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News Updates

Flavored E-Cigarettes: The New Big Lie?

flavored e-cigarettesE-cigarettes, electronic devices that deliver nicotine by vaporizing a liquid rather than burning dried tobacco, are being sold to the American public as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking. Given the tobacco industry’s decades long track record of lying to the world about the dangers of smoking, it’s natural to be skeptical about the rosy health claims of electronic cigarettes. Now, a new study has shown that flavored e-cigarettes (also known as e-cigs) contain chemicals that may cause a severe and irreversible lung disease.

For decades, tobacco companies paid scientists to sow doubt about the growing body of evidence linking cigarette smoking with lung cancer, a fact that is now undisputed. As these deceptions have come to light, acceptance of cigarette smoking in the US has declined. In 1965, 42% of US adults were smokers. In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that number had gone down to 15%.

As cigarette smoking has become less socially acceptable, with states instituting bans on smoking in most public spaces, offices and restaurants, e-cigarette use has been on the rise. Young people have the highest rate of “vaping” (vaping is the term for e-cig use, since users inhale vapor, not smoke). Just over 5% of those in the 18 to 24 year category vape regularly. The industry has promoted vaping among young people, producing flavored e-cigarettes blatantly aimed at a youth market. One leading brand features flavors that include Cherry Crush, Peach Schnapps, and Vivid Vanilla.

That flavoring puts more than sweetness into the vapor. It adds toxic chemicals into the mix as well.

Butter Flavoring and Popcorn Lung

In 2000, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was called in to investigate an outbreak of obliterative bronchiolitis among people who had worked at a plant that manufactured microwave popcorn. The disease is caused by scarring or swelling of the bronchial tubes in the lungs. The symptoms of this disease are similar to asthma or chronic bronchitis, so it can be difficult to diagnose. It is uncommon and incurable. Because the sufferers had all worked at a popcorn plant, the disease became known as “popcorn lung.”

Studies determined that popcorn lung was caused by the butter-flavored topping. Chemicals used in the flavoring became airborne during the manufacturing process. One chemical in particular, diacetyl, is suspected of being responsible for this disease.

Flavored E-Cigarettes Put Workers and Vapers in Danger

Diacetyl is a common ingredient in a number of other artificial flavorings, including fruit flavors. A new study looked for diacetyl, as well as two other chemicals that may be implicated in obliterative bronchiolitis, in flavored e-cigarettes. The study tested 51 types of e-cigs. Researchers detected diacetyl in more than 75% of the flavors and at least one of the three chemicals in over 90% of the samples tested.

Workers, who are exposed to constant large doses of these chemicals, may have the highest risk of developing debilitating lung disease after prolonged exposure. However, vapers may also be susceptible, as they inhale these toxics along with their Cherry Crush or Vivid Vanilla. Because flavored e-cigarettes are widely used among young people whose lungs may still be developing, the effects could be even more severe.

Focusing on Lung Disease for Over 40 Years

Kazan Law is no stranger to dealing with big corporations that put workers and consumers at risk. We have been at the forefront of asbestos litigation since the first plaintiffs filed lawsuits in the early 1970s. We continue to hold corporations accountable every day, for mesothelioma and lung cancer caused by exposure to toxic asbestos fibers.

Our practice is about more than winning settlements and verdicts for our clients, though that is an important part of what we do. It is also about holding corporations accountable for their negligent actions. It’s about standing up to big businesses that put profits ahead of the health of their workers and customers and the general public.

Manufacturers who used asbestos knew about its potentially fatal health effects for decades but continued to expose unsuspecting workers to this toxic mineral without proper – or any – protective gear. Even when the information about the health risks of asbestos became public, government was slow to step in and regulate. The widespread and negligent use of asbestos only stopped after the weight of lawsuits became too heavy for corporations to bear.

The toxic effects of diacetyl and other flavoring chemicals are not unknown. E-cigarette manufacturers add these chemicals to their products in search of an easy profit, disregarding the risk to human health. The FDA currently has no authority to regulate e-cigarettes, the way it does tobacco, so flavored e-cigarettes are not subject to any government oversight. While the FDA pursues a legal process to obtain regulatory authority over e-cigarettes, some states and cities have passed their own rules limiting the use of these nicotine-delivery devices.

Flavored e-cigarettes have only been on the market for a few years. Lung disease can take time to develop. Symptoms may be latent for years until they become too severe to ignore. At Kazan Law, we think public health matters. We think there’s no time to lose.

Sometimes, lawyers can do what governments and business cannot or will not do – protect the health of citizens and workers. Kazan Law is proud to be a part of this movement. If you are an e-cigarette smoker and are experiencing severe lung issues, talk to your doctor at once. If you are told your problems seem related to diacetyl, we’d like to hear from you.

Asbestos Attorneys Note April 28 Workers Memorial Day

Workers Memorial Day

Photo credit: AFL-CIO

As asbestos attorneys we take great pride in what we do and rejoice in the multi-million dollar awards we win for our clients. But we never lose sight of the fact that behind every win there is also a loss. That loss is the impending loss of life for each client struggling with malignant mesothelioma. Although we are excellent asbestos attorneys and the doctors who treat malignant mesothelioma are excellent doctors, there is yet no cure.

Today as we observe Workers Memorial Day with millions of others all over the world, we recall the brave wonderful people we have represented. The AFL-CIO slogan for this year’s Workers Memorial Day – Mourn the Dead, Fight for the Living – resonates profoundly for each of us at Kazan Law. Because that is what we do every day.

This year between 2,500 and 3,000 US citizens will be diagnosed with mesothelioma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mesothelioma is 100% attributable to exposure to asbestos. In almost every instance the asbestos exposure happened because of the work they or someone in their family did. (Secondary asbestos exposure occurs when the person working with asbestos unknowingly brings the lethal microscopic fibers into the home on their clothes).

High-risk work groups for exposure to asbestos include: shipyard workers, oil refinery workers, manufacturing workers, plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, machinists, or construction workers. Typically the exposure to asbestos occurred in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s. The damage to the lungs, typically as malignant mesothelioma takes decades to emerge. But when it does, it is irreversible.

Four decades ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job.  Unions have fought to make that promise a reality—winning protections that have made jobs safer, saved lives and prevented millions of workplace injuries and illnesses. Businesses falsely claim that these regulations and protections kill jobs. The fact is these regulations and protections keep jobs and employers from killing workers. But there is still more to be done – especially on a global scale.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), across the world:

  • Each year, more than two million men and women die as a result of work-related accidents and diseases
  • Workers suffer approximately 270 million accidents each year, and fall victim to some 160 million incidents of -related illnesses
  • Hazardous substances kill 440,000 workers annually – asbestos claims 100,000 lives
  • One worker dies every 15 seconds worldwide. 6,000 workers die every day. More people die at work than fighting wars.

To find a Workers’ Memorial Day event near you, check here.

Asbestos Industry Affiliation Gets Scientist Rejected As Possible Head of French Public Health Agency

asbestos industryIf you’ve been exposed to asbestos, that means that you’ve been lied to. You were assured that the materials you were working with or the place where you worked or lived was safe.  You were not told that you were being exposed to asbestos which could cause you to develop a fatal disease called mesothelioma or other cancer.

If you’ve been exposed to asbestos, you understand the importance of knowing the truth.  Truth is a golden thread woven into all that we hold dear. Without truth, justice would perish from the earth. Truth is the basis of all law.

So I am pleased to report that in an important scientific matter that involved the potential falsification of public health policy by asbestos interests, truth has prevailed.

A prominent European scientist Dr. Paolo Boffetta  who was on track to become the next head of France’s leading epidemiology institute, the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health (CESP) has been asked to withdraw his candidacy for that position.  Why?  Because he reportedly took bribes from the asbestos industry to not tell the truth.

Boffetta is alleged to have been paid by an Italian asbestos company to help it defeat charges of criminal negligence, causing the deaths of a dozen workers who died from mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos used at the company’s  factory in Italy.

At the same time, Boffetta co-authored a scientific article concluding that , “… that the mesothelioma-producing potential of chrysotile is low and thus the number of mesothelioma deaths will be too unstable to be used to estimate the lung cancers caused by it.”  Boffetta  declared  he had no conflict of interest. Yet  Boffetta  apparently intended to use the article as evidence to help the asbestos industry avoid blame.

Boffetta’s corruption was the subject of investigative reporting by Le Monde, France’s leading newspaper and Boffetta’s defense of asbestos in his scientific journal article was severely criticized by scientists for putting forward inaccurate and misleading information to serve the interests of the asbestos industry.

“When scientists sell their integrity to become highly paid consultants for toxic industries, they become a threat to science and a danger to the health of people and the environment,” observed international anti-asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff.

The National Institute for Health & Medical Research (INSERM) and the University of Paris-Sud, who are responsible for appointing the CESP Director, required Boffetta to withdraw his candidature.  The appointment process was very far advanced. Boffetta was the only candidate being considered and the appointment was expected to be shortly confirmed.

That Boffetta was even considered for this important health policy post is an outrage. But thankfully at this point the public’s best interest and the truth have prevailed.

Mesothelioma Awareness Day Events Generate Nationwide Attention

Meso_Awareness_DayMesothelioma patients and their families confront the malignant asbestos-caused cancer every day but yesterday all across the US many people got their first introduction to the often fatal illness, including those in a position to do something about it.  These included everyone from Congressional representatives in Washington DC to college students in Florida and Arizona who participated in fundraising runs to support mesothelioma patients.

Started by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF) in 2004, Meso Awareness Day event organizers have steadily scaled up their efforts to familiarize the general public about this deadly type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure primarily in the workplace or asbestos-containing products in the home.  About 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.

MARF is the only national non-profit organization entirely dedicated to ending mesothelioma by funding research, providing education and support for patients and their families, and by advocating for federal funding of mesothelioma research.

With dozens of events occurring around the nation and more scheduled for this weekend, here are a few highlights of Meso Awareness Day 2013 thus far:

  • MARF members held a Congressional Briefing at 10 a.m. yesterday in the Rayburn Office Building. Their presentation was called “Mesothelioma: Unknown, Underfunded and Incurable.”
  • A large group of MARF supporters gathered at New York City’s Rockefeller Center for the taping of the Today Show were visible in their bright yellow shirts. Today Show Al Roker briefly spoke with the group .
  • The Baltimore Orioles, during their game against the Toronto Blue Jays, recognized Meso Awareness Day by featuring information about the Meso Foundation on the jumbotron screen.

Kazan Law is proud to be listed on the Annual Donors page on MARF’s website.  We are pleased to know that through donations from the Kazan, McClain, Abrams, Fernandez, Lyons, Greenwood, Oberman, Satterly & Bosl Foundation, Inc., we are part of who MARF is talking about when they state:

“Because of your support, the Foundation funds the highest-quality, peer-reviewed research, provides education and support to patients and their loved ones and leads advocacy efforts to increase federal funding for research and increase awareness of mesothelioma.”

We believe that thanks to MARF’s efforts like Meso Awareness Day, mesothelioma will not be unknown, underfunded and maybe not even incurable in the future.

San Francisco-Based Bechtel Group in Hot Water over Asbestos Issue in Australia

engineerSan Francisco, California-based Bechtel Group, the largest construction and engineering company in the U.S., has run into trouble related to asbestos in the Australian state of Queensland.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) says it could take Bechtel to federal court over a wage dispute in which some workers refused to complete a project until asbestos testing was completed.

The dispute, which is taking place on Queensland’s Curtis Island near Gladstone, stems from pre-built electrical switch rooms that were imported by Bechtel from Indonesia. Testing has indicated that the rooms contain white asbestos, which is a banned import in Australia, according to the news source.

Peter Ong, an official with the ETU, told the media outlet that after a Fair Work Australia hearing did not resolve the issue, the union is considering taking the matter to federal court.

“The current agreement that covers the projects being built at Curtis Island is a WorkChoices agreement, so it was made in 2009,” Ong explained. “That agreement doesn’t allow for arbitration, so it doesn’t allow for the commissioners to actually make a call or make a judgment on it unless both parties agree to arbitration.”

Bechtel’s asbestos issues continue

Bechtel, which was founded in 1898, has a long history with asbestos, particularly during World War II during work on shipyards. The company has also been the subject of asbestos lawsuits from individuals who were exposed on the job, making it all the more troubling that the carcinogenic substance has become an issue for Bechtel once again.

The issue is particularly disconcerting considering the well-documented risks of asbestos exposure. According to World Health Organization estimates, asbestos-related illnesses such as lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma are responsible for the deaths of approximately 107,000 individuals around the world each year.

Ong, the union official helping to lead the charge in the Bechtel case, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the fact that the industrial giant has not admitted to poorly handling the situation and not properly compensated workers is more than troubling.

“Now that’s not happening all, that’s left up to our side of things … to take it to the Federal Court,” Ong explained.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Reportedly Suffering from Mesothelioma

Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez skipped the Summit of the Americas and headed to Cuba for medical treatment after he was recently diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, according to reports.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro made the announcement from Colombia, where he was in attendance for the meeting in place of Chavez, according to the Washington Post. Maduro told a local television station that the president was advised by doctors not to attend the summit.

The Post reports that the decision for Chavez not to attend the meeting with President Barack Obama and other world leaders could spark questions about the Venezuelan president’s political future.

“For more than a dozen years he has been at the center of attention at these hemispheric gatherings,” Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington, D.C., told the news source. “His cancer, coupled with political problems at home, constrains his regional and global role.”

Venezuela’s asbestos consumption put in spotlight

President Chavez’s diagnosis of mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, puts Venezuela’s use of asbestos under the microscope. The country, which was one of the earliest adopters of asbestos in South America, was the second-largest importer in 1960.

Between 1960 and 1975, Venezuela’s asbestos imports grew six-fold, and in 2010 the country consumed an estimated 910 metric tons, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Though that number pales in comparison with countries like India and China, the simple fact that asbestos use has not been banned in Venezuela raises major questions.

Chavez, who is running for re-election in October, recently told a group of supporters that his strength has been impacted by the radiation therapy he’s received, but added that he was “doing well,” according to the Post.

Asbestos-related illnesses remain prevalent around the world

While countries like Venezuela have not banned the use of asbestos, a number of others have done so. Still, asbestos-related diseases such as malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer continue to be diagnosed around the world.

A mesothelioma diagnosis for a major public figure like Hugo Chavez sheds light on the reality that asbestos exposure remains a significant crisis. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 107,000 individuals around the world succumb to asbestos-related diseases each year.

UK Supreme Court Ruling Places Insurance Liability for Asbestos Exposure

Middlesex Guildhall in London

The Middlesex Guildhall in London is the location of the Supreme Court.

A step towards justice for asbestos victims took place this week by a ruling made by the UK Supreme Court which could allow thousands families of people who died after exposure to asbestos to have greater access to compensation.

The new ruling by a panel of five Supreme Court justices determined that insurance liability for disease sufferers should be placed at the time of asbestos exposure, rather than when symptoms appeared.

This ruling has major ramifications for people looking to obtain asbestos compensation as it can take decades for asbestos illnesses – which include malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis – to manifest symptoms. By placing the liability at the time of exposure, thousands more people could be able to file claims.

One justice of the Supreme Court, Lord Clarke, said:

“The negligent exposure of an employee to asbestos during the [insurance] policy period has a sufficient causal link with subsequently arising mesothelioma to trigger the insurer’s obligation.”

Unite, which is reportedly the largest trade union in Britain and the Republic of Ireland, said that the ruling will have a positive impact for asbestos victims and their families. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said:

“It is a disgrace that insurance companies went to such lengths to shirk their responsibilities.”

Commenting on the Supreme Court’s decision, Nick Starling, director of general insurance and health at the Association of British Insurers, said:

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court has confirmed what most in the industry have always understood – that the insurer on cover when the claimant was exposed to asbestos should pay the claim, rather than the insurer on cover when the mesothelioma develops.

Canadian Asbestos Mine Operation Files for Bankruptcy

asbestos mineThe worldwide medical community has agreed for nearly five decades that asbestos exposure could cause a number of serious illnesses including malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis. However, that has not stopped Canada from continuing to mine and export the naturally occurring substance.

Despite the efforts of the Conservative government and the shameful lobbying of industry groups, it appears that the bell has finally tolled for at least part of the Canadian asbestos industry.

LAB Chrysotile Inc. recently filed for bankruptcy, according to the Montreal Gazette. The news provider reports that the company is one of two potential asbestos firms that could survive.

The bankruptcy, combined with the halting of operations at Quebec’s Jeffrey Mine, means that there are currently no active asbestos mining operations in Canada.

Company buries head in sand, says it will seek to continue

LAB, and the Canadian asbestos industry as a whole, denies that chrysotile – or white – asbestos is a health risk if it is handled properly, despite the irrefutable evidence that exposure to the substance can cause deadly diseases.

The company’s CEO Simon Dupéré says that he hopes that operations at the asbestos mine will soon pick up under a new structure, and also alludes to the fact that his industry is the victim of a smear campaign.

“I’m convinced we can relaunch the mine. We’re going to push for a plan of action, talk to all the players,” he said to the Globe and Mail. “We’ve been fighting [the negative publicity]. I’m convinced that this product can – and is – used in a safe fashion.”

Asbestos shipped to developing countries

Much of the asbestos is sent to developing countries around the world, most notably India. There, industry advocates say, the material is needed due to its insulating properties and resistance to flame.

“It’s prized in many places as a low-cost infrastructure-building material,” says Dupéré.

However, it is unlikely that all people in these countries are fully aware of the dangers of asbestos. And even if they were aware it is impossible to protect one’s self completely from exposure to the substance

This exposure can cause malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.

All told, the World Health Organization estimates that such asbestos-caused illnesses claim the lives of 107,000 people each year around the world.

New Diagnostic Technology

Vibration Response Imaging: Non-Invasive Diagnosis

Vibration Response Imaging is a new non-invasive pulmonary imaging technology designed to help clinicians diagnose, assess, and treat various respiratory conditions, and may prove to be one of the biggest medical breakthroughs since the development of the ultrasound.

VRI is designed to capture dynamic images which are not currently available using any other lung imaging system. The technology registers vibration response energy generated by air flow inside the tissue of the lungs to create a real-time structural and functional image of the respiration process. It uses passive vibration energy that is naturally created within the body’s organs to produce a dynamic image of the organ. It is real time, and non-invasive and free from radiation. This technology has the potential to be applied to virtually every organ of the body.

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International Mesothelioma Interest Group Update

Several months ago I posted an entry describing the upcoming IMIG meeting in Kyoto to which I had been invited. I gave the keynote address at the legal affairs session and spent the rest of the time learning a great deal about recent developments in the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma. Our firm, along with the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, was a platinum sponsor of the event. In addition, for the second consecutive conference, we had the privilege of being the financial sponsors of the IMIG Young Investigator Awards. This year awards were given in honor of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, and BANJAN, the Japanese organization of victims and advocates focusing on ensuring that asbestos is banned in Japan and appropriate compensation is provided to its victims.

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