what was making me ill. Now I've got no energy at all."
The female factory worker
Marian Lethbridge had trained as a children's nurse, initially making only 15 shillings (75p) a week. When she saw an advert for women to work in theCape factory for £4, she couldn't get there quickly enough. She worked there for only nine months, when she was 16, but that was enough: she was spinning the asbestos fibres, and they gave her no protection. Her husband, Ted Lethbridge, said: "At the end of the day they would get her to clean all the dust and she can remember it being so thick it hung off the light fittings. You've got to wonder why they were offering so much more money. She died of mesothelioma in 1997, when she was 69, and she was in so much pain. She said to me, 'Just let me die; I don't want any more.'"
Deadly history: The 'magic mineral' turns devasting killer
* Asbestos is dubbed the "magic mineral" after it is discovered that the rock minerals' fibrous qualities provide heat-resistant material. It is used in factories and homes. The same qualities made it deadly to workers exposed to the fibres.
* In 1898,UK factory inspectors first identified the "evil effects" of asbestos and its danger to workers' health. By 1955 a study reveals the clear lung-cancer risk. It was not totally banned in theUK until 1999, 101 years after the alarm was first raised.
* This week MPs will meet government lawyers about compensation for victims of the asbestos-related lung scarring, pleural plaques, which has not been available since the Law Lords controversially ruled against it in 2007.
* As well as pleural plaques, exposure to asbestos fibre can result in three potentially fatal diseases: asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma (a deadly cancer that strangles the lungs and other internal organs) and asbestosis (a disease that attacks the lung tissues).
* The World Health Organisation estimates asbestos is currently killing 90,000 people a year worldwide. One authoritative study predicts up to 10 million people will die because of it. We won't know the true extent in theUK until 2016 when the death toll is expected to peak.
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Stan Thomas wants to warn people about Mesothelioma
2:57pm Tuesday 3rd November 2009 - By Andy Tate
A CAMPAIGN has been launched to warn workers of the dangers of asbestos as figures show it killed almost 1,300 people in the South over the last quarter of a century.
Safety campaigners argue that “Britain’s biggest workplace killer”, which led to the shocking death toll between 1981 and 2005, could strike a new generation of workers unless the building trade gets to grips with the hazardous substance.
Asbestos was widely used as an insulating material until the 1970s but can trigger mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer, often years later.
Figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show a total of 1,295 men in the south died from mesothelioma over the 24-year period – including 867 in the Hampshire County Council area, 259 in Southampton, 135 on the Isle of Wight and 34 inSalisbury.
The HSE yesterday launched a £1.2m, month-long campaign to warnBritain’s 1.8 million tradesmen about the dangers they face.
Asbestos: The Hidden Killer runs throughout November and will see more than 500,000 information packs sent out, as well as targeted adverts.
The campaign, backed by trade unions, charities and victim support groups, aims to educate workers about the danger asbestos still presents. Although many believe asbestos is a historical problem and they are not at risk, in fact the substance may be present in any building constructed or refurbished before 2000, and it is estimated that about 500,000 workplace premises could contain asbestos.
If repair and maintenance work is not done safely it can lead to asbestos fibres being released into the air by drilling or cutting, and workers breathing them in.
Former tradesman Stan Thomas, 71, of Totton, one of Hampshire’s longest survivors of mesothelioma, has told his story for the HSE’s campaign.
He said: “I can’t change the past but if I can stop just one person getting what I have got, it is a winner.”
The father-of-two and grandfather-of-one worked as a heating engineer for 38 years and when he collapsed in December 2005 – four years after retirement – doctors told him he was dying.
Most people are given six to 12 months to live. He has made it into his fourth year.
Now, Stan and his wife Rita have had to adapt to a new life and, as an active member of the Hampshire Asbestos Support and Awareness Group, he hopes to save lives.
He said: “It is all about raising awareness asbestos might be present in any building built or refurbished before the year 2000.
Workers need to be aware that it comes in so many different forms and it can be easily missed.
“My advice is simple – be very wary and look for asbestos and if you do see it get advice. Simply, don’t go near it!
Stan said you only need to remove a screw from an asbestos panel to release a fibre and said just one fibre is enough to kill you. He said: “Irrespective of what others say about the low risk of asbestos, there is no low risk about it.”
Asbestos is killing hundreds inNorth Wales
Nov 2 2009 by Martin Williams, Daily Post
A STAGGERING 250 men inNorth Wales have died of asbestos poisoning since 1981.
And the Health and Safety Executive said thousands more across the country will be killed by mesothelioma – lung cancer as a result of asbestos exposure – over the coming decades, having contracted the disease after working on buildings or with materials containing the substance.
Steve Coldrick, head of the HSE’s Disease Reduction Programme, told the Daily Post it typically takes around 25-30 years after exposure before asbestosis or mesothelioma becomes detectable.
As a result, the death rate is expected to peak at more than 2,000 in the year 2016.
Asbestos – a naturally growing substance – was still used in building materials until 2000, when imports from places likeCanada were halted..
The HSE is today launching the Hidden Killer campaign, and Mr Coldrick hopes people will finally sit up and take notice of the impact asbestos can have, as over 4,000 people die of mesothelioma every year in theUK – more than die on our roads.
He said by the time people do realise they have the disease it’s “too late” for them to do anything about it, and predicted more than 80,000 people across theUK will die of mesothelioma before 2050.
He spoke after the Daily Post revealed last month how more than 400 schools acrossNorth Wales are still waiting to have deadly asbestos removed from their buildings.
However, despite it causing so many deaths, Mr Coldrick said teachers, staff and pupils had little reason to be concerned, adding that builders and construction workers who have worked in the trade for decades would be more susceptible to the disease.
“The content of asbestos varies, but in most cases there are very low levels, meaning there is a very low chance of you being exposed to it,” he said.
“In the case of theseNorth Wales schools, unless a tile is damaged or destroyed then there is little need to worry.” He added: “The people we see typically contracting mesothelioma are those who worked in the construction trade, in shipping or on the railways.
“It became apparent the materials they were working with every day – which were imported in from places likeCanada, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s – contained this substance, and after 2000 they were no longer brought into the country.
“But around 500,000 buildings in theUK contained asbestos, public and industrial, which is not easy to deal with.”
Mr Coldrick said that where you work is not the only way people could be exposed to asbestos.
“You have to take everything into account.
“Some people might have walked past a construction site every day for months, or been exposed to it on a holiday break – you just can’t tell,” he said.
“North Wales is a beautiful part of the country, there may well be some people who have moved to that region from elsewhere having already having been exposed where they were previously.
“The vast majority of the 4,000 people who die every year were working with the material every day, but there is another group – of teachers and office workers – who also die of it. There are not as many but their deaths are equally tragic.”
Mr Coldrick said every council inNorth Wales had a duty to control and manage asbestos in their buildings, particularly schools.
“For those in the public sector it should be reasonably easy as they will have filed architects’ plans of every building so they can find out immediately where problems lie, where the buildings need repairing and what they’re dealing with,” he said.
“If areas are damaged and asbestos is exposed then these areas should be cordoned off and managed. If they are really badly damaged the asbestos must be removed. Otherwise it should just be left alone and monitored until the building is demolished or destroyed.
“It can just be covered or masked up, it’s as simple as that. Then people just keep an eye on it.”
Mr Coldrick added the Hidden Killer campaign is vital for anyone who may have worked with building materials in the past.
“Our asbestos campaign has looked at evidence which shows a total of 180,000 people are estimated to die in theUK of asbestos poisoning and mesothelioma between 1950 and 2050,” he said.
“When we spoke to people working in the building trade the results were shocking, which is why this campaign is so important. Some thought the asbestos had gone from all buildings and that it was no longer a problem, while others thought there was a legal limit that could be used in certain structures. Many even said they knew asbestos was in the air because they could ‘taste it’. Trust me, you can’t.”
Mr Coldrick added: “For every more high-profile work accident or work-related death there are 50 people who die because of asbestos.
“We’re trying to make sure people understand it. There is no need for panic, especially in schools because children are involved. If it is properly managed there is no evidence to suggest they’re at risk. There is also no evidence to suggest asbestos can affect children more than adults.
“Some people might think we don’t care or are being complacent but we’re absolutely not. Teachers and pupils at these 400 schools can be assured of that, as well as those who have worked on construction sites or who may have come into contact with asbestos.”
FOR information on the Hidden Killer campaign call 0845 345 0055 or visit the website: www.hse.gov.uk.
Mesothelioma deaths not to peak until 2016
28 October 2009
The number of people dying from the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma has hit record levels and is not expected to peak until 2016, according to research from the Health and Safety Executive.
Mesothelioma is a virulent form of cancer that is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. The disease is usually fatal.
In 2007, the most recent year for which data is available, 2,156 death certificates cited mesothelioma as cause of death. This was up from 2,058 in 2006 and 2,046 the year before that.
HSE researchers have forecast an increase in the number of men suffering from mesothelioma year-on-year until 2016. The figures project a rise from 1,812 cases of mesothelioma among males this year to 2,016.
Projections are exclusively for mesothelioma cases among men because a decision was taken to divide the research project in two by sex. Estimates for female deaths will be published in due course. The ratio of male to female deaths in 2007 was around five-to-one.
A spokesperson for the HSE insisted that asbestos was not just a legacy problem. “Asbestos exposure is very much a present danger. A complete ban on asbestos was not introduced until 2000 and there are still 500,000 non-domestic premises in the country with asbestos. It isBritain’s biggest industrial killer.”
He added that asbestos awareness was a crucial issue not just for tradesmen, but for facilities managers too. “As well as education tradesmen who might be exposed to asbestos we need to educate the dutyholders who are responsible.”
The HSE would not hesitate to prosecute facilities managers who failed to live up to their legal responsibilities, he warned.
Asbestos payout crisis as James Hardie's $1.8bn fund runs out of cash
By Joe HildebrandFrom:The Daily Telegraph -October 26, 2009 11:07AM
Serafina, who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma with her family. Picture Craig GreenhillSource: News Limited picture
- Asbestos fund nearly out of money
- Dying mum begs: "Do the right thing."
- Federal Government urged to provide $153m
THE $1.8 billion fund set up by James Hardie to pay for thousands of asbestos victims is about to run out of money, allowing the corporate giant to delay payments to the dying.
THE $1.8 billion fund set up by James Hardie to pay for thousands of asbestos victims is about to run out of money, allowing the corporate giant to delay payments to the dying.
The dire situation has prompted calls to the Federal Government to inject an emergency payment of more than $150 million into the fund so victims can be fully compensated.
It comes as a dying mother of four - aged just 39 - delivered a simple message to the company: "Just do the right thing."
The fund had just $140 million in May this year.
With payouts to victims of more than $100 million a year, the fund will soon be unable to meet its obligations, a threat which would allow James Hardie to defer payments or pay in instalments.
James Hardie has not made payments to the fund for two out of the last three years thanks to a loophole which allows it to pay either the projected amount it owes victims or 35 per cent of its "free cash flow".
It is understood that the Asbestos Injury Compensation Fund wrote to James Hardie and the State Government in April saying it believed it would not be able to meet its liabilities.
Asbestos Diseases Foundation president Barry Robson said the Federal Government should use a $153 million tax payment it received last year from a former Hardie company to lend to the fund.
"This problem is James Hardie's responsibility and they should fix it," he said. "We have had positive talks with the NSW Government but they can't fix this without federal help. Victims deserve better."
The compensation fund's CEO Dallas Booth confirmed there were concerns but said he could not comment.
Mother of four Serafina, who asked that her surname not be used, is one of several victims seeking compensation via law firm Turner Freeman.
She was diagnosed with mesothelioma after being exposed during home renovations.
She needs a full lump sum payment so that the family can afford a nanny and her husband can take care of her and return to work when he needs to.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon this morning called on the Federal Government to make up the expected shortfall.
Senator Xenophon, who is a patron of the SA Asbestos Victims Association, says the Government "needs to step in".
State and federal governments knew for generations the danger of asbestos, he said.
"This has been a failure of regulation and we need to fill the gap if there is a default," he told said.
"I'm quietly confident the Federal Government will do the right thing."
Schools in asbestos probe shock
By Donald Wilson -Published: 22 October, 2009
HIGHLAND Council doesn't know where asbestos is lurking in 123 of its schools.
And this week the local authority refused to reveal schools involved, despite repeated requests from the Highland News.
The shock figure is revealed in documents being issued by the council to firms for "asbestos management" in 197 schools across the region and has worried politicians and a health campaigner.
Work on the contract is due to start this month with completion next April. But details highlight that full asbestos surveys are only currently available for only 74 schools in theHighlands.
Of the rest, 65 have had no surveys whatsoever while 58 have only had partial surveys carried out.
InInverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, nine schools have no surveys, 21 partial and 24 full surveys.
In Ross and Cromarty, there are no records for 16 schools with 15 partial and 20 full surveys.
The situation is worst in Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh. Twenty-six schools are without surveys, three had partial surveys and 20 had full asbestos surveys.
The council refused to name the schools with partial or no surveys, and claims to be now treating the HN requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
The situation has been criticised by leading campaigner Michael Lees, who has addressed parliamentary committees on the issue of asbestos in schools since the death of his wife Gina in 2000.
She died of mesothelioma, a form of cancer, caused by her exposure to asbestos in schools when she was a teacher.
He explained although by law the council has a legal duty to manage the risk from asbestos in all its buildings, it is not legally bound to carry out the surveys and claimed they were not mandatory simply because of the costs involved.
Mr Lees has raised the issue with the Health and Safety Executive.
He said: "It is unacceptable that no survey records have been found for 65 schools and only partial ones for a further 58.
"Although this is within the law, it is bad practice not to have a thorough asbestos survey. Without knowing what asbestos is there, a school cannot manage their asbestos."
Asbestos has been an long-running issue atWickHigh School and in recent months there have been asbestos scares atNairnAcademy andKingussieHigh School.
In March, contractors atNairnAcademy disturbed artex which contained asbestos in the ceilings and seven classrooms in the upper school had to be closed for several weeks.
Mr Lees said if surveys have not been carried out, it means that all walls, ceilings and floors must be presumed to contain asbestos unless there is positive proof that they do not.
He also pointed to a Scottish Government survey of schools last year which placed 124 schools as in poor condition and a further seven in bad condition.
NairnAcademy, which was one of the schools subject to an asbestos scare earlier this year.
He claimed: "As the schools have not been properly maintained their condition has deteriorated and inevitably so has the condition of any asbestos materials used in their construction, and yet the school authorities in more than a third of the schools have no idea whether or not they contain asbestos and no idea whether it is deteriorating or not.
"Without knowing that basic information, the authorities cannot claim that the schools are safe."
Highland SNP MSP David Thompson said it was worrying that no surveys existed for some schools, but he was pleased the council was now going out to tender.
"If the council finds serious risk from asbestos, I hope it will move quickly to remove this material from schools."
Tory health spokesperson and Highland MSP Mary Scanlon was also shocked by the figures and said parents and school staff placed their trust in the council to provide a safe and healthy environment.
"The worrying thing about mesothelioma is that it can take decades between exposure to asbestos and the development of this cancer which has been found in many people who worked in the mining and shipbuilding industry."
Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Charles Kennedy explained that risks can be kept very low where staff are aware of correct procedures and material which could contain asbestos is left undisturbed.
"The gradual availability of more and better information about the asbestos threat is precisely what will protect today's young people from the terrible health effects which older generations have experienced from prolonged exposure to airborne asbestos when the consequences were not understood," he said.
A spokesman for teachers' union the Educational Institute of Scotland said it welcomed the fact the council is taking long overdue steps to comply with Health and Safety law.
"The safety of pupils and teachers in schools should always be a top priority for all councils," he added.
A council spokesman said the authority had a large property portfolio and many of its buildings were constructed at a time when asbestos was a common building material.
"The council, like most others, faces a significant challenge in managing the risks of asbestos in its buildings and we follow Health and Safety Executive guidance on the control and management of asbestos where we know it exists," he said.
"The council is investing significant resources in improving our survey data and our control systems.
"We have rigorous procedures in place to identify and assess the risks of asbestos disturbance before any works are carried out.
"The removal of asbestos from all properties is not a practical proposition on the grounds of safety and cost.
"We are therefore working to survey and put asbestos management plans in place for each of our buildings which ensure that asbestos containing materials are not disturbed and that building users are not exposed to any safety risks."
Lost or missing insurance policies leave asbestos victims without compensation
The industry's own scheme is supposed to track down missing details that would help claims. It has failed in its task in half of the cases
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Ronnie Cadwallader, 76, (pictured with his wife Anne) was exposed to asbestos as a welder and metal-worker, and was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the end of 2007
Insurance companies were yesterday accused of profiteering from victims of the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Hundreds of victims of the disease are going without compensation because many of the insurance policies meant to protect workers allegedly have been lost.
A scheme to track down insurance details of defunct companies, run by the industry itself, is failing to find almost half of the policies which would cover victims' compensation. Untraced mesothelioma cases save the insurance industry an estimated £60m a year, leaving sufferers and their families to struggle on government benefits that are a tenth of what they would be paid in a claim.
"It's an astronomical windfall for the insurance industry," said Ian McFall, head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors. "At best, they are culpable of mismanaging their policy record archives and at worst they're guilty of profiting from incompetence."
The Government admitted yesterday that the voluntary scheme, which is overseen by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), was "not delivering" and that the figures were not acceptable. The failure to find 48 per cent of policies for mesothelioma sufferers has been described as "utterly shameful", particularly as many of the "lost policies" date from after 1972 when it was compulsory to have employer insurance.
Lord McKenzie, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister, said of the ABI: "It is not delivering what we hoped for it. Far too many people are still not able to trace their insurance policies and access the compensation they deserve. This is not acceptable and more needs to be done to improve tracing rates."
The Government said the scheme had been such a failure that it was now considering the establishment of a "more formal" tracing office and the creation of a fund of last resort to compensate those whose insurers could not be traced.
"The insurers save millions of pounds by not finding these records," said Kevin Johnson, solicitor at the asbestos specialists John Pickering and Partners. "They profit from the failure of the tracing scheme, so why would it be in their interests to commit resources to it? The ABI tracing scheme has failed. You've got insurers policing themselves and the whole thing is fundamentally flawed."
The latest review of the Tracing Service shows that 387 mesothelioma sufferers were left without compensation in 2008 after it failed to trace the insurers of the company that exposed them to asbestos. And the problems are not confined to asbestos: overall the ABI managed to trace only 45 per cent of the policies it was asked to find, leaving more than 3,000 people without hope of compensation.
For those exposed to asbestos before 1972, when employer liability insurance was made compulsory, the likelihood of getting compensation is low. Only 39 per cent of mesothelioma victims who tried to trace insurance policies before 1972 were successful.
Despite the difficulties in tracing policies, the DWP confirms that only one person deals with mesothelioma cases. Lawyers say he is "swamped" with claims.
Tony Whitston of the Asbestos Victims Support Group said: "The true value of proper compensation for dying asbestos victims is a sense of justice done and the solace that they are providing for those they leave behind. Robbed of their lives through no fault of their own, insult is heaped on injury as they fall back on taxpayer-funded, nominal, government compensation while insurers walk away from their liabilities with their back pockets stuffed with cash. This is utterly shameful."
An ABI spokesman said: "We would refute totally any suggestion that insurers are looking to profit by denying people compensation. The insurance industry is committed to providing compensation to mesothelioma victims."
A postponed meeting between MPs and government lawyers to discuss compensation for sufferers of the asbestos scars, pleural plaques, will take place this week. But Michael Clapham, chair of the all-party occupational safety and health group, said; "I don't think it will take us anywhere. The lawyers will just say the law can't be overturned; what's needed is political will."
Jeff Hurrell, 57, fromStockton-on-Tees
His sons were nine and 18 when he died from mesothelioma aged 57 in 2006. His wife, Sue, 54, struggles to make ends meet and has no hope for compensation because the insurers of the companies he worked for cannot be found. Jeff was exposed to asbestos when he worked for two Teesside building contractors in the 1960s. His job involved cutting asbestolux boards and he was not given any protection or warning about the dangers. By the time he discovered he was dying it was too late to get compensation from his employers – both companies had dissolved. The ABI tracing scheme also failed to identify any employer liability insurers for either company. "More than anything in the world I'd rather have Jeff back, but the money would help us," said Sue. "I'm a carer part-time but it's not easy to manage. It would help an awful lot to get compensation. I could give our boys the things Jeff wanted for them."
Stephen Pearce, 56, fromDudley
He is dying of mesothelioma and can't get compensation because the fabrication company he worked for no longer exists and the insurers can't be traced. "It was a dirty workplace and there was dust all over," he said. "I was in the middle of a Christmas party when I was called to get my results and found out I had mesothelioma. I went back and carried on. I didn't tell my family until New Year's Day. I know they were insured because I can remember the certificates on the wall. The information should be available. I haven't yet reached the stage where I'm incapable of doing things, but when I do it would be a comfort to know there's money there. You hear about asbestos-related disease, but until it happens to you, you have no idea how bad it is."
Ronnie Cadwallader, 76, from Merseyside
He was exposed to asbestos as a welder and metal-worker, and was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the end of 2007. Initially, the ABI could not trace the company that had insured his former employer. Only after a solicitor put in another tracing request to the ABI that it discoveredZurich had been the insurer and he was paid £140,000. "My case proves that the insurance scheme for trying to trace policies doesn't work. It is totally hit and miss," said Ronnie. His wife Anne, 65, said: "It does help to have the money. It means we don't have to worry about bills when we've got so much else to worry about. It's a horrible disease. It was neglect that caused him to be exposed to asbestos. He was given no masks and had no idea how dangerous it was."
Was the Queen Mother's Private Secretary killed by asbestos from Clarence House?
By Alexis Parr and Angella Johnson - Last updated at 10:03 PM on 10th October 2009
An inquest is to be held into the death of Sir Alastair Aird, the former Private Secretary to the Queen Mother. The Mail on Sunday has learned that Sir Alastair, 78, had been suffering from mesothelioma, a deadly type of cancer usually caused by exposure to asbestos, when he died last month. A coroner will try to determine if he contracted the disease after inhaling dust during work to remove asbestos from Clarence House, the Queen Mother’sLondon home.
Trusted: Sir Alastair Aird, with wife Fiona in 1963, was a courtier for 40 years
Sir Alastair’s widow, Fiona, godmother to Tory leader David Cameron, said: ‘When we heard his illness was asbestos-related, we were naturally shocked.
'Alastair did organise the removal of asbestos from Clarence House but, as far as I can recall, it was all done very safely over two summers, while the Queen Mother was away.’
Sir Alastair was the quiet and diplomatic Private Secretary who ensured the Queen Mother’s daily life ran smoothly. He was one of her trusted courtiers for more than 40 years and was among the few people to see her just before her death in 2002.
Suspicion: Clarence House, where Sir Alan twice had asbestos removed
In recognition of his long and distinguished service he was appointed an Extra Equerry to the Queen in 2003.
He was also supportive of his godson, David Cameron. It is widely believed that when Mr Cameron applied for a job at Conservative Party Headquarters in 1988, Sir Alastair called them from Buckingham Palace on the day of the interview to say that they were about to meet ‘an exceptional young man’.
When he retired, Sir Alastair moved to Sturminster Newton,Dorset. Lady Aird, 75, said her husband had been in ‘reasonable’ health for much of his working life but fell ill soon after his retirement.
‘There were times when he seemed fine,’ she said. ‘But others when he found things hard going.
‘He was very tired and breathless. He found playing golf a struggle. Sometimes, just climbing a couple of flights of stairs would leave him exhausted.’
Initially, doctors diagnosed cancer yet could not determine the primary cause. When Sir Alastair’s health deteriorated in 2006, one doctor suggested it might have been due to his exposure to asbestos, a fibrous mineral often used for insulation, over many years in his former apartment at St James’s Palace and when supervising its removal from Clarence House in the Nineties.
‘He had chemotherapy and all sorts of treatments, then professor Lord Darzi did a biopsy and revealed it was mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that affects the internal organs,’ said Lady Aird.
‘One knew there was a lot of asbestos in old houses and hospitals. ’
However, Lady Aird, who was a Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Margaret, ruled out any possibility of suing the Royal Family.
The full inquest will be heard before Michael Johnston, the Coroner forWest Dorset.
A police source said: ‘It probably won’t be for months.
There are a number of letters which need to be sent to try to establish the source of the asbestosis which we believe was responsible for Mr Aird’s death.’
A Palace spokesman said last night: ‘This is a private matter andBuckinghamPalace is not commenting on the inquest or issues to do with the late Sir Alastair’s death.’
PNG doctors demand asbestos ban
Created: Mon, 19 Oct 2009 13:09:13 GMT-0700
PHOTO - Danger sign inAustralia. [ABC]
Medical experts inPapua New Guinea have called for a ban on importing asbestos products and tighter building controls after health crackdowns in industrialised nations.
The PNG Medical Society also says many colonial-era buildings in the country are made of fibro-cement sheeting, containing asbestos, which has been linked to the lung disease mesothelioma.
Society president Dr Mathias Sapuri told RadioAustralia: "We already have evidence to show that some of our patients who have died from lung cancer due to mesothelioma (were exposed) to the asbestos from fibro.
"The Medical Society of PNG is calling on the appropriate building industry authorities and the government to ensure that we put in place regulations to ban importation of fibro for building.
"Australia,America,Europe and many other developed nations and developing countries have banned this from the building industry and I think it is important that PNG should do that as soon as possible."
Dr Sapuri said doctors were concerned that "exposure to this dust coming out from the fibro over the years . . . (will lead to) our people to inhaling the dust, which eventually leads to asbestosis, causing lung problems".
Building industry representatives in PNG say asbestos products that are sealed and are in good condition and are not shedding fibres are not a health risk.
But the doctors' president replied: " I think they are more protecting the industry.
"We have got two patients who have already developed mesothelioma and they are working in the building industry. So you can easily say that could possibly just be the tip of the iceberg."
Dr Sapuri said it was difficult to get Papua New Guineans with lung cancer to undergo a biopsy.
But "clinically we are suspecting from the cases that they are dying from lung cancers". This was supported by overseas statistics, he said.
MesotheliomaNews-Canada continues to mine lethal asbestos fibers
2009-09-30 03:11:18 (GMT) (JusticeNewsFlash.com - Justice News Flash, Mesothelioma Asbestos, Press Release)
World Health Organization continues to condemn the use of toxic chrysotile asbestos and the mining of the lethal substance whileQuebec actively mines the cancer causing product.Canada mesothelioma lawyers-Canadian provinces continue to allow LAB Chrysotile to mine asbestos materials known to cause fatal cancers.
Quebec–Asbestos, a known cancer causing substance, has been banned by theUnited States and most developing countries, including the European Union, and has been condemned by the World Health Organization for decades. However, the shocking fact that two Canadian provinces,Ottawa andQuebec, actively mine and promote the sale of chrysotile asbestos substances is appalling. As reported by The Gazette on September 28, 2009, the article revealed that asbestos, widely known to cause chronic diseases in humans like asbestosis and fatal cancers, like mesothelioma lung cancer since 1984, is still mined inCanada and sold overseas. Asbestos is rarely sold or even used inCanada anymore but it is sold overseas by the two main Canadian chrysotile asbestos mines that are owned and operated by LAB Chrysotile.
The World Health Organization (WHO) openly condemns the use and mining of the toxic asbestos materials and actively educates people of all nation’s of the dangers of primary and secondary exposure to asbestos containing materials. Asbestos is known to cause debilitating lung illnesses like asbestosis and fatal cancers like mesothelioma. When miners, workers, family members, and consumers are subjected to asbestos fibers through primary or secondary exposure their risk of developing incurable illnesses and or diseases later in life is increased exponentially.
Canada remains one of the few developing countries who has not banned asbestos yet taxpayers have spent, and continue to spend, hundreds of millions of dollars on the demolition and removal of asbestos from Parliament buildings. Close to 7,000 workers still mine inQuebec and by 1984, twenty-five years ago, when the dangers of asbestos were well known world wide, the asbestos industry began to promote asbestos as a safe consumer product. The asbestos campaign by the mining industry was with the support of the Canadian government. The asbestos manufacturers andQuebec unions founded the Asbestos Institute (now known as Chrysotile Institute) to educate on the positive uses of asbestos and is subsidized by both levels of government. In the spring of 2009, the government agreed to pay $1.35 million into the Institute over three years.
LAB Chrysotile mines and exports asbestos containing substances to developing countries likeIndia,Indonesia,Sri Lanka, andBrazil and estimated the asbestos exports are worth more than $100 million. A study released in 2006 reported asbestos exposure was responsible for a 70 percent rise in work-related deaths inCanada, which is more than 300 deaths per year. MiningWatchCanada asserts the asbestos mining company, LAB Chrysotile, pays the lowest taxes inQuebec after government breaks and subsidies. In 2002, the total public expenditures on the asbestos industry was $107.7 million according to The Gazette.
The United States Surgeon General and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assert any human exposure to asbestos containing products is toxic and may cause irreversible harm and damages. The former W.R. Grace mining town ofLibby,Montana, is a recent example of the devastation after actively mining asbestos for decades. Over 2000 miners, workers, and residents of the community suffer from illnesses and lung diseases believed to be from repeated exposure to aerated asbestos fibers produced at the vermiculite mine in Libby. There are some 200 documented deaths by federal health officials in Libby, and the EPA has the entire area listed on their Superfund site. TheUnited States government through the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared the northwestMontana communities of Libby andTroy a public health emergency on June 17, 2009, at a joint press conference. This is the first time inU.S. history the EPA determined conditions at a site constituted a public health emergency under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). When isQuebec going to wake up and become globally responsible for their asbestos mining actions?
Canada mesothelioma cancer education by legal news reporter Heather L. Rya
HealthCanada Failed to Release Report Connecting Asbestos to Lung Cancer
Friday, June 12, 2009 by: Louis Lazaris, citizen journalist
(NaturalNews) For more than a year HealthCanada held on to a report that concluded there is a "strong relationship" between lung cancer and chrysotile asbestos mined inCanada. The report was authored by a panel of international experts and was received by HealthCanada in March 2008.
Trevor Ogden, the panel chairman for the report, made repeated requests to HealthCanada to have the report made public, but the requests were resisted.Ogden referred to the delay as "an annoying piece of needless government secrecy."
The report was obtained by Canadian media outlet Canwest News Service under Access to Information legislation, but only after 10 months of processing.
The panel's report found a less certain connection between chrysotile asbestos and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. However, the report did find a strong connection between chrysotile asbestos and lung cancer, according toOgden writing in an introductory letter.
In the letter, Ogden, who is editor-in-chief of The Annals of Occupational Hygiene inBritain, also noted that the panel included members who have previously expressed opposing views on the subject, including industry consultant David Bernstein, who was previously involved with asbestos producer Union Carbide Corp, as well as Canadian andCalifornia asbestos mining companies.
A Health Canada spokesman said the delay in releasing the report was due to taking time necessary to carefully review the report's findings and to consult other federal and provincial partners.
Leslie Stayner, director of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, commented on details of the report which also included amphibole asbestos as having a connection to risk of mesothelioma.
"The most important thing is what it doesn't say, which is some people have alleged it would say. What it doesn't say is that exposure to chrysotile asbestos is safe," said Stayner. "I think the bottom line here is that all forms of asbestos cause both mesothelioma and lung cancer. We will probably for many years still be debating this question of relative hazard of chrysotile. The fundamental question of whether it's hazardous or not is clear. I think the answer to that is, yes, chrysotile is a hazardous substance."
The report's release has reopened debate on the future of the asbestos industry inCanada, and particularly in theprovince ofQuebec where the industry is concentrated.
Member of Parliament Pat Martin, who has long been a supporter of a ban onCanada's asbestos industry, said the panel's conclusions should be taken seriously and should initiate government action on the matter.
"It makes our case. The reality is we're at a tipping point. The jig is up for the asbestos industry," said Martin, who once worked in an asbestos plant inYukon without being warned of the health risks. Most uses of asbestos are banned inCanada, and all uses for all forms of asbestos have been banned in Europe andAustralia. ButCanada remains one of the world's largest chrysotile asbestos exporters in the world with more than $100 million of exports in 2008, primarily to developing countries likeIndia andIndonesia.
Other countries that have imported Canadian asbestos since 2007 include theU.S.,Columbia,Brazil,Peru,Pakistan,China, andEcuador. Countries that have banned all types of asbestos without exceptions includeBulgaria,Egypt,Poland,Saudi Arabia,Uraguay,Chile, andIceland.
Chrysotile asbestos is the most commonly encountered form of asbestos, accounting for about 95% of asbestos found in theUnited States.
¥77 million for base asbestos death
Tuesday, July 7, 2009 –Japan Times
YOKOSUKA, Kanagawa Pref. (Kyodo) The Yokohama District Court ordered the government Monday to pay about ¥77 million to the family of a deceased man who developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos while working at theU.S. naval base inYokosuka,KanagawaPrefecture.
Presiding Judge Haruhiko Sakae of theYokosuka branch of the district court ruled the government and theU.S. military neglected to take necessary safety measures, such as having workers wear protective masks.
Sakae also said the government was aware of instances of asbestos-related health hazards before Hitoshi Taima began working at the base in 1977.
"I hope the government and theU.S. military implement preventive measures so that no other workers will fall victim to asbestos-related diseases after being exposed to asbestos at work," said Taima's widow, Mieko, 53.
According to the court, Taima was exposed to asbestos in insulation filling while fixing and setting up air conditioners as an engineer at the base between 1977 and 1995.
The lawsuit had demanded ¥94 million in compensation from the government, which was his employer for theU.S. base work.
Taima was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April 2006 and died in May 2007 at age 51. Before passing away, Taima filed the lawsuit against the government based on the U.S. Navy's decision in March 2007 that recognized his case as illness and injury suffered in the course of carrying out one's job duties, according to his family.
Taima's family succeeded him as plaintiff after his death.
The civil law regarding the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement definesJapan, the employer, as liable for accidents or health problems of workers who work atU.S. bases, rather than theU.S. side, the user of the facilities.
Asbestos: The magic mineral that was onceCanada's gold
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | 3:25 PM ET CBC News
Asbestos wasn't always a dirty word.
It was once called the "magic mineral" and was touted as Canadian gold — a unique resource that was going to bring our country wealth and prosperity.
The needle-like fibre had many uses and inventors were tripping over each other to find more: it was woven into clothes, building insulation and coffee pots. It was even mixed with children's play dough and, at one point, had roughly 4,000 other applications.
But in the 1960s and '70s, when more and more asbestos miners started coughing up blood, the sheen wore off.Canada has spent the last 20-plus years trying to rid our homes, schools and offices — including Parliament Hill — of the dangerous dust that was often loosely sprayed as insulation.
Our hospitals, however, are still dealing with the aftereffects. In 2007, at an occupational health clinic inSarnia, Ont., nurses continue to register almost one new patient a day with asbestos-related cancer, such as mesothelioma, or asbestosis, says the clinic's executive director, Jim Brophy.
The southwesternOntario city of 73,000 is home to a large petrochemical complex, which includes such companies as Imperial Oil, Suncor and Shell. The thousands of pipes that run throughout this "chemical valley" were covered with asbestos insulation and some still remains.
Quebec, home to most ofCanada's asbestos mines, has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma on the planet.
Worldwide, about 125 million people are exposed to asbestos at work and at least 90,000 die each year from asbestos-related diseases, according to the World Health Organization.
"It's really a public health epidemic," Brophy said.
In spite of health concerns, asbestos continues to be mined inCanada. Our country is the second-largest exporter of the mineral afterRussia, shipping it mainly to developing countries such asIndia andChina.
What's more, unlike countries in the European Union, as well asJapan,Australia andSaudi Arabia,Canada has not banned asbestos. Rather, the federal government actively promotes its use globally. An October 2008 editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal criticizing asbestos exporting calledCanada "an avid asbestos cheerleader."
Ottawa argues that the type of asbestos mined today, chrysotile (white asbestos), is different than the type (amphibole) that has wreaked so much havoc. It's less crumbly and is used for things like cement, a solid that is less likely to release the deadly fibres into the atmosphere, says the Chrysotile Institute, a government-funded organization that promotes controlled use of the mineral.
But there are still calls for an outright ban of the substance inCanada. In July 2007, the Canadian Cancer Society called for the federal government to phase out both the use and export of asbestos. It said that exposure to asbestos must stop in order to eliminate the diseases associated with the fibres.
Such a ban, of course, would have a devastating effect on long-time asbestos miners, who are among the most vulnerable population.
"For decades these workers suffered the brunt of these asbestos-related diseases, and are now watching their livelihood, not just for themselves but for the whole community, hit the tank," said Brophy. "We have a terrible situation going on."
The 'magic mineral'
Asbestos was first mined inQuebec in the 1870s. In the mineral's heyday,Canada boasted the world's biggest open pit mine, the Jeffrey Mine located in the province's Eastern Townships. The industry thrived and a town was even named after it, Asbestos, Que., which used to wear the moniker with pride.
"These enormous asbestos deposits in theprovince ofQuebec are immensely valuable toCanada in war and peace, and they form a very important part of our great heritage of mineral wealth," said CBC Radio's Lorne Greene in 1942, on-site at the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Que.
But by the late 1960s, the bloom was starting to fade. More and more miners had shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and were coughing up blood. Studies linking asbestos to voracious diseases such as lung cancer, scarred lungs (asbestosis), and mesothelioma (cancer of the stomach and chest, which is only caused by exposure to asbestos) began to rack up.
One of the very things that made asbestos so popular — its indestructibility — was what also made it so vicious. Once a person inhaled the deadly dust, it was impossible for the body to break the fibres down and it eventually led to severe scarring and death.
In the fall of 1974, Dr. Irving J. Selikoff, the world's foremost authority on asbestos-related diseases, and a team of doctors examined the miners atThetford Mines inQuebec. He condemned the working conditions as the worst on the continent, further cementing asbestos' notorious legacy. The sentiment spread to Baie Verte, Nfld., in 1978. Miners walked off the job and demanded protections to reduce their exposure to the deadly asbestos dust. The 15-week strike was the longest health-related strike in Canadian history, and caught the nation's attention.
Trying to dust itself off
In the 1980s, the asbestos industry inQuebec tried to mend its crumbling image and salvage its shrivelling industry. The province was quickly becoming the centre of the asbestos controversy and many of the mines' customers began phasing out the mineral from their products.
The industry, backed by the Canadian government, spent millions on research and to fight bans on the product at home and abroad. In 1984,Ottawa established The Asbestos Institute, a non-profit organization to promote the safe use of white asbestos.
But in 1989, the industry was dealt a hefty blow: theU.S. announced plans to ban asbestos because of the health risks. WhileCanada's neighbours to the south weren't big importers of the mineral, the asbestos industry feared the move would have a domino effect worldwide.
However, theU.S. didn't completely ban the use of asbestos. NASA uses the fibres to insulate the solid fuel boosters of the space shuttles, because of its heat-resistant properties. But, Brophy says there is a de facto ban on the substance as the legal consequences associated with asbestos-related disease act as a deterrent.
Asbestos litigation is the biggest issue facing the American courts, Brophy says. "Nobody in their right mind, in the [American] economy, will use it. It's just such an economic liability."
Banned in developed countries
The World Health Organization has labelled all types of asbestos, including chrysotile, as carcinogenic. It is banned in many developed countries, includingNew Zealand,Australia and all European Union countries.
ButCanada continues to be a proponent of the controlled use of white asbestos. The Chrysotile Institute says the industry has learned from previous problems and has strict controls in place at the plants. Provincial governments now regulate the use and handling of asbestos on job sites.
"Most of these health hazards come from the past use of amphibole asbestos and from inappropriate practices such as sprayed-on insulation. These practices have been discontinued inCanada since the 1970s," the Ministry of Natural Resources says on its website.
In fact, the Canadian government fought to keep asbestos off a U.N.-sponsored list of dangerous substances. If included on the list, called the Rotterdam Convention, any country looking to import asbestos would be informed of all the potential risks and would have to agree in advance to accept any shipments.
Julia Langer, director of the global threats program at the World Wildlife Fund inCanada, one of the groups pressuring the United Nations to restrict the export of asbestos, said the move was despicable. Including asbestos on the list "could have saved a lot of lives," she said.
In the most recent update to the Rotterdam Convention's Prior Informed Consent list in October 2008, chrysotile was again left off afterIndia,Pakistan,Vietnam and thePhilippines objected. To be added to the list, consensus must be reached. The Canadian delegation did not address the topic.
Experts' report unreleased
"Canada has credibility for protecting the environment, [and has] a reputation for being a democratic and fair-thinking country... and yet on this one particular issue,Canada acts out of greed and political need. And what [the government has] done is unconscionable," Langer told CBC News.
In the fall of 2007, HealthCanada hired a panel of seven experts on asbestos and occupational health to take another look at the cancer risks of chrysotile asbestos. Their report was completed and submitted in March 2008.
In May 2008, Bloc Quebecois MP Andre Bellevance implied in the House of Commons that the report suggested that it supported his view that asbestos is not a great risk. When his comments reached members of the panel, two wrote letters to Health Minister Tony Clement, accusingCanada of breaking faith with the experts.
Panel chair Trevor Ogden wrote that his professional reputation and that of the other members of the panel was at risk if the government continued to sit on the report. He called the delay unacceptable. He also said their work was being misrepresented.
A dying industry
The asbestos industry, regardless of a substance ban, may die inCanada on its own.
Since the 1980s, export and production of the mineral has dwindled down to less than 25 per cent of its original haul.
A multitude of factors are at play, in addition to the controversy Chrysotile courts at home. High transportation costs, the strength of the Canadian dollar and the ability of other countries, such asZimbabwe, to sell the mineral at a cheaper cost have cut intoCanada's ability to compete.
"Asbestos is a dying industry," says Langer. "Quebec can't compete with production inZimbabwe or inRussia, and they're trying to keep this industry alive for whatever reason they have, and the government is complying with the demands that the industry be protected at all costs. And the costs to the Canadian citizens are huge
Asbestos 'causing teacher deaths'
Thursday, 16 April 2009 17:39UK - News.bbc.co.uk
Asbestos must be removed from schools to prevent the risk of cancer to pupils and teachers, a teaching union says.
228 teachers died from asbestos-related diseases between 1991 and 2005, Health and Safety Executive figures show.
The annual conference of the NASUWT teaching union agreed the government must work towards removing asbestos in all schools to halt new cancer cases.
The government says schools should know where asbestos is located and local authorities should audit schools.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, also criticised schools and colleges, saying some were not taking their responsibility towards staff and pupils seriously.
Carole Hagedorn, a foreign languages teacher fromEssex, told the conference about her shock at being diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related cancer.
"When, at the beginning of my career, I went into classrooms to teach Year 8s the perfect tense, I did not expect it to end with an industrial disease," she said.
She underwent 18 weeks of chemotherapy.
"I am understandably unhappy that the lack of proper asbestos control will end my life prematurely, like some sort of collateral damage or natural wastage in the education game," she said.
Hank Roberts, a teacher from Brent, accused the government of "deliberate and knowing murder" for failing to remove asbestos from schools.
He said: "If you know people will die as a result of your inaction when you could act, how is that not murder?"
He said it was "not common" for schools to clearly label where asbestos was located.
A cancer of mesothelial cells which cover the outer surface of the lungs and, less commonly, the abdomen
Most cases caused by exposure to asbestos
The tiny fibres which make up asbestos are breathed in and irritate the lining of the lung, causing cell damage
"This information should be made freely available to staff - and they should know what condition the asbestos is in," he went on.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families said the health and welfare of pupils and staff was "absolutely paramount".
"By law, tough, robust processes must be in place in schools to carefully monitor asbestos, which we and the HSE continually assess.
"It is unacceptable for local authorities and school employers not to fully comply with the statutory guidance issued."
The DCSF said the Health and Safety Executive gave expert advice on asbestos control - and it advises that it is safer to carefully manage undisturbed and undamaged asbestos, rather than remove it.
The government now requires all local authorities to carry out regular surveys of the condition of school buildings, and report any asbestos.
An authority must take further action where it identifies asbestos which has been disturbed or damaged, or is likely to be and cannot be protected.
But teachers say it is not sufficient to take action only after asbestos could become harmful.
'No safe level'
The HSE - which regulates health and safety inEngland,Wales andScotland - records the last known profession of every person who dies of asbestos-related cancer.
A spokesman said that the link between working in a school or college and the disease could not be established in every case, because a person could have come into contact with asbestos fibres in another location or previous profession.
He also said HSE studies had shown teachers were no more at risk than other workers.
Government advice to schools says they must:
- Know if their building contains asbestos and what condition it is in
- Inform anybody who may disturb the asbestos of where it is located
- Refrain from pinning, stapling or tacking displays to walls and ceilings that might contain asbestos
Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: "Some schools and colleges are not taking health and safety issues like this seriously, and many local authorities are failing to comply with their statutory responsibilities.
"We welcome the fact that the Department for Children, Schools and Families is now requiring local authorities to provide information on the audits they should have conducted of asbestos in schools."
New regulations introduced by the HSE in 2006 prohibit the importation, supply and use of all forms of asbestos.
Many schools inEngland are now being refurbished as part of the government's Building Schools for the Future programme.
The DCSF said there were strict requirements for asbestos surveys of buildings to be carried out to identify any asbestos.
"All major refurbishments carried out under BSF would normally include removal of all asbestos," a spokesman said.
"Any asbestos that is likely to deteriorate or to be damaged or disturbed would be removed as part of the BSF programme, in line with the HSE's advice."
A Freedom of Information request recently revealed that 300 schools inWales could also be affected by asbestos, and a recent BBC investigation revealed it was in 90% of schools in the south east ofEngland.
Asbestos cases flood into court
Grant McArthur and Norrie Ross -March 04, 2009 12:00AM
A TICKING asbestos time bomb is threatening to overloadVictoria's courts and fill our hospitals.
Asbestos-related diseases are claiming hundreds of Australian lives each year and that number is set to soar over the next decade.
The number ofmesothelioma patients has doubled at some Victorian hospitals in the past two years, while asbestos-related claims make up almost a quarter of all common law cases heard in the Supreme Court.
This year there will be about 800 new asbestos-related disease cases in Australia -- up from 600 in 2005 and just 400 in 1995 -- but Prof Bruce Robinson from the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases warns the situation will rise for another five to 10 years.
The Supreme Court is operating under orders to fast-track asbestos litigation so victims can have justice before they die -- just nine months from diagnosis for most mesothelioma patients.
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre oncologist Dr Ben Solomon said the hospital had only four mesothelioma patients two years ago but now treats more than 10, partly because of improved treatment through the drug Alimta.
But for most sufferers there remains no effective medication.
Maurice Blackburn lawyer Jane McDermott said the firm's asbestos claims had doubled in two years.
"Australia imported and used the most asbestos in the 1970s, so with the 40-year lead time this peak of 2020 is alarming," Ms McDermott said.
Peter Gordon -- whose firm Slater and Gordon handles 80 per cent of asbestos cases -- warns of a new wave of victims with office workers, DIY enthusiasts and people who walked past the Hardie factory when they were children diagnosed 40 years after limited exposure.
"Without any doubt itsAustralia's worst industrial disaster in terms of people killed. It has no rival," he said.
Asbestos-related diseases give tough time to Gujaratis
Gaurav Sharma -Posted: Nov 13, 2008 -expressindia.com
Ahmedabad, November 12 “It has been a disgusting life,” says Manga N Patel, sitting on the lone bench at a tea stall in Parshavnath Nagar locality of Chandkheda in Ahmedabad. With tears rolling down his face, Patel walks away saying he is in no mood to talk further. Similar has been the response of scores of other people working in factories which use asbestos.
The case in question is a recently published dossier titled 'India's Asbestos Time Bomb' by the renowned International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) that has termedGujarat as the 'Asbestos Hot Spot.'
The dossier, which was circulated at the recently concluded fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4) of the UN's RotterdamConvention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure inRome, lists the 'Golden Corridor' of Gujarat as the major hub for asbestos use.
The corridor stretching from Mehsana in north to Vapi in south, housing over 31,000 working factories, has a routine occupational exposure to asbestos in power generation, ship-breaking, cement production, insulation, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, friction materials and safety equipment factories.
The dossier mentions power generationindustries like the Ahmedabad electricity corporation (now known as Torrent Power) as widely using asbestos for boilers and furnaces. Although there are cases like Patel, a former boiler room operator, being paid Rs 1.60 lakh by the company as the out-of-court settlement amount, cases of compensation for the Asbestos Related Disease (ARD) victims are far and few between.
Also, due to the widespread availability of limestone inGujarat, there are a lot many industries manufacturing asbestos cement sheets. The IBAS names Shree Digvijay Cement Company Limited, Ahmedabad as the main culprit in this regard. Up till now, the Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) has compensated eight individuals for ADR. All of them were workers of the Digvijay Cement.
Ship-breaking is another source of asbestos exposure to workers, most famous being the site at Alang nearBhavnagar. The controversy surrounding Clemenceau and Blue Lady, carrying asbestos waste and radioactive materials, is still fresh in the public memory.
‘ARDs claim more lives than any other work-related illness’
According to the IBAS,India employs nearly one lakh workers in both organised and unorganised sectors of the asbestos industry, with majority of them inGujarat. The cumulative asbestos consumption inIndia between 1960 and 2008 is estimated to exceed the seven-million-tonne mark. It is also estimated that ADRs like malignant mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis kill more people than any other work-related illness. Although blue and brown asbestos are banned, white asbestos continues to be used inIndia. But what is most shocking is the stance taken by the Indian Government along withCanada andRussia at COP-4, by vetoing the inclusion of chrysotile on the PIC list. The inclusion would have made it mandatory for theexporters to provide information to the importing countries on the hazards posed by the chemicals to both the human health and environment.
Supreme Court’s January 1995 ruling
The Supreme Court, in response to a public interest litigation filed by the Consumer Education and Research Centre, passed an order on January 21, 1995, which included:
* Maintenance of health records for 40 years since employed or 15 years after leaving employment (in the asbestos industry)
* National Institute of Occupational Hazard should decide on diagnoses in case of disputes
* Rs 1 lakh compensation to be paid to the asbestos-related disease victims
* Special monitoring of small-scale asbestos manufacturing units
* Regular reviews of permissible limits for asbestosSetting up membrane filter test facilities for measuring dust levels
— (With inputs from Parimal Dabhi)
HSE warns of asbestos dangers – 20 Tradesmen Die Every Week
The HSE campaign Asbestos: The Hidden Killer is running throughout October and November.
Twenty tradesmen die from asbestos-related diseases every week – that's 4,000 each year – and the figures are set to increase, according to the Health and Safety Executive.
The HSE campaign Asbestos: The Hidden Killer is running throughout October and November with the aim to tackle this rate by educating workers who could be at risk.
Steve Coldrick, director of the HSE's Disease Reduction Programme says, "We need to educate tradesmen about how asbestos and its dangers are relevant to them. We want them to change the way they work so that they don't put their lives at risk."
The number of deaths is rising because a large number of workers who have already been exposed to asbestos dust around 40 years ago will go on to develop mesothelioma, a terminal cancer or other asbestos related diseases, Coldrick added.
And the danger lies in the fact that many tradesmen think they aren’t at risk because asbestos was banned years ago.
But asbestos presents a real risk to plumbers, joiners, electricians and other maintenance workers. Asbestos may be present in any building constructed or refurbished before the year 2000, and it is estimated that around 500,000 non-domestic buildings could contain asbestos.
When the asbestos fibres are disturbed by drilling or cutting during repairs or maintenance work, they are likely to be inhaled as a deadly dust.
If asbestos-containing material is in good condition and in a position where it cannot be disturbed or damaged, it is safer to leave it where it is and ensure that the risks are managed.
Managers of building maintenance and repair have a duty to inform tradesmen if asbestos is present in a building they are working in.
A free asbestos information pack is available from the HSE, giving information on the dangers of asbestos, where it can be found and treated and where to find specialist training to do so.
Asbestos dangers in 1261 Scottish schools revealed
Oct 19 2008 By Mark Aitken Political Editor, Sunday Mail
HUNDREDS of thousands of schoolchildren could be at risk from asbestos in classrooms.
A Sunday Mail investigation reveals 1261 primary and secondary schools contain the potentially deadly building material.
Millions of pounds are being spent by councils to remove or manage asbestos.
But campaigners say more is needed to tackle the problem.
Asbestos was widely used in school building in the second half of the 20th century.
But it can lead to the killer disease mesothelioma - a lung cancer - which appears up to 50 years after exposure.
It has been linked to the deaths of 73 schoolteachers inBritain from mesothelioma between 1991 and 2000.
According to the Scots government and councils, asbestos is safe if left undisturbed.
But campaigners claim even pinning children's work to walls and ceiling tiles can release asbestos fibres into the air.
They fear generations of pupils could be condemned to an early death by breathing in the deadly fibres.
Campaigner Michael Lee's wife Gina died of lung cancer caused by asbestos in schools where she worked for 30 years.
Michael, ofDevon, said: "A high proportion of schools have asbestos with the potential to release deadly fibres.
"The government's policy is that it is safer to leave asbestos in place than to remove it.
"Even banging doors or hitting walls or structural columns can inject these fibres into rooms.
"Every drawing-pin stuck in a classroom ceiling can release asbestos fibres into the atmosphere.
"When people are regularly exposed to these supposedly low-level risks, as my Gina was, the cumulative effect can lead to the formation of tumours."
Labour education spokeswoman Rhona Brankin said: "The number of schools with asbestos is unacceptable. So too is the number of rundown schools. Recent figures showed nearly a third of pupils are being taught in schools that are not fit for purpose.
"The SNP aren't even close to matching Labour's schools programme.
"Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop has had over 18 months to build schools but not one has been commissioned."
Scots councils were asked under the Freedom of Information Act for the number of schools with asbestos, the type of asbestos and its location in each.
The 23 councils which replied revealed they had 1261 schools containing asbestos.
BothGlasgow andEdinburgh city councils refused to reveal figures on cost grounds.
Fife Council have 149 primary and secondary schools with asbestos out of a total of 175 schools.
They spent £429,500 in the past three years on asbestos management but have no planned programme of removal.
Out of 211 Highland Council schools, 126 have asbestos. But they spent only £55,500 in three years removing it.
North Lanarkshire Council have 124 schools with asbestos and spent £1.5million in the past three years removing it.
There are 103 schools inSouth Lanarkshire with asbestos. They spent £2.6million in three years removing asbestos.
Ronnie Smith, general secretary ofScotland's largest teaching union, the EIS, said: "The fact so many school buildings do contain asbestos remains a matter of concern."
The Scottish Government said: "We understand people's concerns. Issues and responsibilities for asbestos lies with the Health and Safety Executive.
"We have and will continue to pass on any concerns to the HSE and will actively encourage them to have discussions with campaigners."
One of Youngest Mesothelioma Victims Dies inUK
Posted on October 3rd, 2008
by Deon Scott in Blogger News
A young woman who has died from the asbestos related cancermesothelioma in theUK has become one of the youngest victims of this disease. Leigh Carlisle was just twenty eight years old when she lost her fight against the deadly cancer just a couple of weeks ago, leaving many confused as to how and when she was exposed to asbestos.
Mesothelioma develops as a result of exposure to asbestos dust and fibers at high levels of over long periods, and the disease usually taken twenty to forty years to develop from the time of exposure. Many are now questioning the safety of the schools and building in which Leigh was taught as a child, as this seems the most likely place that she was exposed.
Before her death Leigh said: “I used to take a short cut across a yard in Failsworth on my way to primary school. I know that men working there cut asbestos sheets and handled asbestos materials in the yard, but I had no idea that by walking through the yard I could have inadvertently got cancer.”
Her boyfriend stated: “Leigh had so much courage and strength - she was an inspiration to me and to others. Instead of flowers at her funeral, she said she wanted donations to the Oldham Cancer Support centre in Failsworth. Leigh would have liked to think that she helped the cancer centre to support other people.”
Construction to blame for a third of all workplace deaths
14:05 29 Oct 2008
By Neil Gerrard
Construction accounts for 31% all fatal injuries in the workplace, according to the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) statistics for 2007/08.
The data showed that although the number of deaths over the year fell slightly to 72, compared to 77 in 2006/07, construction still had the largest number of fatal injuries of any main industry group.
Meanwhile, the number of reported major injuries to employees rose slightly to 3,764, compared to 3,730 in 2006/07.
Reported over-three-day injuries also increased over the period, with 7,446 in 2007/08, compared to 7,161 in 2006/07.
The HSE said that the most common kinds of reported injuries to workers in all industries were as a result of handling or slips and trips.
It was a similar story in construction, where handling accounted for 29% of reported injuries and slips and trips accounted for 25%.
But construction also had a higher proportion of reported injuries caused by falls from height (15% compared to 5% across other industries); and moving or falling objects (16% in construction, compared to 12% in other industries). Contact with moving machinery was also marginally higher at 4%, compared to 3% in other industries.
Commenting on the figures, HSE chair Judith Hackitt warned that construction was still a "concern".
She added: "I am also concerned that slips and trips – which can have an enormous impact on peoples’ lives – are still not reducing. HSE is developing a new strategy that seeks to renew commitment from all those involved in health and safety to tackle these challenges and more.
"In the difficult and uncertain months ahead I urge employers not to take their eyes off the ball. Good business management will be vital and good health and safety management is an integral part of that. Health and safety contributes positively to competitiveness and should not be sacrificed in times of financial pressure."
And as the HSE launches a new campaign to warn tradesmen of the dangers of asbestos, there was confirmation that there are around 4,000 cancer deaths each year due to past exposure to asbestos across all industries.
In 2006 there were 111 deaths from asbestosis and 2,056 from mesothelioma. The HSE expects deaths from mesothelioma to peak at some point between current levels and 2,450 at some time before 2015.
‘My husband’s asbestos horror’
Nov 24 2008 by Madeleine Brindley, Western Mail
TERRY WARD spent most of his life as a builder working on sites with little or no protection against the invisible danger of asbestos.
The 64-year-old died earlier this year from mesothelioma – a deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
It is thought the disease could have developed as a result of Mr Ward’s exposure to the substance as much as 30 to 40 years ago.
Maureen Ward, who met her husband when she was just 15 years old, has spoken of how she nursed Terry, a grandfather-of-three, throughout his “dreadful” illness.
“I’d rather that Terry was still alive and here with me, but having watched him suffer, I’d rather he would have had a heart attack and just gone,” the 63-year-old part-time housekeeper said.
“I thought so much of him – he was my best friend. I have sleepless nights thinking about how he must have suffered, how he must have felt throughout his illness and wondering what he must have gone through.”
The first sign that Mr Ward – who was working as a security guard at the time – was ill came when he started suffering from nose bleeds. The couple, who have two children, initially put the symptoms down to blood pressure.
But 18 months ago, after a barrage of hospital tests they were told that Mr Ward had mesothelioma. He was given between three and 12 months to live.
“You could have hit me with a mallet,” said Mrs Ward, who lives in Crickhowell.
“I couldn’t speak – it was the worst day of my life. It was just terrible for Terry because he was thinking about us – his family – more than himself.
“I know some people will say at least we had 48 years together but I feel robbed – Terry was the life and soul, the heart of our family.
“In later years he talked about how dangerous asbestos was. But when he was working in it, he didn’t realise it.
“He’d come home absolutely white some days, covered in the stuff. If he had realised how dangerous it was then, he wouldn’t have touched the stuff.”
Asbestos is now regarded as the largest occupational health killer in theUK – 4,000 people a year die from asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma.
This number is set to rise to 10,000 by the year 2010 – by comparison, the number of people killed on theUK’s roads is around 3,000 a year.
The number of mesothelioma deaths is increasing inWales every year, rising almost fourfold since 1986. There were 76 mesothelioma deaths inWales in 2006 compared to just 18 in 1986.
The Health and Safety Executive launched a major campaign in October to make tradespeople aware of the continuing threat of exposure to asbestos. It is warning people who carry out work on a building which was built or refurbished before 2000, they could have been exposed to asbestos without even knowing it.
The Cardiff-based solicitors Russell Jones and Walker have identified four areas inWales where people were exposed to asbestos decades ago and could be at risk, including the former Dunlop Semtex factory in Blaenau Gwent, the oldCarmarthenBay power station, the Trawsfynydd power station and the Barry docks area.
But despite the huge amount of development taking place acrossWales and the ongoing risk of exposure to asbestos, the Monmouthshire-based occupational health consultancy company Core Surveys Ltd has found that the extent of asbestos training inSouth Wales is “woefully inadequate”.
Emma Corfield, managing director of Core Surveys Ltd, said: “The group now most vulnerable to these risks are the building maintenance and remediation trades. From our inquiries into the extent of asbestos awareness training inSouth Wales, we have so far found that the extent of training is woefully inadequate considering the extent of current development programmes.
“A YouGov survey commissioned by the British Lung Foundation found nearly a third (31%) of people inWales are still unaware that contact with asbestos can cause cancer.
“I think this is extremely relevant in the current climate. If 31% don’t know asbestos can cause cancer, think how many people don’t know how to recognise it or that they are working with it.”
More information about asbestos and the HSE awareness programme is available from www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/hiddenkiller
126 Countries Debate Whether to add Chrysotile Asbestos Should be added to ‘Watch List’
Back to the Future
This week inRome, 126 countries will debate whether chrysotile asbestos should be added to a 'watch list' of dangerous chemicals. Canada, which exports 95 per cent of the chrysotile asbestos it mines, has vetoed the addition in the past, arguing the material can be used safely. Critics at home and abroad call
By The Ottawa Citizen -October 26, 2008
This week inRome, 126 countries will debate whether chrysotile asbestos should be added to a 'watch list' of dangerous chemicals.Canada, which exports 95 per cent of the chrysotile asbestos it mines, has vetoed the addition in the past, arguing the material can be used safely. Critics at home and abroad call
Canada's position 'self-serving.' In a four-part series on the eve of theRome talks, Katie Daubs examines the past and present ofCanada's asbestos legacy.
SARNIA - When I meet Bill Trenouth on the way toToronto, he doesn't seem to want to talk. He's staring out the window of a commuter van with his arms crossed. Like the other six men on this journey, he was exposed to asbestos several decades ago. Unlike the others en route for a lung scan, he isn't joking around or reminiscing. He is 52.
I've just returned fromIndia, where I went to find out how Canadian asbestos is used. Today, I want to find out aboutCanada's asbestos legacy -- and I'm getting an earful, but not from Mr. Trenouth.
These men worked inSarnia's chemical industry during the '70s, where they were exposed to asbestos.
As a result, their lungs are marked with pleural plaques, benign spots that are often predictors of asbestos-related diseases. Each year they travel toPrincessMargaretHospital to see if anything has changed.
The radiologists and doctors at theToronto hospital are conducting an early mesothelioma and lung cancer diagnosis study. Researchers hope to predict the diseases that are sometimes linked to pleural plaques. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs and has, until now, been a death sentence. "But so was lung cancer 30 years ago," says Dr. Heidi Roberts, the principal investigator.
Dr. Roberts says a person who is diagnosed early may be saved using surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
So at a time in life when these men should be on road trips for fun, they make the yearly journey toToronto to find out if they are dying. Nearly all of the study's 766 participants are fromSarnia. So far, researchers have detected five mesotheliomas and two lung cancers. The men with mesothelioma have died.
Mr. Trenouth is a few decades younger than the others. He has no idea how he was exposed. He's an iron worker, missing a day's wages to be here. "For most of the year, you forget about it," he tells me later. "Then they call you up to remind you and you start having sleepless nights."
Such is the plight of men inSarnia.
With petroleum stocks, proximity to theUnited States and a steamship route on the city limits,Sarnia was a shoo-in for a petrochemical industry a century ago, and still produces 40 per cent ofCanada's chemicals.Sarnia is a 10-hour drive from the nearest asbestos mine, but it doesn't matter. During the '60s and '70s, the industry thrived on the flame-retardant mineral. Foundry ovens and the pipes that snaked above the ground were insulated with the stuff.
Jim Brophy, the former director ofSarnia's Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers, says chrysotile asbestos was used exclusively in the "ChemicalValley," with the exception of one company, the Holmes Foundry. Clément Godbout, the president of the Chrysotile Institute, says it was amphibole asbestos that was used.
Having just been toIndia, I know this distinction is politically and scientifically crucial: Made-in-Canada chrysotile asbestos arrives weekly in Indian ports. Many fearIndia is being set up for the same tragedySarnia is experiencing. This week inRome, the 126 countries that have ratified the UN's Rotterdam Convention will debate adding chrysotile asbestos to a list of dangerous substances that governments of importing countries should be warned about.
"Looking atSarnia today will give you a good idea whatIndia will be like in 30 years," says Dr. Brophy, who thinks chrysotile asbestos should be banned.
That is why I'm in the van, listening to the stories. In a time of great political and scientific debate, I want to hear these men tell me of the past so that I might glimpseIndia's future.
From 1992 to 1998, men inLambtonCounty were being hospitalized for mesothelioma at a rate five times higher than the provincial average. For asbestosis, it was nine times higher. During this time,Sarnia's occupational health clinic registered one new case of asbestos-related occupational disease every week. Now, it registers four each week -- and the patients are getting younger. "Almost every blue-collar family knows of someone who has died as a result of asbestos exposure," says Dr. Brophy.
Dr. Abe Reinhartz, who works at the clinic, says it's cut a broad path. "It hasn't peaked yet. It will in the next decade or so."
Sometimes, two vans make the weekly trip to Princess Margaret. "Just goes to show you how big the problem is inSarnia," says Terry Forrest, 67, a former boilermaker.
Except for Mr. Trenouth, most of the men in the van know each other from old jobs. There's Angelo Ferrari, 70, another boilermaker, and Frank Bonifacio, 75, a cement guy, both originally fromItaly. In the middle, there's Jerry Bourque, 80, a boilermaker and George Pierzchalski, 76, an inspector. In the very back of the van is "the great-great-grandfather" of the boilermakers, 81-year-old Ralph Dewey.
Halfway toToronto, they try to explain what a boilermaker does.
"It means, 'You stupid son of a bitch, find another job,' " says Mr. Forrest.
Boilermakers -- I later find out -- build and repair tanks.
"We're all here," says Mr. Ferrari. "No one got away. Not even the inspector."
Decades of work, decades of stories -- like the time Mr. Forrest accidentally threw his helmet through a window.
"I had to call your wife and tell her you were fired," Mr. Ferrari recalls.
"I was back on the job the next week," Mr. Forrest shoots back.
The men laugh. Mr. Trenouth stares out the window. He has seven years until he retires.
When the driver stops for coffee inWoodstock, Ont., he pulls into a handicap space and pulls out his wife's permit."We're pretty much there anyways," Mr. Forrest jokes.
They order coffee and stand around talking about the Holmes Foundry -- a textbook example of an unsafe working environment inSarnia. The foundry made engines and asbestos products using amosite asbestos.
Mr. Ferrari worked there for two years. When he left, he spit black for two months. "I had no choice," he says, explaining that he emigrated fromItaly at 17. "I couldn't speak very good English. It was harder for me to avoid those kind of jobs."
Back then, asbestos was everywhere. It was sprayed as insulation and mixed with cement. Asbestos blankets were wrapped around workers to protect them from fire. During this time, Mr. Ferrari was often the boss on a job. "Even though I was ignorant, I feel guilty," he says.
"It's criminal what we didn't know," Mr. Forrest says. "We had asbestos blankets wrapped around us and white asbestos in the air like snowflakes."
When factories stopped using the protection, everyone was angry. "We'd go dig out the blankets. Otherwise, you had to do the same job with bare skin," Mr. Forrest says.
"It's a wonderful product," he adds. "Except it'll kill ya."
Outside the Princess Margaret clinic, Mr. Bourque sits on a bench and rests his hands on his legs. Mr. Forrest checks out the motorcycles parked in the lot. The others are still inside.
Mr. Bourque worked all over "ChemicalValley" between 1941 and 1988. A man once arrived fromToronto to investigate how he was exposed and tried to blame a single company.
"I disagreed," he says. "I said, 'You're asking crazy questions.' In the work we're involved in, you can't pinpoint it. It was all over the place."
Sometimes he wore a mask, but it was tiresome. When the foreman walked away, masks usually came off. "It's a little bit like smoking, eh? Some people, it will affect them pretty bad. Some people, not at all."
"You can't get angry. It's just one of those things. Just do the best you can to remedy it. How can you get mad?"
Minutes later, Mr. Trenouth sits down. "I just hope I make it to retirement," he says, to no one in particular.
In 2001,Sarnia became the first municipality inCanada to support an asbestos ban. When Mayor Mike Bradley forwarded the motion, he was criticized by councillors for meddling in federal affairs. "I told them, 'I cannot think of another situation where Canadians would allow this to go on deliberately,'" he says. "We have all the evidence that it hurts."
Mr. Bradley thinks more Canadians would be outraged if they knew about asbestos exports. "Speaking from a community that lives with and is dealing with the horror every day, we've not been afraid to confront it."
It hasn't always been this way. In 2003, the Globe and Mail calledSarnia "Ground Zero" of industrial disease. The story focused on Blayne Kinart, who was dying of mesothelioma, and featured photographs of his body hollowed by disease. "He said, 'I want to take my shirt off and show what it has done to me,'" his wife, Sandy Kinart, remembers.
When the story appeared, people inSarnia rushed to the newsstands. "Some were complaining, some were glad the story was finally being told," Mrs. Kinart remembers. "One woman said 'Shame on you' for adding to the publicity."
After her husband's death, Mrs. Kinart started to work atSarnia's occupational health clinic. Every day, she learns something new -- including thatCanada continues to export the mineral. She says it doesn't make sense. "There's unprotected men in my community here and we knowingly send this toIndia, with its huge population?"
Mr. Bourque, one of the workers in the van, doesn't know much about asbestos exports, but says morals should apply. "Why put it off to somebody else if we can't put up with it?"
Mr. Trenouth has a small farm outside ofWatford, Ont., where he grows strawberries and pumpkins. He has three children; the youngest is 23. "I always hoped I'd be around to see him get married, have some kids," he says. "Now I'm not really sure."
He never worked directly with asbestos, and doesn't know when he was exposed. He remembers times that areas were roped off by yellow warning tape. "You think the goddamned stuff knows it's supposed to stay there?"
Radiologists inToronto have found pleural plaques on both his lungs, and a growth on his left one. It doesn't mean anything now, but could in a few years.
"You'd be crazy not to go (toToronto)," 81-year-old Ralph Dewey tells him as the van drives the rainy 402 back toSarnia. "If they catch it, maybe you'll be OK."
© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.
Pleural plaques victims deserve compensation, says MSP
9 September, 2008 | By Rhiannon Hoyle (Freelance)
Victims of a benign asbestos-related condition should be entitled to seek compensation despite objections from the medical and insurance professions, a Government minister said today.
MSP minister for community safety Fergus Ewing insisted the Scottish Government was right to draft legislation to overturn a decision by the House of Lords which stopped people with pleural plaques - scarring on the lungs - from making claims.
He also took a swipe at insurers for raising "alarmist" concerns over vastly increased payouts and costs.
He told the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee:"The Government's view is that it should continue to be possible to obtain damages when pleural plaques or similar asbestos-related conditions develop as a result of negligence."
Mr Ewing said the lords' decision was based on pleural plaques not being a harmful condition.
The SNP government insists the scarring is proof of exposure to asbestos.
The condition could multiply the risk of fatal disease - such as mesothelioma - by 1,000 and lead to considerable anxiety, Mr Ewing said.
He added: "Many people with pleural plaques are in our old industrial heartlands and will know from family experience about the potential lethality of asbestos.
"And while pleural plaques will not be outwardly visible, they and their loved ones may have seen the x-ray and see the scars in their mind's eye."
Fundamental differences in the condition's impact have been highlighted by medical experts including Professor Neil Douglas, president of the Royal College of Physicians ofEdinburgh.
Prof Douglas warned that it would be "fundamentally wrong" to compensate for a condition with no harmful symptoms.
Insurers also claimedScotland would face 30 per cent of the British total for claims, while having only 10 per cent of the population.
Industry representatives said UK Government figures suggested an annual cost to defendants of between £76 million and £607 million.
But Mr Ewing dismissed the "embroidered" figures and added: "We really do think some of the figures being quoted are close to alarmist and therefore we don't recognise that they're likely to be valid or accurate."
He went on to say that asbestos claims are more likely to be around 10 per cent of theUK total, based on health and safety data.
He added that "floodgates" would not be opened if legislation is agreed and claimed separate figures were in stark contrast.
Mr Ewing continued: "I'm also confident that the Bill reflects our values and expectations about how our fellow citizens should be treated.
"That is what this Bill and indeed this Parliament are all about."
The Justice Committee had asked medical and experts to attend the evidence session but no one was available.
In his submission, Prof Douglas said: "We have the greatest of sympathy for those who do develop asbestos-related conditions, including mesothelioma, but it would be fundamentally wrong to use the existence of pleural plaques as a basis for compensation claims within this Bill."
Professor Anthony Seaton, ofAberdeenUniversity, argued in his submission that up to 55,000 men inScotland could qualify under the legislation even though evidence that they have a disease is "flimsy in the extreme".
Other critics included the CBI which criticised the legislation on the grounds it could undermine confidence inScotland's "stable" legal environment.
The Association of British Insurers argued that pleural plaques are symptomless, do not affect health and do not develop into asbestos-related diseases.
And Dr Martin Hogg, of Edinburgh University's law school, argued: "The change proposed in the Scottish Bill will, in my opinion, only add fuel to concerns that we are living increasingly in a compensation culture, and could be productive of ever-more speculative claims by those worried that they may contract an illness but who may never go on to do so."
Defenders of the plan, including Clydeside Action On Asbestos, said the condition indicates past exposure to asbestos and could point to a higher risk of developing a potentially fatal illness.