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asbestos exposure

Asbestos Exposure in Your Home

asbestos exposureAsbestos exposure may be a problem you don’t even think about.  You assume asbestos exposure would never happen to you.  Especially if you don’t work in manufacturing, automotive, or shipbuilding – major industries where asbestos exposure is likely to happen. This is the 21st century and asbestos is longer widely used.

But here’s the reality check.  Home is where the heart is, as they say. But it may also be where the asbestos is – and in places you can’t even see.

Older Homes Ooze with Charm and Potential Asbestos Exposure

What’s not to like about older homes?  They often have elegant high ceilings, solid plaster walls, vintage hardwood floors and charming architectural details hard to come by in newer more bland construction. The downside is the potential for asbestos exposure. Most homes built before 1975 contain asbestos.

Although the manufacture of construction materials containing asbestos mostly has stopped, millions of single family homes and apartment buildings still may harbor substantial amounts of asbestos.

Insulation Is Classic Example of Hidden Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos was once prized for its ability to take the heat. It could withstand high temperatures without catching on fire. That made it a likely component to use in products where heat resistance is a factor. That included home insulation.  What makes insulation especially dangerous, especially blown-in insulation, is that it is more likely to be loose and release dust as it breaks down or is moved.

In August 2000, an assistant U.S. Surgeon General requested warnings to the public about insulation products containing asbestos. Testing had revealed that any handling of asbestos-based insulation by homeowners could trigger airborne asbestos exposure at greater than 150 times the asbestos exposure level that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration considered safe for workers.

The exact number and location of homes that may contain the asbestos-based insulation is uncertain. The company’s files and testimony put estimates at anywhere from 12 million to 35 million homes, offices and schools.

An EPA toxicologist reported that if people with this type of insulation did any repair work, like installing fans or light fixtures in their ceilings, could stir up enough asbestos dust to potentially cost them their lives.

That concern focuses on insulation. The bigger picture is that insulation is but one of many possible materials in a house that may contain asbestos.

The Risk of Even a Little Bit of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure can be lethal at any level. All health authorities agree that there is no such thing as a safe level of asbestos exposure. Asbestos remains relatively unproblematic if it is inert, covered and undisturbed. But like a previously calm volcano erupting, once asbestos is damaged and broken apart in a renovation or repair project, dangerous asbestos dust particles can be released.

You cannot smell or taste asbestos. The dust particles are tinier than snowflakes and invisible to the eye. But unlike snowflakes, they do not melt.  Microscopic asbestos particles when inhaled begin to scar and damage body tissue wherever they settle, typically the lungs. There are no symptoms anyone would notice at first. But over decades damage silently builds up. By the time a serious asbestos-related illness such as mesothelioma emerges, it is usually too late. There is no cure.

DIY Asbestos Exposure in the Home

Today in the United States, asbestos exposures can occur during repair, renovation, removal, or maintenance of asbestos that was installed years ago.  The home’s residents can also be exposed to asbestos while this work is underway and even after.

But do-it-yourself (DIY) home remodel projects have become a likely cause of risky asbestos exposure, mainly because many home owners don’t know what to look for.  A list of asbestos products used in the construction of homes before 1975 includes:

  • floor tiles and the adhesive used to put them down
  • linoleum
  • spackling, caulking and joint compound on drywall
  • plaster and cement
  • some roofing materials
  • insulation for walls, pipes and HVAC ducts
  • some forms of siding

Asbestos Is Still Legal in These Products

Beginning in the early 1970s, asbestos exposure concerns prompted many attempts to ban the use of asbestos in many products. This culminated in 1989, with the EPA banning most asbestos-containing products through the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). However, in 1991, this was overturned as a result of industry opposition.  Because of that, although everyone thinks asbestos has been banned, it still lurks in many products available to purchase by unsuspecting consumers.

Here are some listed by the EPA that a home owner or home remodeler might encounter:

  • Cement corrugated sheet
  • Cement flat sheet
  • Pipeline wrap
  • Roofing felt
  • Vinyl floor tile
  • Cement shingle
  • Millboard
  • Cement pipe
  • Gaskets
  • Non-roofing coatings
  • Roof coatings

Asbestos Do’s and Don’ts for the Homeowner

The EPA advises taking the following precautions to avoid asbestos exposure:

  • Do leave undamaged asbestos-containing materials alone.
  • Do avoid any areas where there’s damaged material that may contain asbestos. Keep the areas off limits to children.
  • Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos-containing material.
  • Do have removal and major repair done by people trained and qualified in handling asbestos. Testing and minor repair also should be done by a qualified accredited asbestos professional.
  • Don’t dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
  • Don’t saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos-containing materials.
  • Don’t use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos on flooring that may contain asbestos.
  • Don’t sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing install new floor covering over it, if possible.
  • Don’t track material that could contain asbestos through the house. If you think you may have, the area must be cleaned. Call an asbestos professional.

How to Prevent Asbestos Exposure At Home

Asbestos exposure is to be avoided for everyone’s health and safety. The best way to do that is to have your home or one you may buy or rent checked by a professional asbestos inspector.

An asbestos inspector will know where to look for possible asbestos, take samples for laboratory analysis, and suggest where and how any possible asbestos contamination should be repaired. Expect to spend about $400 to $800 for the inspection, lab fees, and report for a 1,500 square foot home.

Check with local health department and EPA offices for help finding an accredited asbestos professional to do this important work for you.

How Much Asbestos Removal Costs

Asbestos removal is a big hazardous job and it comes – no surprise – with a big price tag. But your life and the lives of your loved ones could be at stake. Clearing your home of asbestos by a professional asbestos abatement contractor could cost $2,000 to $10,000.  That should include using techniques to avoid dispersing dangerous asbestos particles during the removal process as well as the removal itself. It will also include the disposal of the asbestos removed from your home in an approved hazardous waste landfill in accordance with federal, state and local safety regulations.

Although asbestos removal is costly, so is the treatment of asbestos-caused disease.  It is better to prevent asbestos exposure before it happens.

 

Could You Be a Victim of Asbestos Exposure?

asbestos exposureBy now, most people are aware that asbestos is a dangerous mineral that can cause serious health problems. What you may not know is that the risks from asbestos exposure are long-lived and stealthy. Plus, despite the fact that the dangers of asbestos exposure have been well understood for 100 years, there is still asbestos in our built environment. No matter what your profession or where you live, it makes sense to understand the dangers of asbestos exposure so you can better protect yourself and those you care about.

The Dangers of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is a mineral. What makes this mineral so dangerous to humans is that it forms into long, fine fibers. These hair-like fibers contain millions of much smaller fibers, invisible to the naked eye. The microscopic mini-fibers are easily dislodged from the mineral and can become airborne. The airborne particles can be inhaled, which is why asbestos most commonly causes diseases of the lungs.

The human body has a genius method for cleaning and healing itself. Your immune system is constantly identifying and expelling alien or harmful substances from your body. Unfortunately, those microscopic asbestos fibers are thin and sharp. They can become stuck in tender lung tissue and dig in, resisting the body’s attempts to clean them out.

Over time, asbestos fibers lodged in your lungs and burrowed into surrounding tissue can cause irritation and inflammation. Eventually, often over the course of several decades, that irritation may develop into lung cancer or mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining around the lung.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is caused by those tiny asbestos fibers. Not everyone who was exposed to asbestos will become sick because of asbestos exposure. The greater your exposure the greater the chances of developing mesothelioma. You could also develop asbestos-related lung cancer or another disease of asbestos exposure.  3,000 Americans who are exposed to asbestos – usually in a workplace – will develop mesothelioma each year.

While the good news is that the majority of people will not develop this dreaded disease, even one case is too much. There is no cure for mesothelioma and more than 90% of patients die within five years after diagnosis.

Who Is Most Likely to Have Asbestos Exposure?

Before you panic about asbestos exposure, remember that your chances of developing mesothelioma go up with greater exposure. There are certain professions and age groups who have elevated risks because they worked with asbestos before worker protections were in place.

If you worked in any of these settings before the 1970s, when growing awareness (and asbestos litigation) led some industries to stop using asbestos and others to develop some safety protocols to protect workers, your risk of developing mesothelioma or another disease caused by asbestos exposure is higher. While that era may seem too long ago to worry about, mesothelioma can take 50 years or more to develop after exposure, so those who worked with asbestos in the last century aren’t out of the woods yet.

The workers most likely to suffer from the effects of asbestos exposure include:

  • Workers in boiler rooms (where asbestos was used as a heat insulating material), particularly on Navy ships
  • Construction workers who installed or removed asbestos insulation and other products containing asbestos
  • Workers in asbestos mines or processing plants
  • Employees of corporations whose products contained asbestos (such as brake linings) and the workers at companies that used those asbestos-laden products
  • Military personnel, especially Vietnam veterans and those who served on naval vessels.

Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of asbestos in the built environment. While there are now protocols for safe asbestos removal, not all construction crews follow those guidelines. As a result, some workers still experience unsafe levels of asbestos exposure to this day.

Awareness of the danger of asbestos exposure is important. While you can’t do anything (yet) to change whether or not you will eventually develop mesothelioma, understanding the signs and symptoms and getting regular checkups can lead to an early diagnosis. The earlier you catch your asbestos related disease, the better your treatment options and the longer your survival time is likely to be.

Lurking Asbestos Exposure

Many people who develop mesothelioma have a clear understanding of where they got their asbestos exposure. They were  sailors in the Navy during the Korean War or spent years installing  Bendix brake linings as an auto mechanic. Sometimes, however, asbestos exposure comes from less obvious sources.

There have been many cases of mesothelioma among the wives of men who worked with asbestos. These women suffered asbestos exposure when they washed their husbands’ work clothes, which were covered in those tiny, invisible asbestos fibers. In fact, Kazan Law won a verdict of over $27 million for a woman whose asbestos exposure came from contact with her husband’s work clothing, who worked installing insulation.

There are cases where people who aren’t connected to professions most linked with asbestos exposure and mesothelioma have become ill because of asbestos. The deadly fibers can be found in ceiling tiles, drywall, and insulation, especially in older buildings. Asbestos can become liberated (and dangerous) during building renovations, DIY home improvements, or just daily wear and tear as the structure ages. There is still asbestos in the walls and ceilings and boiler rooms of some schools, apartment buildings, homes, and office buildings. There was even a case where a retired judge developed cancer because of exposure to asbestos in his New Jersey courthouse.

Awareness can help prevent asbestos exposure. Find out if insulation, ceiling tiles, or other materials in your home or workplace contain asbestos before undertaking renovations. If they do, use the services of a contactor trained to safely handle asbestos remediation. If you work in an environment where you may be exposed to toxic asbestos fibers, educate yourself about best practices for protecting your lungs and insist that your employer follow them.

States with the Most Asbestos Exposure

When it comes to asbestos exposure, all states in the US are not created equal. California has the highest rate of deaths due to mesothelioma and other diseases caused by asbestos exposure, at more than 4,000 per year. Florida is next, followed by New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

What all these states have in common is that they were home to sites where asbestos was mined or products using asbestos were manufactured or extensively used. Other hot spots around the United States include Libby, Montana, home of a large mine supplying vermiculite that was contaminated with asbestos. Detroit’s auto manufacturing industry was the source of exposure for many Michigan workers. Washington, though a small state, has a high per capita rate of mesothelioma because of asbestos exposure among shipyard workers. Former hubs of manufacturing and industry in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other Midwestern states have also seen elevated levels of illness related to asbestos exposure.

The bottom line is that, due to years of unfettered use of asbestos in the United States, it will be many more decades before we see our last case of mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure. Until then, knowledge about the risks is your best protection.

 

Mesothelioma Cancer and Firefighters

mesothelioma cancerMesothelioma cancer strikes firefighters at double the rate of the rest of the population according to a startling new study.   Mesothelioma is a lethal form of cancer with only one known cause – inhaling asbestos dust.

Nearly 30,000 firefighters from the San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia fire departments were tracked for five years. The study started in 2010 and ended in 2015. The collected data was analyzed and the findings have been released.

Mesothelioma Cancer Becomes Focus of Top US Health Agencies

A clearer understanding of the risk of mesothelioma cancer for firefighters was the goal of the study.  To ensure that the study was as comprehensive and thorough as possible, it involved the collaboration of twp major US government health agencies.  Although the study was initiated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), researchers from the National Cancer Institute also participated.  Scientists from the University of California, Davis Department of Public Health Sciences also were involved.   The U.S. Fire Administration helped underwrite the costs of the study.

Increased Mesothelioma Cancer Risk and Other Key Findings

Besides the shocking rate of mesothelioma cancer at double that of the rest of the population, firefighters also faced higher risks of other types of cancer.  Here are the key findings from the firefighters study:

Firefighters Cancer Risks Compared to the US Population

Firefighters faced higher rates of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths than the rest of the US population

  • Mesothelioma cancer is joined by other types of respiratory cancers as well as urinary, digestive and oral cancers as affecting fire fighters more than the general population.
  • Mesothelioma cancer, considered rare in the general population, is double among firefighters compared to non-firefighters. Firefighters’ exposure to asbestos is the cause.
  • Younger firefighters are at a higher risk for certain cancers than older firefighters. These cancers include bladder and prostate at higher than expected rates in firefighters who are under 65 years of age.
  • The odds of dying of lung cancer increased with the amount of time a firefighter spent fighting fires
  • The odds of dying from leukemia increased with the number of fires a firefighter fought

Mesothelioma Cancer Prevention Steps For Firefighters

Mesothelioma cancer and other cancers can be tragic causes of premature death when faced b y the general population.  But for firefighters, whose jobs demand that they risk their lives for the sake of others, to double their risk of cancer as a result compounds the tragedy.

Without doubt, every effort needs to be made to protect firefighters from hazardous occupational exposure that can cause cancer.  The study states that fire services need to provide better training to firefighters on how to reduce their risk. It further suggests that firefighters should receive specific training on using protective clothing and respiratory devices at all times when they are at a fire site.

The study authors encourage firefighters to share the study findings with their doctor.  “It is important that your doctor is kept aware of possible job-related health concerns,” the conclusion states.

Why Firefighters Are Getting Cancer More Now

Mesothelioma cancer and other cancer deaths among fire fighters have risen steadily since the 1950s. Why? A recent article in the Atlantic Monthly says our possessions are to blame. The shift to using more synthetic materials in home furnishings and products creates toxic smoke when they burn.

“A century ago, we furnished our houses with wood, cloth, metal, and glass. Today, it’s plastics, foams, and coatings—all of which create a toxic soup of carcinogens when they burn. Fire experts say synthetic materials create hundreds of times more smoke than organic ones; flame retardants alone double the amount of smoke and increase toxic gasses 10-fold. Your TV, your kid’s Barbie, your Saran wrap, your couch: all of them can be poisonous when they’re ignited and their fumes are inhaled,” the article explains.

Tracking Mesothelioma Cancer and Other Cancers in Firefighters

Mesothelioma cancer rates and other cancers in firefighters were determined in the NIOSH study through careful statistical analysis.  The statistical analysis process involved four steps described by the researchers.

Step 1.  The researchers compiled their study population. They combed the records of the fire departments in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Chicago to come up with their list of 29,993 fire fighters who were on active duty until 2009.

Step 2.  The researchers obtained US cancer and death records through 2009. From this information, they were able to pinpoint when and how former firefighters had died and what the causes of death were.  They double-checked with each state’s cancer registry data to confirm which firefighters  were diagnosed with cancer.

The cancers associated with firefighters included cancers of the lung, including mesothelioma cancer,  stomach, esophagus, brain,  intestines, rectum,  kidney , bladder prostate, testes, leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Step 3.  The researchers next calculated each of the nearly 30,000 firefighter’s potential job exposures.  These measures included:

Exposed days: the number of days each firefighter worked in a job or at a location

Fire runs: the total number of fires each firefighter from the Chicago and Philadelphia Fire Departments went to

Fire hours: the total time spent at fires by each firefighter from the Chicago Fire Department

Step 4. To come up with rates of risk, the researchers compared illness rates of several groups. They compared cancer diagnoses and death rates among:

Firefighters Compared to U.S. and State Populations

Firefighters with more days of being exposed to fires compared to those with fewer

Firefighters from the Chicago and Philadelphia groups who went to more fires compared to those who went to fewer

Chicago firefighters who were at fires for longer periods of time compared to those who were there less

The fact that firefighters suffer double the cancer rate as the rest of the citizenry is another deadly reminder that exposure to toxic chemicals must be monitored and controlled. The toxic soup of chemicals firefighters are often exposed to when fighting a blaze can include the deadly mineral asbestos. Asbestos leads to mesothelioma cancer which kills its victims and has no known cure at this time.  Hopefully with studies like this more firefighters can and will protect their lives through safety  protocols, precautions including the right equipment and clothing, and continued rigorous training about the chemicals they face every time they answer a call of duty.

 

 

 

 

Investigating Your Asbestos Exposure

asbestos exposure Proving asbestos exposure requires rock-solid evidence in order to receive financial compensation from those responsible for your exposure to asbestos. Your asbestos exposure occurred decades before symptoms of asbestos-related illness emerge!  Many of the businesses that have knowingly caused lethal asbestos exposure to unsuspecting people are counting on you not to remember when, where and how you were exposed to the deadly mineral. But those guilty parties haven’t counted on the excellent work done by Kazan Law’s team of asbestos investigators.

Because of the complexities surrounding asbestos exposure and the importance of discovering the facts for a court case, Kazan Law maintains a full time staff of seven investigators. These investigators support the work of Kazan Law’s 25asbestos attorneys, who include the firm’s founding partners.

To learn more about the role of Kazan Law’s investigators in the discovery of information that connect an individual’s asbestos-related illness to a specific asbestos exposure, we spoke with Katherine Graves. Katherine has been an investigator with Kazan Law for 16 years.

Asbestos Exposure Investigations

Why does Kazan Law have seven full-time investigators?

Because evidence of asbestos exposure is so important, we place a lot of value on the investigative process.

How do Kazan Law’s investigators work on an asbestos exposure case?

We each have our own cases that we are working on.  Certain people have expertise in specific areas. I am the resident aircraft expert for asbestos exposure related to that industry. We have someone else who does a lot of work on refineries.  But we all know a little bit about everything.  

What is the first step of the process?

We meet with the client to get information. We do research and figure out how the pieces fit together in terms of asbestos exposure.  People may have had jobs they forgot about, or they didn’t do for very long, and we need to find out about those. If the exposure came from their father’s job, we would want to talk to him if he is still alive. Then we write up all the information in a memo for the attorneys. We give recommendations on the strength of a case, where it could be filed in terms of jurisdiction and who the potential defendants should be.  We figure out who the culpable parties are – who to sue.  The attorneys will then go over the legal logistics of the case with the client.  We are constantly absorbing information and conveying information.

Do people come to the Kazan Law office for you to interview them?

We will go to see the client.  They may be going through chemotherapy and we want to be respectful of their health and their time.  Many people who worked in shipyard or manufacturing plants where they may have been exposed to asbestos have retired and have moved away from the Bay Area. We travel often to Washington State, the Sierra foothills, Southern California and Las Vegas.  But people contact us from all parts of the country. 

How do you follow up with research?

Because Kazan Law has been around since 1974, over all these years we have acquired a lot of relevant documents about major employers and asbestos exposure. Whatever documents we get all contribute to our institutional knowledge as a firm. Every case has contributed to our knowledge base which in turn contributes to our future cases. The accumulation of documents we have is jaw-dropping.  We have very comprehensive documents. We have a records department  that scans everything for us so we can access it from our laptops.

For example someone might say “I bought some joint compound when I remodeled my house in 1975 and did the drywall work.”  Let’s say he tells me he bought it from American Builders in Cupertino.  I can go into our data bases and do a search for American Builders. We have pictures of products that we can show people and we can ask them was this what you used?

We also use ancestry.com and newspaper archives.com.  We have all these incredible tools at our fingertips that we didn’t have before the internet. We used to have to go to libraries and look at stuff on microfilm for hours on end.

What else do you do after the case moves forward?

Based on our extensive research, we can help the attorneys determine which witnesses should testify. Then we help the attorneys get ready for their testimony.

We also help the case by doing research on the companies involved. It is not only about whether they exposed someone to asbestos. It is also important to find out what did this company know about asbestos and when did they know it? What meetings did they go to, what congressional hearings did they testify at?  There are punitive damages under consideration. We meet with the attorneys and constantly update them about the state of these investigations.

What is it like working on asbestos exposure cases as an investigator?

It is incredibly difficult and extremely rewarding. We put deep attention and time into every single case. That is how we get such great results for our clients.  Our investigators work with the attorneys on each case from start to finish. If it does go to verdict, we will be there in the courtroom with our heart wrapped around it.

What is the importance of having investigators when there are lawyers at the firm?

Most other firms do not have investigators like Kazan does.  So they don’t have the opportunity to dig in deep like we do. They may use contract investigators or their lawyers are trying to do lawyering and investigating.  And the resulting investigations are not as detailed and in depth as ours. Because we get in so deep and learn so much about these companies, our cases get better results.

 

 

 

 

 

Asbestos Exposure in the Military

asbestos exposure The most common place where people have experienced asbestos exposure is in the workplace. The work sites with some of the highest rates of asbestos related disease may come as a surprise: the US Armed Forces’ ships and installations around the world. Veterans are more than three times as likely to develop mesothelioma as those who have never served in the military. Mesothelioma is a rare and fatal cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Asbestos Exposure in the Navy

While members of every branch of the military run a higher risk of asbestos disease than the civilian population, the Navy has the highest rates of asbestos exposure. Members of the Navy and civilians who built and serviced naval vessels worked in an environment awash in deadly asbestos fibers.

Because asbestos is a good heat insulator, US Navy ships built between 1930 and the early 1970s were loaded with the toxic mineral. It was used for insulation in boiler rooms and around piping that ran throughout the ships. Asbestos was also used to construct rooms and entranceways in areas of the ship that might be prone to fire, since it is also resistant to fire.

One of the greatest risk factors for developing mesothelioma, asbestos-caused lung cancer, or other asbestos related disease is a stint working in the boiler room of a Navy ship. In the heat and hustle, it was not uncommon for tiny asbestos fibers to come loose. Floating through the air and invisible to the naked eye, these fibers were easily inhaled and could stick and stay in the lungs.

Because mesothelioma usually takes decades to develop, Navy veterans are still being diagnosed with this and other diseases caused by asbestos exposure that may have occurred forty or more years ago.

Asbestos Exposure in the Army

Starting in the early 1980s, the US Armed Forces stopped using asbestos as an insulator and construction material. The legacy of asbestos lingered on much longer, though, since buildings constructed with asbestos-laden materials continued to be used for many more years. And military vehicles like trucks, cars, and motorcycles used asbestos brakes and other parts.

Veterans of the Marines and Air Force, as well as the Army, may have suffered asbestos exposure while they worked and lived in buildings on military bases that were built with asbestos in ceiling tiles, insulation, or other parts of the structures. In addition, asbestos brake linings were used on military vehicles which may have remained in service for years after the toxic properties of asbestos were understood or the dangers simply ignored. Service members who worked repairing those vehicles may have a special risk of asbestos exposure.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs provides a list of military occupations that are particularly associated with asbestos exposure: “mining, milling, shipyard work, insulation work, demolition of old buildings, carpentry and construction, the manufacturing and installation of products such as flooring, roofing, cement sheet, pipe products, or the servicing of friction products such as clutch facings and brake linings.” Even if you didn’t fill one of these roles, you may have been exposed to asbestos during your military service if you were around others doing those tasks.

Asbestos Exposure in Vietnam and Beyond

One group of veterans who appear to have an elevated chance of asbestos exposure are those who served in Vietnam. During their deployment, military ships, vehicles, and structures would all still have contained asbestos.

One of the times where there is the greatest hazard of asbestos exposure is during removal of asbestos from boiler rooms and infrastructure. Construction workers who engage in this type of work today wear special protective gear. During Vietnam, some soldiers were tasked with ripping out asbestos-laden materials, often without proper protective gear.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs also notes that veterans who served in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries may have been subjected to asbestos exposure. Although the conflicts in the Middle East happened after the military had stopped building with asbestos, hazardous fibers may have been released when buildings built in previous decades were damaged or destroyed in the fighting.

VA Benefits and Mesothelioma

The Veterans Administration does offer healthcare for veterans suffering from mesothelioma and other diseases caused by asbestos exposure during their military service. If you have an asbestos-related disease due to asbestos exposure in the military, you are eligible to apply for disability benefits through the VA.

In fact, the VA even has special centers at some of its facilities which employ experts in mesothelioma care. Veterans can travel to these centers or receive care remotely from the specialists there.

The good news is that the cost of mesothelioma care at the VA is likely to be lower than if you pursue treatment through private insurance. The VA gives highest priority to veterans with mesothelioma, so you shouldn’t have to wait for care – once you are approved for benefits.

The bad news is that these VA benefits are not always easy to claim for diseases due to asbestos exposure. Because mesothelioma takes so long to manifest, it can be difficult to prove that your asbestos exposure took place during your military service.

Compensation for Veterans

Veterans with mesothelioma or other asbestos diseases have another option to seek compensation for their illness. Like civilians who suffer from the long term consequences of asbestos exposure, veterans have the right to file a lawsuit against the corporations that manufactured or sold the asbestos materials that made them sick.

If you served in the military prior to the late 1990s and you develop mesothelioma or another disease caused by asbestos exposure, you should talk to an experienced asbestos attorney. An asbestos lawyer can guide you through the process of claiming compensation for your illness, pain and suffering, and lost wages. A lawyer can help you protect your rights and receive the compensation you and your family need to insure that you get the best possible healthcare and that your family is taken care of once you are gone.

Asbestos Contamination Danger in Oregon

asbestos contamination

Asbestos contamination now may be endangering the lives of many residents of Portland, OR in a frightening situation uncovered by Portland’s Oregonian/Oregon Live media. Seemingly reckless demolition of many older Portland homes without first safely removing their asbestos content may be releasing tons of asbestos dust into the air, the news account alleged.

The dangerous situation came to public attention when local health and environmental authorities were notified by a Portland resident. She became alarmed when she noticed clouds of dust caused by workers demolishing a nearby home. The workers were not wearing protective masks. The neighbor feared the demolition was releasing asbestos contamination into the air, endangering her family, surrounding neighbors and the workers.

Asbestos Contaminated Homes Not Inspected Before Demolition

Asbestos contamination is occurring frequently in Portland, the media investigation suggests, because of lax rules for demolition permits. There is also a reported lack of inspectors to check for asbestos contamination prior to demolition if homeowners or construction contractors asked them to, which they apparently don’t.

About 750 Portland homes were demolished from 2011 to last year but only 25 asbestos inspections were performed by the regional environmental quality office covering Portland, according to the media reports.

During that time, the Portland office was allotted one position for a full-time asbestos inspector but left the position vacant.

“Contractors have routinely failed to address the presence of asbestos when demolishing homes,” media analysis reported.

It is unknown how many people may have been exposed to hazardous asbestos contamination from the demolitions. Some may not have even realized that they have breathed in toxic asbestos dust and if they become ill years later, they may not know it was caused by this exposure.

Asbestos Contamination Occurs Because of Inadequate Fines

According to the media investigation, asbestos contamination most likely occurs in Portland because the fines the city charges for neglecting to remove asbestos are inadequate. Infill pressure on development in Portland is at an all-time high and old homes are being knocked down at a rapid rate to make way for new ones raising the risk of asbestos contamination.

Because of Portland’s booming real estate market, the profits to be made selling a newly renovated house far outweigh the current fines for not removing asbestos before demolishing the old structure – if the property owner is even caught. If there is no inspection and the property owner is not caught, then the real estate profit is even greater since they avoid losing valuable construction time, avoid the expense of asbestos removal, and the fine for not removing it.

In the instance that brought the problem to light, a real estate broker hired workers to raze a home built in 1908. Five workers, dressed in regular clothes, were reportedly covered in asbestos contaminated dust during the demolition. When a worker complained about the possible asbestos risk to his employment agency, the real estate broker supposedly had the one wall he knew did not contain asbestos inspected by the agency. A subsequent state inspector was more thorough and discovered that materials throughout the house had asbestos contamination rates of six to 50 percent.

The state environmental agency fined the real estate broker $16,000 which was later reduced to $8,000. Property records show that the broker sold the house for $675,000. He had purchased it for $350,000 the previous month. A local licensed asbestos contamination removal contractor told the media that he would have safely removed the asbestos-containing flooring and insulation from the home for $2,500. The real estate broker appears to have preferred to risk the workers’ lives rather than pay that amount.

This real estate broker may now be facing criminal charges due to the publicity the media investigation has generated. But there are likely many more contractors like him who may have been doing the same thing.

Asbestos Contamination Exposure Kills

Asbestos contamination exposure can be lethal. If materials containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny asbestos fibers are released into the air. When these asbestos fibers are inhaled, they may get trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time. Over time, these fibers can cause scarring and inflammation. This can affect breathing and lead to the development of fatal cancers.

Asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the EPA, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Studies have shown that exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of the cells in the membranes that line the chest and abdominal area. Mesothelioma, the most common form of cancer associated with asbestos contamination, can take years to develop. By the time symptoms emerge and a diagnosis is made the disease has become advanced. The scientific consensus is that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.

Portland Slow to Act on Asbestos Contamination

Asbestos contamination concerns over demolitions have been an issue in Portland for several decades. Environmental officials have been aware since the 1980s that simply telling contractors to remove asbestos before a demolition is insufficient to make sure that it actually gets done.

Lawmakers rejected the Department of Environmental Quality’s plea for a law requiring asbestos inspections. The environmental quality agency tried again to address this issue 13 years later and almost succeeded. In 2002 it passed its own regulation requiring asbestos inspections before demolition. But about four months later, caving to industry complaints, the agency’s governing board abolished the regulation.

That will change soon. A bill to require asbestos inspections was passed by the Oregon Legislature this year and is slated to take effect in January.

At present, there is not much access to data about homes and asbestos contamination for prospective home buyers, renters or workers to rely on. The Department of Environmental Quality may know based on the address whether or not a specific home has had asbestos removed. But because in Portland contractors have not had to submit an asbestos inspection report before a demolition, the environmental agency has no way of knowing whether a contractor actually checked for asbestos.

While responsible contractors and knowledgeable homeowners exist who learn and act accordingly to mitigate risks of asbestos contamination, the article suggests that ignorance, deceit, and lack of Department of Environmental Quality compliance inspectors allows irresponsible people to act unconscionably and risk causing the deaths of innocent people.

Asbestos Exposure: The Deadliest States in America

asbestos exposurePrized for its fire retardant characteristics, asbestos was widely used in construction materials and as insulation starting in the late 1800s. Although their employees began to experience the toxic effects of asbestos exposure as early as the 1920s, many irresponsible corporations continued to use this toxic mineral for decades more.

Asbestos Exposure: the Basics

Asbestos is most likely to cause harm when it is disturbed. Tiny fibers become airborne and can lodge in the lungs, potentially leading to pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer, or other asbestos-related diseases. These diseases can take years or even decades to manifest, often appearing long after the time of exposure.

Welders, pipe fitters, construction workers, and ship builders, especially those who worked in those professions between the 1930s and the 1980s, are most likely to have been exposed to harmful levels of asbestos. Because asbestos was used in everything from drywall to cloth to cigarette filters, however, almost anyone could have come into contact with asbestos fibers.

States with Highest Asbestos Exposure

Residents of some states are more vulnerable to asbestos exposure than others. Former Rust Belt states like Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were home to industrial operations that exposed many employees and their family members to asbestos. Detroit is famous as the birthplace of the auto industry and that industry used asbestos in brake linings and other car parts throughout much of the 20th century. Asbestos mines add to the exposure risk for Pennsylvania residents. Numerous companies that used asbestos had operations throughout the Rust Belt states.

One mine in Libby, Montana supplied vermiculite to manufacturing facilities across the United States for many years. Vermiculite is a heat-resistant mineral used in insulation and other products. While pure vermiculite is not known to be hazardous, the Libby, Montana mine also contained asbestos, so much of the vermiculite from Libby was tainted with asbestos. This exposed many people in Montana to grave health consequences with many residents eventually dying from asbestos exposure. The asbestos tainted vermiculite from Libby spread asbestos contamination to plants and processing centers across the country, and then on to consumers and workers.

The Johns-Manville Corporation, based in New York, was one of the first companies to find industrial uses for asbestos. Johns-Manville was the first company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to the volume of lawsuits by people who were sick with asbestos-related diseases. The Manville Trust was the first big asbestos trust established to secure payments for future victims of asbestos exposure. New York State was also home to other heavy industry and to shipyards that have sickened thousands of residents.

Florida was once home to several asbestos-processing sites. The state’s high rate of asbestos deaths may also stem from the fact that many people move there after retirement. Because mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases take so long to show up, more than half of the people diagnosed with these illnesses are over 65.

California has the highest number of deaths due to asbestos exposure each year. California residents may face an array of asbestos risks, from the shipyards along the coast and contaminated industrial sites. In addition, asbestos occurs naturally in the soils and in underground deposits in the state. Asbestos mining has led to the contamination of at least one entire town in California.

Texas has experienced a large number of cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos disease due to the popularity of asbestos as an insulating material in the state’s largest industry, the oil industry.

Although the population of Washington State is much smaller than California, New York, or Texas, the state has a high rate of asbestos disease. In addition to manufacturing and shipping, Washington’s timber industry and paper mills also served as sources of asbestos exposure. Washington residents also have the add-on risk of naturally occurring asbestos in their environment.

Asbestos Patients Find Relief

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or anther asbestos disease, you may be entitled to compensation. The corporations responsible for your asbestos exposure can be held to account through the legal system. Here’s the good news: no matter what state you live in and no matter where you were when you were exposed to asbestos, you can file a lawsuit against those responsible for your pain and suffering. You don’t even need to live in the same state where your lawsuit is filed.

You can also choose one of the top asbestos law firms in the country to represent you. More good news: that law firm doesn’t have to be located in the same state where you live either. At Kazan Law, we feel so strongly about getting recompense for people who are ill because of asbestos exposure that we travel to work with clients throughout the country. We have filed suit against corporations that negligently exposed people to asbestos on behalf of clients all over the United States.

 

Asbestos in Toys Found – Again

asbestos in toys

Asbestos in toys seems impossible to believe. Who would put asbestos in toys and put young children at risk for inhaling asbestos fibers?  Microscopic asbestos fibers once inhaled can lodge in the lungs and within a few years or a few decades cause a fatal cancer called mesothelioma.  There is no safe level of asbestos exposure.  Yet asbestos in toys has been an ongoing problem and was just reported again by an environmental consumer watchdog group.

Asbestos in Toys Imported From China According to New Report

Asbestos in toys was the focus of a new detailed report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Action Fund.  EWG found asbestos in several brands of children’s crayons and fingerprint kits made in China and sold in the U.S.  This is the third time in 15 years that the cancer-causing substance has been detected in crayons or fingerprint toys marketed to children—apparently, due to the use of asbestos-contaminated talc.  China a leading manufacturer for many products imported to the US, remains one of the biggest users of deadly asbestos in the world today. China also has lower environmental and safety standards compared to the United States and Western European countries.

The toys were purchased by EWG staff at national retail chains or through online retailers and then sent for testing to two government-certified laboratories, according to the EWG report.

EWG Action Fund purchased the crayons that tested positive for asbestos between February and May 2015 at Bay Area stores of two national chains, Party City and Dollar Tree. The fund ordered the two crime scene fingerprint toys that contained asbestos online through Amazon and ToysRUs.

Asbestos Found In Toys Promoted With Popular Characters

EWG’s tests detected asbestos in four of 28 boxes of crayons tested.  Several of these featured the use of popular children’s characters including Mickey Mouse, Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It is unclear whether the companies who control the licensing of these characters were aware the Chinese manufacturers were using asbestos in the toys.

Two of the 21 crime scene fingerprint kits were found to be tainted with asbestos, one with black fingerprint powder and the other with white fingerprint powder.

No asbestos was found in 19 other crime lab kits or 24 types of crayons, including those made by the well-known Crayola brand.

Asbestos in Toys Sadly is a Recurring Problem

This latest discovery of asbestos in toys has a very disturbing sense of déjà vu to it. In 2009, our firm helped raise awareness about the discovery of Chinese- produced asbestos-contaminated toy fingerprint kits, called CSI kits or Crime Scene Investigation kits, for sale on Amazon.com.  Our firm’s foundation and Kazan Law clients Paul and Michelle Zygielbaum helped fund the lab testing that found as much as 7.2 percent asbestos in the powder of 6 out of 8 kits tested. We personally alerted Amazon’s legal counsel about this. Our complaints helped spur the removal of these kits from Amazon.

At that time, asbestos in those toys was uncovered by a consumer testing program sponsored by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.  It became a scandal and a class action case was brought against the companies that made and distributed these dangerous products. The case was resolved by an order filed in the United States District Court for the Seventh District of New York on February 23, 2010. The kits were recalled as part of the legal settlement. Full refunds were given to anyone who had one of these contaminated kits and they could be sent back at the defendants’ expense for destruction in accordance with the highest standards of industrial hygiene and environmental safety.

Back in 2000, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was made aware of asbestos in crayons, when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper commissioned testing of well-known US crayon manufacturers.

The CPSC said the risk of children inhaling asbestos fibers from crayons appeared to be ‘’extremely low” but got major manufacturers to reformulate their crayons. The “CPSC will continue to monitor children’s crayons to ensure that they do not present a hazard,” the report said.

Asbestos in Toys Pose Risk at Any Level

EWG’s test results finding asbestos in toys is especially horrific because  a child exposed to asbestos is 3.5 more likely than a 25-year-old to develop mesothelioma, according to the U.K. Committee on Carcinogenicity.

Some industry apologists have tried to argue that the asbestos fibers in the crayons are embedded in wax and pose no danger. Asbestos fibers inhaled primarily as asbestos dust are the primary cause of asbestos-related diseases.  But we do not know how crayons break down as they are used. If 24 out of 28 crayon producers can avoid asbestos, the others can too.

No defense has been offered for the fingerprint kits which work by brushing asbestos-containing powder from the finger-print image.

Latest Asbestos in Toys Report Prompts Renewed Response

The new asbestos in toys reported by the EWG has prompted a new outcry from government officials and a swift response from some of the companies involved.

News media accounts report that the toy fingerprint kits have already been pulled by ToysRUs and Amazon as a result of the report but are still being sold on eBay. Dollar Tree sells three of the tainted crayon brands and declined to report whether they would stop selling them.

Only one state out of 50 – Connecticut – bans asbestos in children’s products, including toys and other articles marketed for children under the age 16.  As long as asbestos remains legal, we can expect this negligent situation to recur.

In the meantime, we applaud Amazon and ToysRUs for voluntarily removing these dangerous products. We call on Ebay, Party City and the Dollar Tree to do like-wise as  well as any retailer who is selling asbestos-containing toys.

Vietnam Veterans and the Risk of Asbestos Exposure

vietnam veterans Vietnam veterans face a major health risk as a result of exposure to asbestos exposure. Asbestos exposure is the sole cause of mesothelioma, a fatal cancer affecting the cells lining vital organs. Because mesothelioma takes decades to emerge, many veterans of the Vietnam War who were exposed to asbestos during their service may only now be ill from this dreadful disease.

It is tragically ironic that the brave people who fought for our country during the Vietnam War survived the risks associated with military conflict in hostile enemy territory only to now face a life-threatening illness from the hidden danger of exposure to asbestos while on active duty.

Vietnam Military Personnel Who Might Have Suffered Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure may have occurred among the 9,087,000 total veterans who served in Vietnam, especially during the most active years of US involvement from 1965 to 1975. Those affected could have included:

3,403,100 (including 514,300 offshore) veterans who served in the Southeast Asia Theater – Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand and sailors stationed in the South China Sea.

2,594,000 veterans who served within the borders of South Vietnam
( January 1965 – March 1973)

7,484 women who served in Vietnam, of whom 6,250 or 83.5% were nurses.

The number of living Vietnam veterans was recently estimated to be 7,391,000. These surviving veterans of the Vietnam conflict were likely exposed to asbestos during their years of service to our country. They may start to experience symptoms of mesothelioma after a latency period of as much of 50 years following their asbestos exposure.

Why Were Vietnam Veterans Exposed to Asbestos?

Veterans of the U.S. Military, many of them Vietnam veterans, account for nearly a third of all mesothelioma diagnoses because of the military’s heavy reliance on asbestos during most of the 20th century. Why? Asbestos was once highly valued for its heat resistance and fire-proofing qualities. This made it a useful material for every branch of the military. All modes of military transportation including ships, tanks, jeeps and aircraft contained asbestos.

Asbestos was used in electric wiring insulation, brake pads and clutch pads on jeeps, tanks and aircraft. Military housing and other buildings on bases were constructed with building materials containing asbestos.

It wasn’t until the mid 1970s, after public outrage and the first lawsuits over the toxicity of asbestos and its lethal consequences, that the military stopped using it. But this was too little too late for Vietnam veterans who had already been exposed to asbestos in the line of duty.

Where Vietnam Veterans Encountered Asbestos

Active members of all the branches of service in Vietnam–Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy – were in conditions with a high likelihood of exposure to asbestos. These veterans worked in repair shops stocked with asbestos-containing machinery, rode by land, air and sea in battle vehicles with asbestos parts, and lived in structures containing asbestos. Veterans of the Vietnam War were exposed to asbestos fibers through close proximity to:

  • ceiling tiles
  • flooring and flooring tiles
  • wall insulation
  • vehicle brakes, gaskets, and insulation
  • asbestos cement used for foundations
  • barracks
  • base operations facilities

The veterans most at risk from their Vietnam service are those who served in the Navy. All US battle ships commissioned between 1930 and 1970 contained tons of asbestos insulation in engine rooms, miles of piping running throughout the ships, and in the doors and walls as fireproofing measures. Although a policy was established in 1975 to end the use of asbestos and materials containing asbestos as a thermal insulation material, this policy came too late for the prevalent use of asbestos in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Asbestos fibers were also incorporated in:

  • tiles on Navy ship decks
  • electrical cabling in Navy galley ranges
  • piping system gaskets and packing

Asbestos Exposure Symptoms

Vietnam veterans were trained to be highly aware of signs that the enemy was approaching. Today Vietnam veterans need to be aware of signs of the enemy that may lurk within. Primary symptoms of pleural (lung membrane) mesothelioma include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing, wheezing or hoarseness
  • Blood in coughed up fluid
  • Fatigue or anemia
  • Chest pain due to accumulation of fluid around the lungs

Although these symptoms are shared by other illnesses, their presence combined with a history of service in Vietnam with likely asbestos exposure means it’s important to have a doctor test you for mesothelioma. If the diagnosis is confirmed, you may qualify for special financial benefits from the Veterans Administration. You may also have the right to compensation from companies that made or supplied or installed the asbestos that harmed you. If so, you could receive compensation either through a court settlement or from bankruptcy trusts set up by the companies. Either way, be sure to consult an experienced asbestos attorney.

 

 

Asbestos Exposure Bill Aims To Protect Workers, Families

asbestos exposureSen Dick Durbin (D-ILL) has introduced a bill, the Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Database (READ) Act designed to require manufactures, importers and those who handle asbestos-containing products to annually report information to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about their products.

Asbestos Exposure Product Data Would Be Accessible Online

The proposed READ Act would require EPA to make this comprehensive asbestos exposure information available to the public in an accessible easily searchable online database.

The database would also list any publicly accessible location where products with asbestos have been reported in the past year and asbestos exposure may have occurred.

“Every year, far too many Americans and their families suffer the deadly consequences of asbestos exposure,” Durbin said in a release. “The goal of this legislation is simple: increase the transparency and accessibility of data informing the public about where asbestos is known to be present. This information will increase awareness, reduce asbestos exposure, and help save lives.”

Americans Remain At Risk For Diseases Caused By Asbestos Exposure

If passed, the new legislation would represent a giant step forward in protecting American workers and their families from the lethal dangers of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that affects cells found in the mesothelium, a protective membrane surrounding the majority of the body’s internal organs. A history of asbestos exposure in the workplace is reported in approximately 70 to 80 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Families of people who work with asbestos can develop mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos dust brought into the home on the worker’s clothes.

Approximately 2,500 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. The average survival time of those with malignant forms of the disease is 10 to 14 months. In addition to mesothelioma, the inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer and asbestosis.

Although the dangers of asbestos exposure have been known since the 1930s, the US has been slow to act on eliminating all asbestos use in commercial products.

New Bill Would Update 1988 Asbestos Exposure Law

The new proposed legislation would update and expand the Asbestos Information Act, signed into law by President Reagan in 1988. It currently requires manufacturers and processors of asbestos-containing materials to provide the EPA with a one-time report on their products. Because the law predates the Internet, the information on potential asbestos exposure is published only in the Federal Register and not easily accessible to the public. By requiring the information to be posted online, Durbin’s bill would give Americans a new comprehensive way to monitor potential asbestos exposure in products they may work with and purchase for use.

 

 

 

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