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Asbestos and Farming and the Risk of Harm

asbestos and farmingAsbestos and farming is not what comes to most people’s minds. Especially today when local small-scale farms are seen as the most pure and natural way to grow food. Keep in mind that asbestos is natural, too. It’s a natural mineral that lies deep in the earth. And that’s where it should stay. But unfortunately a lot of machinery, equipment and construction materials on farms may contain asbestos. And exposure to asbestos can kill.

How Asbestos and Farming Becomes Dangerous

Asbestos becomes dangerous when it is airborne. If asbestos in farming equipment or an old building gets disturbed, asbestos fibers may be released. Old and brittle asbestos that crumbles into dust produces airborne microscopic fibers. You can’t see them and may breathe them in when you inhale. Trapped in your lungs, asbestos particles can trigger fatal lung diseases.

How to Recognize Asbestos

Typically, asbestos is hardened and fibrous. It’s usually light grey or off-white in color.

If you’re working with old insulation boards, roof sheeting or older vehicles, and see flaking or powdering where unpainted surfaces are worn, cracked or damaged, it might be asbestos.

But visual inspection is usually not sufficient to determine if a suspect material contains asbestos. Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides detailed guidance about how to safely collect samples that may contain asbestos, the American Lung Association recommends that you hire a certified asbestos professional to take any samples. Hiring a professional can minimize asbestos exposure for you and your family.

Where Asbestos May Lurk on Farms

You may find asbestos on your farm:

  • as an insulating material around pipes or boilers, or in panels between wallboards
  • as a friction pad in brake linings in old farm vehicles
  • in corrugated sheeting material in a roof
  • in products made from asbestos cement

How To Prevent Asbestos Exposure on Your Farm

Be careful when moving, sawing, drilling or breaking any structures which contain asbestos.

You can reduce the risk of releasing hazardous asbestos dust on your farm by:

  • using hand tools instead of power tools
  • making sure anyone working with questionable materials wears a face mask and disposable overalls
  • avoiding the use of a bristle broom when cleaning up – it could spread asbestos fibers

If asbestos on your farm needs to be removed, transported or disposed of, call in the pros. Remember, no amount of asbestos exposure is safe. It’s not worth risking your life to try to do it yourself.

New Global Mesothelioma Case Epidemic Reported

mesothelioma caseA new study reports that the number of mesothelioma cases is on the rise globally.   Italian researchers who meticulously compiled and analyzed international mesothelioma facts say it has reached epidemic proportions in parts of the world and is unlikely to slow down.

The new mesothelioma case trend surprisingly turned up in several European countries. The report, published in the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found the highest number of mesothelioma cases in the UK, The Netherlands, Malta and Belgium as well as in Australia and New Zealand. They also found that in many countries data on mesothelioma is not collected and no mesothelioma facts or statistics were available.

The number of mesothelioma deaths reported in the UK increased from 153 in 1968 to 2,360 in 2010, with about 3.6 cases per 100,000 men and 0.5 per 100,000 women. The United States in comparison ranked in the middle range of the countries studied. In the period 2003-2008 over 3000 cases were diagnosed each year, with a high of 3284 in 2005. The incidence was 1.93 per 100,000 among men and 0.41 among women.

Mesothelioma is a lethal cancer caused by being exposed to asbestos. It may take decades for symptoms to emerge so a diagnosis can be made. Unfortunately, the average survival time of those with malignant forms of the disease is ten to fourteen months. The prognosis for a long life expectancy is not good even when symptoms appear early and treatment begins quickly.

“Asbestos has been banned in 55 countries. The inhabitants of such countries (about 1,110,000,000) correspond to 16% of the world population. This means that asbestos use continues in a large part of the world,” the researchers state.

For their report, researchers Claudio and Tommaso Bianchi of the Center for the Study of Environmental Cancer in Monfalcone, Italy studied mesothelioma case data from cancer registries around the world. They supplemented this data with information from mesothelioma researchers in other countries.

They conclude, “On the basis of global asbestos consumption in the last decades, one may predict that a further mesothelioma wave will involve large geographic areas. A lack of data does not allow an adequate assessment of the risk to be made. The epidemic of asbestos-related diseases in general and of mesothelioma in particular requires that the problem is faced in a more incisive way by health international institutions.”

Exposed to Asbestos Means Time For a Medical Check-up

exposed to asbestosIf you think you’ve been exposed to asbestos, the time to call your doctor for a check-up is now.

Use Before You Lose Your 2014 Benefits

It’s the holiday season, the most wonderful time of the year. But it is also the end of the year. Whatever health insurance benefits you did not use this year will be gone when the clock strike midnight on December 31. You begin the New Year with a new allotment of health insurance benefits. Your health insurance entitles you to a free full physical exam every year. You paid for it through your health insurance premiums, so use it before you lose it. With most people busy shopping and celebrating, you may be pleasantly surprised to find how easy it is to get scheduled now for an appointment with your doctor.

Get a Baseline Now

Another reason to hurry into the doctor’s office now before the end of the year if you’ve been exposed to asbestos, is to get a baseline of information about your health. Most asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma have a latency period of 20 to 50 years. This means that people who develop asbestos-related diseases generally don’t become ill until several decades after they have been exposed to asbestos. Although you do not have symptoms now, you should remain vigilant. Talk to your physician about your asbestos exposure. Ask about asbestos-related disease testing. Request a pulmonary function test. These tests results will provide you with a baseline or starting point against which any changes can be measured in the following years. These simple, inexpensive tests should be done every year. Start now so any declines after you’ve been exposed to asbestos can be documented if you should need to initiate an asbestos lawsuit down the road.

Annual Check-ups Are Important

Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start, whether it is a disease caused by being exposed to asbestos or a different health issue. It is just part of taking good care of yourself. A medical check-up can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment are better. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “By getting the right health services, screenings, and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances for living a longer, healthier life.”

Try to take the time to get in to see your doctor this week or next week if you can. You’ll be glad you did.

Who is Most Likely to Be a Victim of Asbestos Exposure?

asbestos exposureAsbestos exposure can happen to anyone. Contrary to common perceptions, asbestos exposure cuts across all socio-economic lines and occupations. A retired judge in New Jersey recently claimed that asbestos exposure in the courthouse where he presided caused him to develop cancer.

Amos Saunders, 80, said he was a victim of asbestos exposure throughout his 23 years as a judge in a Passaic County courthouse and that exposure led to his developing adenocarcinoma, according to The New Jersey Law Journal.

Saunders is suing Passaic County and two companies who performed asbestos removal work at the courthouse in the 1980s.

Why is Asbestos Exposure Dangerous?

People may be exposed to asbestos in their workplace, their communities, or their homes, according to the National Cancer Institute. When older homes or commercial buildings or products containing asbestos are dismantled or renovated, tiny asbestos fibers can get released into the air. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs and remain there. They cause scarring and inflammation, which eventually interferes with breathing and can trigger lethal cancers such as mesothelioma.

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.

Who is Most Likely to Be a Victim of Asbestos Exposure?

People who have worked in certain occupations, such as construction workers, electricians, firefighters, car part production and car mechanics and those who served in the military, are at risk for the effects of asbestos exposure. So are members of their families who were exposed to the asbestos dust these workers unknowingly brought into the home on their clothes and tools.

But asbestos knows no occupation status or tax bracket. Even England’s Prince William and his family had to quickly move out of Kensington Palace during the removal asbestos discovered during repairs to their renowned ancestral home.

Palaces, courthouses and office buildings can be sources of asbestos exposure as much as shipyards and automobile plants. Unfortunately, because of many businesses prizing profits above people’s safety, we are all at risk for asbestos exposure. It is everyone’s problem.

Veterans Face Higher Risk for Mesothelioma

Veterans DayAs we observe Veterans Day on November 11, it is important to remember that veterans face higher risks for developing mesothelioma. Yes, sadly not only did our brave men and women in the armed forces confront gunfire and bombs from enemy forces and endure harsh battle conditions in far-off foreign lands, our veterans also face death from exposure to asbestos in the very ships and aircraft in which they served our country.

Symptoms of asbestos-related diseases, such as shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pain, often do not appear until 20 to 50 years after the exposure. These symptoms often indicate the presence of mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, and sometimes also the heart and abdomen.

While veterans represent 8% of our nation’s population, veterans comprise 30% of all known mesothelioma deaths that have occurred in this country.

How Veterans may have been exposed to asbestos

According to information from the Veterans Administration, veterans who served in any of the following occupations may have been exposed to asbestos: mining, milling, shipyard work, insulation work, demolition of old buildings, carpentry and construction, manufacturing and installation of products such as flooring and roofing.

Veterans who served in Iraq and other countries in that region could have been exposed to asbestos when older buildings were damaged and the contaminant released into the air.

Why Veterans Were Exposed to Asbestos

Asbestos was used in nearly every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. The most common risks for asbestos exposure resulted from insulation used in ships, vehicles, and aircraft from the early 1900s until the 1970s.

A fire at sea aboard a warship would have caused a huge loss of lives and loss of a major Navy asset. The same could be said about the potential for exploding fighter planes. Asbestos seemed at the time a way to prevent these catastrophes. Because of its insulating properties, the extensive asbestos was a key aspect in the construction of ships, planes and other warcraft for many years.

Thousands of veterans have since suffered related illnesses due to exposure during their service.

Compensation benefits for health problems

Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems related to exposure to asbestos during military service. You can File a claim online with the VA. Every veteran has ‎the right to sue and that’s why they need a good attorney to help them.

Asbestos Insulation and its Dangers in Your Home

asbestos insulationAsbestos insulation was used extensively in American homes up until the 1970s. That’s because asbestos is a highly-effective and inexpensive fire-retardant material and thermal and acoustic insulator. It was popular because it could keep flames lit, heat in, cold out, sound clear, damp areas dry and cement strong. Unfortunately, it is also lethal and although no longer used, lingers in many older homes.

Where was asbestos insulation used in older homes?

The main areas of the house where asbestos insulation was used were basements, attics or roofs. In homes built prior to 1975, according to This Old House, asbestos is most commonly found as thermal insulation on basement boilers and pipes and as blown-in attic insulation.

As an acoustical or heat insulator, asbestos was often placed in, around or between steel beams, water and sewer pipes, ducts, high temperature gaskets, stovepipe rings, electrical wiring, vinyl and linoleum sheet flooring, floor backing, shingles, panels, partitions and acoustic tiles. It was also used in heaters, boilers, furnaces, incinerators, artificial fireplaces and barbecues.

When is asbestos insulation dangerous?

Asbestos insulation becomes dangerous when fragments break away and float in household air currents. This is because even a tiny amount is comprised of tens of thousands of microscopic fibers. Being so light, they adhere to clothing, household items or hair; in fact, almost every surface can harbor asbestos fibers. Once breathed in, however, asbestos cannot leave the lungs. The fibers remained trapped and can exist for up to 50 years. As the body attempts to attack and expel them, disease-producing conditions are created. Some are a response to foreign particles–such as asbestosis–while others are actually carcinogenic causing lung cancer and mesothelioma.

What should I do if I have asbestos insulation?

DO NOT DISTURB IT! Any disturbance could potentially release asbestos fibers into the air. If you need to go in your attic and it contains asbestos insulation, you should limit the number of trips you make and shorten the length of those trips in order to help limit your potential exposure.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that you:

  • Leave asbestos insulation undisturbed in your attic or in your walls.
  • Do not store boxes or other items in your attic if it contains abestos insulation.
  • Do not allow children to play in an attic with asbestos insulation.
  • Do not attempt to remove the insulation yourself.
  • Hire a professional asbestos contractor if you plan to remodel or conduct renovations that would disturb the asbestos insulation in your attic or walls to make sure the material is safely handled and/or removed.

New Research Suggests Talcum Powder as Mesothelioma Cause in Women

mesothelioma causeAsbestos, the only known mesothelioma cause in the U.S., is associated with industrial uses. Because of its ability to withstand heat, asbestos was a go-to component for many manufactured products where heat resistance would be helpful. Car brakes and brake pads, home and building insulation contained asbestos. Thousands of tons of asbestos were used in World War II ships to insulate piping, boilers, steam engines, and steam turbines.

These uses of asbestos suggest occupations held primarily by men. In a report called The Asbestos Epidemic in America, the Environmental Working Group states,” Asbestos kills thousands more people than skin cancer each year, and nearly the number that are slain in assaults with firearms. The suite of diseases linked to asbestos exposure overwhelmingly affect older men.” The report goes on to say that even a tiny amount of asbestos can be lethal and that “asbestos diseases have a 20 to 50 year latency period, meaning that a substantial portion of individuals exposed in the 1960s and 1970s are just now showing up as disease or mortality statistics.”

Now new research published in the September issue of the International Journal of Occupational Environmental Health, suggests that the use of talcum powder may be a mesothelioma cause in women.

The research focuses on the use of one brand of talcum powder by a woman who had recently died.

“This brand of talcum powder contained asbestos and the application of talcum powder released inhalable asbestos fibers. Lung and lymph node tissues removed at autopsy revealed pleural mesothelioma,” the published report states. “Through many applications of this particular brand of talcum powder, the deceased inhaled asbestos fibers, which then accumulated in her lungs and likely caused or contributed to her mesothelioma as well as other women with the same scenario.”

But talc is not only in talcum powder. It is commonly found in eye shadow, baby powder, face powder, and other loose-mineral cosmetics, where it’s used as an absorbent, anti-caking agent.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states on its website it is “unacceptable” for cosmetic talc to be contaminated with asbestos. “To prevent contamination of talc with asbestos, it is essential to select talc mining sites carefully and take steps to purify the ore sufficiently.”

FDA reports that from 2008 to 2010 because of safety concerns, it studied talc from four talc suppliers and 38 talc-containing cosmetic products purchased in retail stores. These included eye shadow, blush, foundation, face powder, and body powder.

The analysis found no asbestos in any of the samples of cosmetic-grade raw material talc or cosmetic products containing talc. However FDA cautions that the results “do not prove that most or all talc or talc-containing cosmetic products currently marketed in the United States are likely to be free of asbestos contamination.”

The Wizard of Oz or The Wizard of Lethal Asbestos Exposure?

asbestos exposureLike most Americans, you may be fond of the classic 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz”. It turns out that the merry old land of Oz was a toxic cloud of lethal asbestos exposure.

Remember that famous poppy field scene? The one in which the Glinda the Good Witch counters the sleep-inducing effect of the Wicked Witch’s poppies with snow? You’ll be shocked to know that the “snow” falling on Dorothy played by Judy Garland, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man was made from 100% industrial-grade chrysotile asbestos—despite the fact that the health hazards of asbestos had been known for several years.

Chrysotile, or “white” asbestos, visually resembles real snow. Throughout the late 1920s and 30s, artificial snow made from asbestos was sold under dozens of brand names such as “White Magic,” “Pure White,” and “Snow Drift.”

Sadly, this hadn’t changed by the 1950s. As Bing Crosby sings the title song in the 1954 movie “White Christmas” a stage hand was overhead dumping asbestos “snow” on him, the National Institute for Occupational Safety Hazards reports.

Because the “Wizard of Oz” calls for the Scarecrow played by Ray Bolger to have several close run-ins with fire, his straw-filled costume is reported to have been flame-proofed with asbestos

Margaret Hamilton, who portrayed Miss Gulch and her evil alter ego the Wicked Witch of the West in the “The Wizard of Oz,” wielded a burning broom made of asbestos. Although the witch later melted, her asbestos broom didn’t, according to a newspaper report.

Although none of the principal actors in “The Wizard of Oz” are known to have died from any cause related to asbestos, it is sadly worth noting that Jack Haley, Jr., an award-winning director and producer and the son of Jack Haley who played the Tin Man, is reported to have developed “respiratory failure” and died at age 67 in 2001. Could it have been mesothelioma from asbestos dust unknowingly brought home by his father during the filming of “The Wizard of Oz”? We’ll never know.

Asbestos Toxicity Scare Partly Shuts US Capitol

asbestos toxicityThe US Capitol partly closed recently due to fear of asbestos toxicity during a building repair project. The partial closure included the chambers where the U.S. House of Representatives usually meets. Congress stayed away while folks in hazmat suits checked things out. According to media reports, “An accident involving asbestos work forced a temporary closure of the House side of the Capitol and prompted House leaders to delay the day’s session for two hours.”

By mid-morning a handful of tourists were sitting in the visitors’ gallery, observing an otherwise empty chamber.

I find it ironic that our Congressional representatives are so terrified of asbestos toxicity that they won’t go anywhere near the stuff. Yet they are just fine with exposing the rest of us to it. The U.S. has repeatedly refused to ban asbestos despite attempts by the US Environmental Protection Agency to do so. As a direct consequence, a further 250,000+ tons of asbestos was used in the U.S. just between 1991 and 2010, according to data from the United States Geological Survey.

The Capitol asbestos scare occurred as the historic building undergoes a major overhaul, the Washington Post reported. Along with multimillion-dollar renovations to the iconic cast iron Capitol Dome, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), the office responsible for its management and maintenance, is having asbestos removed from other parts of the building.

Construction of the main section of the Capitol began in 1793 and was finished in 1826, the U.S. News report says. “As the country grew and more lawmakers joined Congress, a south wing for the current House chamber and a north wing for the Senate were built. Both were completed in 1868, along with a new, larger dome.”

Initial news reports said the asbestos incident occurred when workers were removing asbestos from the fourth floor of the Capitol. The East Grand Staircase, which runs from the first floor to the third floor inside the House side of the building, was blocked off and more than a dozen workers spent much of the day examining the area. Also closed was the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Room, a third-floor room near that staircase that was named for the late speaker and Massachusetts Democrat.

The extreme danger of asbestos toxicity is something I discuss often here. The bottom line is that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Congress seems too beholden to the asbestos lobby to protect the American public from asbestos. But they sure know how to vote with their feet when their own safety is threatened.

GM Responds to Ignition Switch Glitches but Not to Asbestos Exposure

asbestos exposureAn Open Letter to Ken Feinberg, settlement administrator for GM, and Mary Barra, GM CEO:

When will you accept full responsibility for those whom you are killing slowly through asbestos exposure? Why are the lives of those killed through flawed engineering more important to you than those killed through flawed choice of materials? Is it because you only care to do the right thing if it involves consumers who buy your products and not the mechanics you knowingly subjected to asbestos exposure?

GM has just recalled another 8.5 million vehicles, including more than 8 million for ignition-switch defects, and said it knew of three deaths in accidents involving the affected cars.

This boosts to about 29 million cars and trucks that GM has recalled in North America this year—a number greater than the company’s combined U.S. sales for the years 2005 through 2013, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Ken Feinberg, you explained to the media all about the GM fund you’ll oversee to compensate for deaths and injuries. You are quoted in USA Today as saying there is no limit on the amount you can award individual claims, nor on the total amount of GM’s money you can spend. “GM delegated to me full and sole discretion to decide which claims are eligible, and how much money they should get.” you said.

Why then did GM declare bankruptcy in 2009 to avoid compensating those suffering from malignant mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure from working on GM cars?

Thousands of people have developed asbestos-related illnesses as a result of GM. By 2009, the company was liable for an estimated $636 million in asbestos claims, and GM filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

Following the bankruptcy reorganization in 2009, GM’s debts were transferred to Motors Liquidation Company. This included all present and future asbestos liability claims. The Motors Liquidation Company Asbestos PI Trust officially opened on April 30, 2012 to settle any present and future asbestos lawsuits paying only pennies on the dollar.

Mary Barra, when you took the reins of GM you admirably said GM has a “civic and moral responsibility” towards those harmed. Why the double standard that embraces responsibility for those harmed by driving your cars but sidesteps responsibility for those who worked on them? As I’ve said before, the end result of both is death and bereaved families.

It’s good that GM recognizes part of its moral responsibility to some of those Americans it has and will kill and maim. But ignoring all its asbestos victims isn’t moral; it’s hypocrisy. Shame on GM. Shame on Ken and Mary.

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