February 28, 2005

Specter pressured to lower amount of proposed asbestos fund

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter is reportedly under pressure to scale back his proposal for a $140 Billion privately financed asbestos fund.

The White House has not explicitly endorsed Specter's proposal, and some Republicans and business interests fear its current provisions would be too costly for the defendant companies and insurers who would finance the fund.
News Source: Reuters  |  Published: February 28, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Georgia Supreme Court Rules on Asbestos Liability Lawsuits

Georgia Supreme Court ruled that family members of employees who are exposed to asbestos in the workplace cannot sue the employer as a result of coming into contact with the employees clothes away from the workplace.

The court concluded that "the holding in Widera is consistent with negligence law in Georgia" and that "an employer does not owe a duty of care to a third-party non-employee who comes into contact with its employee's asbestos-tainted work clothing at locations away from the workplace."
News Source: hr.blr.com  |  Published: February 28, 2005  |  Read Full Story

W.R. Grace and Co. Executives Plead Not Guilty

Former Grace executives plead not guilty to charges that they knowingly endangering residents of Libby, Montana, and concealed information about the health affects of its asbestos mining operations.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, six W.R. Grace and Co. executives and their dozen-plus lawyers appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leif Erickson on Tuesday to plead not guilty to charges that they knowingly concealed information about the deadly health effects of their company's vermiculite mine in Libby.

The defendants are also accused of obstructing the government's cleanup efforts and wire fraud. To date, according to the indictment, approximately 1,200 residents of Libby area have been identified as suffering from some kind of asbestos-related abnormality.

News Source: Billings Gazette  |  Published: February 28, 2005  |  Read Full Story

February 21, 2005

Veterans May Benefit from Asbestos Compensation Fun

An Op-Ed piece by Alabama veterans in the Decatur Daily voices their support for an asbestos compensation fund. Veterans with asbestos related diseases are presently not able to sue the U.S. Government over their contact with asbestos, nor will that change anytime soon. The alternative is to sue the companies who supplied the government, but veterans say most of those companies are bankrupt or don't exist anymore. However, an asbestos bill may provide veterans relief as they would be able to receive compensation provided by insurers and businesses involved in the asbestos industry.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter is hard at work on a bill that would create a national asbestos victims' compensation fund to solve the crisis. The government wouldn't have to pay a penny under this plan. Businesses and insurance companies will pay into the fund. Truly sick victims with asbestos-related illnesses will get paid quickly, without having to hire a trial lawyer or face the uncertainty in the court system.
News Source: Decatur Daily  |  Published: February 21, 2005  |  Read Full Story

The Cruel Saga of Asbestos Disease

Paul Brodeur, a staff writer at the New Yorker, wrote a commentary piece for the LA Times providing us with an insightful look at what he calls The Cruel Saga of Asbestos Disease

In pioneering studies conducted in the 1960s, Selikoff demonstrated the horrific extent of asbestos lung disease in heavily exposed asbestos insulators. He then showed that asbestos disease was also striking less- exposed workers who toiled alongside the insulators in shipyards and on building construction sites. Other scientists found that the wives and children of asbestos workers were dying through exposure to the relatively small amounts of asbestos dust their husbands and fathers were bringing home on their work clothes.

Paul Brodeur has also written four books on asbestos disease:

News Source: LA Times  |  Published: February 21, 2005  |  Read Full Story

James Hardie Industries Faces US Asbestos Lawsuits

The Australian reports the James Hardie Industries faces lawsuits in the United States, specifically California, by former employees who handled Asbestos. The bigger story is that James Hardie Industries may have asbestos liability in the United States.

The workers were employed by Californian distributor Industrial Building Materials Inc, which they claim imported and installed Hardie asbestos products. Mr Kazan's firm has won a number of similar cases in the past.
News Source: The Australian  |  Published: February 21, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Mississippi Justice Overturns Judge's Order in Asbestos Injury Lawsuit

AP reports that Mississippi Supreme Court Justice, George C. Carlson Jr, has ordered plaintiffs in an asbestos injury lawsuit to justify why their cases should be heard in Jones County, Mississippi. This overturns an order by Circuit Judge Billy Joe Landrum where by 115 plaintiffs would be grouped together.

Carlson said the plaintiffs must provide the defendants with information on who each plaintiff sued and why. That information should also include when the plaintiff was exposed and the work site where the exposure occurred.
News Source: Associated Press  |  Published: February 21, 2005  |  Read Full Story

UK Insurer Gets Partial Victory in Asbestos Case

Reuters reports that Aviva, an insurer, and the government wanted to stop pay-outs for pleural plaques.

Holland slashed the level of compensation to be awarded, ruling that provisional damages should be between 3,500 and 4,000 pounds rather than the previous range of 5,000 to 7,000 and final damages should be between 6,000 and 7,000 pounds compared with the previous range of 12,500 to 20,000.
News Source: Reuters  |  Published: February 21, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Libby, Montana in the Aftermath of W.R. Grace and Co. Indictment

An AP story describes Libby, Montana in the aftermath of the W.R. Grace indictment.

Posters promise "Door Prizes!!" and "Blood draw to participate in ongoing research!" Companies that sell home oxygen supplies will send reps. Doctors and researchers will be here. There will be consultants to help asbestosis victims apply for public aid. And there will be advice on finding help with the housework when the disease becomes too much.

But the most interesting quote in the AP story comes from Ed Baker, a former city councilman, "He'd go back to work for them today if he was alive. My dad knew in the '60s that his lungs were turning to concrete. Like he always told me, he took his chances and he could have quit at anytime. But they were good jobs."

How many people feel that way in Libby, Montana? Probably not many family members, and 1200 victims who have been identified as suffering from some kind of asbestos-related abnormality.

W.R. Grace and its executives, as far back as the 1970's, attempted to conceal information about the adverse health effects of the company's vermiculite mining operations and distribution of vermiculite in the Libby, Montana community, according to the indictment.

The defendants are also accused of obstructing the government's cleanup efforts and wire fraud.

News Source: Associated Press  |  Published: February 21, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Army Decides Against Asbestos Disposal Plant at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Harford County

Residents of Harford County can breathe a sigh of relief as Harford County Executive James M. Harkins informed them that the army decided against building an asbestos disposal plant in their community.

the plant would have collected asbestos from military installations from surrounding states and reduced it to a nonhazardous material that could be taken to a landfill.

The question remains: Why even consider disposing of asbestos near any populated community?

News Source: baltimoresun.com  |  Published: February 21, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Billings Workers Have Minimal Exposure to Asbestos says Dr.

Dr. Kate Flanigan, from the Denver office of Federal Occupational Health spoke to the Billings Gazettle about the high levels of asbestos at the Billings federal courthouse in late January 2005, early February 2005.

The highest asbestos readings last week were three times the level that triggers alarms in standards set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, she said. But OSHA doesn't start seeking medical surveillance in a building until levels exceed the standard for eight-hour periods on 30 days during a year. High readings in Billings were found on only one or two days, she said. And employees entering and leaving the lobby were not exposed for eight hours, she said.
News Source: Billings Gazette  |  Published: February 21, 2005  |  Read Full Story

February 17, 2005

Custodians file suit against UNLV

Giordano, now retired, filed in November a District Court lawsuit against UNLV alleging the institution knowingly allowed workers to clean asbestos fibers without proper safety equipment or training, according to the Review-Journal. About 40 plaintiffs have now joined the suit, the custodians' attorney told the R-J.

News Source: Rebel Yell  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Officials address parents' asbestos questions

HOPEDALE -- Trying to reassure parents the Bright Beginnings Center is now safe, officials fielded an hour of questions last night.

The Bright Beginnings Center, a public preschool, has been closed since Feb. 3 when unsafe levels of airborne asbestos were found in one classroom.

News Source: Milford Daily News  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

AFL-CIO Worried by Asbestos Plan Reopening

The AFL-CIO labor group is "deeply disturbed" by calls from some senators and business interests to reopen parts of a plan to create an asbestos compensation fund, the organization's legislative director William Samuel wrote in a letter released on Wednesday.

News Source: Reuters  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Workers win test case in asbestos claim

Thousands of workers exposed to asbestos can continue to claim compensation after a test-case ruling that could cost insurers and employers hundreds of millions of pounds over the next 35 years.

News Source: Guardian Unlimited  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Proposals would limit asbestos lawsuits in Texas

Lawmakers and business leaders looking to stop what they call a flood of frivolous lawsuits say the state's asbestos litigation system victimizes the truly sick while lining the pockets of unscrupulous trial lawyers. When money from nearly bankrupt companies goes to people who aren't sick from asbestos exposure, they say, those companies aren't able to pay those who suffer the most.

News Source: AP Wire  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Jury selection under way for asbestos trial

Prospective jurors in a would-be-rare Madison County asbestos trial showed some savvy during a recent, extensive "voir dire," jury selection interview.

News Source: Madison County Record  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

40-year GE employee sure of asbestos link to medical difficulties

Dr. Kerin confirmed that five of the nearly 700 current and former GE employees questioned at the union-led intake clinics last summer in Peterborough tested positive for asbestosis, a scarring of the lungs that can lead to breathing problems and heart failure.

News Source: mykawartha.com  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Cancer Research UK - Mesothelioma to peak by 2015

DEATHS from mesothelioma, an asbestos-related lung cancer, will peak within ten years in the UK and then fall to a much lower level, according to new figures published in this week's British Journal of Cancer*.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer in the lining of the lungs or the lining of the abdomen. It is thought that the majority of cases are the result of exposure to asbestos, but the disease can take up to sixty years to develop. Mortality in Britain rose from 153 deaths in 1968 to 1,848 in 2001 and is still increasing, but the new study suggests the rate will begin to decline by 2015.

Researchers from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), together with Professor Julian Peto of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and The Institute of Cancer Research, have improved on previous forecasts by taking account of the changing patterns of exposure to asbestos following the sharp reduction in asbestos use around 1980.

Professor Peto says: "The peak in mesothelioma deaths will be earlier and at a lower number than formerly thought. The abrupt reduction in asbestos exposure in 1980 has altered the lifelong patterns of exposure that people have experienced. This makes the previous age-related models inaccurate.

"Our new model for predicting mesothelioma mortality rates is more complex and takes account of the varying exposure to asbestos of different age groups at different times of their lives."

For example, men born around 1920 who entered the construction industry would have had an increasing level of exposure to asbestos throughout their career. But for men born around 1950 the pattern of exposure would have been completely different. Early in their career, exposure would have been higher than in earlier generations, but their exposure would have abruptly dropped at about the age of 30 when asbestos use virtually ceased.

Mortality from mesothelioma in younger men has already been observed to be lower than in previous generations, which adds weight to the accuracy of the new model. However, uncertainties remain as to the future of mesothelioma mortality beyond 2020.

Professor Peto explains: "We've assumed that exposure to asbestos has now reached a negligible level, but we don't know that for certain and it won't be clear from the statistics for thirty years. We are currently starting a study of lung samples from young men operated on for a collapsed lung. This will give us a snapshot of the current asbestos exposure without having to wait."

The study predicts the peak in mortality will come between 2011 and 2015, the highest number of deaths per year being between 1,950 and 2,450. After this peak, the mortality rate is expected to fall rapidly to a background level, depending on what residual exposure to asbestos, if any, still persists.

Professor Robert Souhami, Executive Director of Policy and Communication at Cancer Research UK, which owns the British Journal of Cancer, says: "A key part of our work is to monitor incidence and mortality rates for different types of cancer. It helps us to anticipate the future cancer burden, which is essential for planning in the health services.

"Mesothelioma is a devastating disease. This study suggests that mesothelioma will be a much rarer disease for the next generation, and it clearly highlights the benefit of preventing cancers by removing specific risk factors such as exposure to asbestos."

News Source: politics.co.uk  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

New Analysis Shows Growing Number of Asbestos Related Deaths in Texas

At least 259 Texans died in 2002 from just two forms of asbestos disease, according to a new report on asbestos mortality by the Washington, DC-based Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund. More than one third of the deaths in 2002 (103) were in just three metropolitan areas: Houston with 44, Beaumont with 34, and Dallas with 25.

The report, "A Slow Death in Texas," is based on an analysis of new data from the National Center for Health Statistics of the federal government's Centers for Disease Control. The data show that asbestos mortality in Texas is increasing, with a tripling of reported deaths since 1989. This increase follows a national trend, where deaths from asbestos diseases nationwide are not expected to peak until sometime between 2015 and 2020.

From 1979 through 2002, at least 2,910 Texans died from just two forms of asbestos disease, placing Texas fifth in the nation for asbestos mortality during that time.

The study is released as the Texas legislature is poised to consider legislation limiting the ability of the sick or dying to get their medical bills covered by the asbestos companies.

"Asbestos is first and foremost a public health issue," said EWG Action Fund Senior Vice President Richard Wiles. "Any legislation has to provide complete medical and financial care to everyone injured or killed by asbestos."

The report also comes in the wake of criminal indictments against notorious asbestos producer, W.R. Grace. The indictment, handed down by a Montana grand jury on February 7, 2005, charges Grace with poisoning the community of Libby, Montana with asbestos dust and concealing critical studies from the federal government.

The impact of the alleged criminal behavior by W.R. Grace extends well into Texas. EWG Action Fund has calculated that at least 670,000 tons of W.R. Grace asbestos from Montana was shipped to Texas between 1963 and 1992. Factories in Dallas and Houston were the Lone Star State's largest recipients of vermiculite from the Libby, Montana mines.

News Source: EWG  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Senators Try to Forge Bipartisan U.S. Bill

Senators are trying to jump-start stalled efforts on asbestos legislation by forging a bipartisan plan from proposals by Republican Sen. Arlen Specter and Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

News Source: Reuters  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Historic park closed due to asbestos

Upper Makefield - Asbestos removal has forced the temporary closing of the Washington Crossing Historic Park visitors center.

News Source: phillyburbs.com  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Legacy of Libby: Bozeman woman surviving with asbestosis

Rody grew up in Libby, former home of the W.R. Grace Co. vermiculate mine, and has asbestosis. The disease is caused by breathing tremolite asbestos, which has fishhook-like fibers that embed in the lungs. Once a person gets asbestosis, they take it to the grave.

News Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

How the Asbestos Poisoning of Libby, Montana, Uncovered a National Scandal

For thirty years, W.R. Grace & Co. knew that the Zonolite vermiculite mine they owned in Libby, Montana was contaminated, and they knew why the people of Libby were dying. But according to investigative reporters, they did nothing, nor did the state of Montana, or the U.S. Government. This week, W.R. Grace & Co. and seven of its current or former top officials have been indicted on charges that they knowingly put their workers and the public in danger through exposure to vermiculite ore contaminated with asbestos from the company's mind in Libby, Montana.

AN AIR THAT KILLS (Berkley Trade Paperback January 2005) is one of the most important works of environmental journalism in years, eloquently told by the award-winning journalists that brought the story to the world - Andrew Schneider, Deputy Managing Editor for investigations for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and David McCumber, Managing Editor of the Seattle Post- Intelligencer. This is the true story of a small Montana town devastated by a vermiculite mine owned by the profit hungry W.R. Grace & Co.

In a beautiful valley in the Cabinet Mountains of Montana, the United States government spent millions trying to remove tons of toxic residue from a town that had lain pristine for ages -- until the last century, when the dust came down like a snowstorm. That dust turned a paradise into the worst of America's killing fields, a place now known to be deadlier than all the others put together: Libby, Montana.

W.R. Grace -- and the Zonolite Company before it -- hid the risks of its mining business for more than 60 years. Toxic dust contaminated with lethal asbestos fibers poured out of the mine for decades, poisoning the men who worked there, the families they went home to and the town that grew around it. In 1969, more than two and a half tons of asbestos were released into the Libby air each day. In the years that followed, those levels nearly doubled and hundreds died from asbestos exposure. Worst of all, the town was left to die by every branch of every government charged with making sure something like this didn't happen.

AN AIR THAT KILLS is the story of the ongoing use of asbestos in products ranging from insulation to cat litter. It is the full tale of the tragedy that was, the people who fought back, the danger that continues, and the risks of exposure that are still out there in former processing plants, backyards, attics and even family cars.

During his 30 years in journalism, Andrew Schneider has specialized in investigating issues of public health and safety. He has worked for the Associated Press, The Pittsburgh Press, Scripps Howard Newspapers, the Seattle Post Intelligencer and Newsweek. David McCumber is a veteran journalist with 30 years' experience at ten newspapers around the West. He was executive editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press and an assistant managing editor at the San Francisco Examiner before coming to the Post Intelligencer as senior editor for projects in 1999.

News Source: PR Newswire  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Retired Pipefitter with Asbestosis and Asbestos Pleural Disease Awarded $1.25M

A San Francisco jury unanimously awarded damages of $1.25 million to a retired pipefitter who developed asbestosis and asbestos pleural disease due to his on-the-job contact with asbestos (Quarles v. Advocate Mines, Ltd; SF Superior Court; #409170). The plaintiff, Geronia Quarles, was represented at trial by James Nevin and Christopher Andreas of Brayton Purcell in Novato, California.

Advocate Mines, Ltd., the defendant, supplied asbestos fiber for Transite asbestos-cement pipe. It did not provide any warning to consumers about the asbestos fiber and continued to sell the product even though its miners had asbestos-related health problems. The jury concluded that the company acted with "malice" or "oppression."

Asbestosis and asbestos pleural disease are serious, debilitating illnesses caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestosis scars the lungs; asbestos pleural disease damages the membrane lining the lungs and chest cavity (the pleura). Both diseases reduce lung capacity, restrict breathing, and reduce the victim's ability to transfer oxygen from the air into the blood. About one in seven people who suffer from asbestosis eventually develop lung cancer.

News Source: Brayton Purcell  |  Published: February 17, 2005  |  Read Full Story

February 08, 2005

DOJ Sues W.R. Grace Over Libby, Montana Asbestos Mine

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency said today that a federal grand jury in the District of Montana has indicted W.R. Grace and seven current and former Grace executives for knowingly endangering residents of Libby, Montana, and concealing information about the health affects of its asbestos mining operations.

W.R. Grace and its executives, as far back as the 1970's, attempted to conceal information about the adverse health effects of the company's vermiculite mining operations and distribution of vermiculite in the Libby, Montana community, according to the indictment,. The defendants are also accused of obstructing the government's cleanup efforts and wire fraud. To date, according to the indictment, approximately 1,200 residents of Libby area have been identified as suffering from some kind of asbestos-related abnormality.

News Source: Legal News Watch - Asbestos News  |  Published: February 8, 2005  |  Read Full Story

US Asbestos Bill Delayed at Republicans' Request

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has requested a one-week delay in the introduction of a bill to create a $140 billion fund to replace asbestos lawsuits, so he could study its provisions, the author of the effort said on Monday.

News Source: Reuters  |  Published: February 8, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Separate trials ordered in drug, asbestos suits

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday ordered separate trials for dozens of plaintiffs in a Rezulin case in Holmes County and an asbestos case in Jones County.

News Source: Clarion-Ledger  |  Published: February 8, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Seven new asbestos cases filed in St. Clair County

Could St. Clair County be replacing Madison County as a magnet for asbestos lawsuits? Though the 20th Judicial Circuit does not have a so-called "asbestos docket," a well-known litigator filed seven cases there on Jan. 28

News Source: Madison Record  |  Published: February 8, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Halliburton settles asbestos claims with families of local victims

The Halliburton Company settled legal claims with about 120 families of asbestos victims in the Pacific Northwest this week, agreeing to pay out $30 million and to create a fund for future victims of the deadly fiber.

News Source: Seattle Times  |  Published: February 8, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Asbestos cleanup closes Billings courthouse

The Billings federal building will remain closed the rest of the week while asbestos cleanup continues in the basement.

News Source: billingsgazette.com  |  Published: February 8, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Companies Write to Oppose Draft Asbestos Bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of asbestos defendant companies and insurers has declared its opposition to a Senate proposal curbing asbestos claims, and warned that industry groups working on the plan do not necessarily represent them.

News Source: Reuters  |  Published: February 8, 2005  |  Read Full Story

Silica issue clouds outlook for US asbestos bill

WASHINGTON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - A bill to establish a $140 billion asbestos compensation fund was undergoing a rewrite on Wednesday after warnings that a provision affecting claims for silica, another lung-scarring mineral, could derail the legislation.

News Source: Reuters  |  Published: February 8, 2005  |  Read Full Story


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