Exposure to Toxic Asbestos – Millions of Veterans Were Affected

Use of asbestos increased significantly during and after the Second World War. This was mainly due to the asbestos manufacturing companies that mass-produced asbestos based products for use on U.S. Navy ships. This led to thousands of sailors and workers getting inadvertently exposed to lethal asbestos dust while cutting and modifying insulation products. Decades later, many of these individuals would contract asbestos-based complications and diseases.

Avoidable exposure

For around 5 decades, just before the mid-1970’s, insulation products manufactured by the asbestos industry were installed in most homes, schools, buildings, cars, planes, and ships in America. Notably, asbestos manufacturers were well aware of the long-term consequences of asbestos exposure, but they simply ignored them. The U.S. Navy came to know about the dangers of asbestos exposure only after the 1970’s. But this came a bit late for the hundreds of thousands of veterans who developed asbestos based diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis due to the unnecessary exposure.

Asbestos cancer reduced the average life span of Veterans

After serving the country and retiring from active duties, most veterans belonging to the asbestos era started a life outside the military. Most of them married, took up new careers, and raised families – without ever knowing that the type of asbestos exposure they had in the military can cruelly reduce their life span. Several decades later and nearing retirement, many of these veterans could not have the pleasure of spending their golden years in the company of family and friends.

No location was safe aboard ships

The occupational diversity recorded amongst victims of asbestos diseases is evidence to the fact that no one was immune. In many cases, even family members were affected. Although the risk of developing asbestos related diseases was more for workers deployed in fire and engine rooms, there was no safe location aboard ships, be it the mess halls, navigation rooms or the sleeping quarters. Thousands of workers deployed at dry docks and shipyards were exposed to asbestos.

More Asbestos Found on Florida Highway

Road workers in Florida are still finding masses of dangerous asbestos at a highway construction site near Fort Myers. Work crews employed by Lee County to look into the site near Summerlin Road came across three pieces of the dangerous substance on the site’s east side. They also exposed asbestos-laced concrete chunks that had been hidden under the surface of the road, in trenches excavated up to eight feet deep along the side of the highway.

These most recent findings, combined with more than thirty pieces of affected concrete retrieved on the west side of the crossing of Summerlin Road and College Parkway last month, are part of the mounting evidence uncovered during a probe of the contracting firm involved in road improvements at the intersection. The ongoing investigation has held up the project that was expected to widen Summerlin Road to two more lanes. Work on the project, with an estimated cost of $25.2 million, has been at a standstill for almost two months.

Lee County’s director of transportation, Scott Gilbertson, has said that investigators with his office want to be sure that the amount of information they are able to gather on the potential contamination in the area is complete before they allow workers to restart on the project. As a result, he is not able to offer a schedule as to when work on the project can resume. He also said that his workers will “have to dig through” the site for potential additional asbestos findings before he can clear the site as a safe working environment.

Officials with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, along with Lee County investigators and workers with Posen Construction, continue to work towards determining the level and extent of the asbestos contamination at the proposed site. If the amount of asbestos fiber found exceeds two hundred sixty linear feet, executives with Posen could be charged with violations of worker safety and environmental laws, punishable by jail time or fines of up to ten thousand dollars per day.

Although workers with the company are cooperating in the investigation, attorneys with the firm have not claimed any responsibility for the contamination. Officials with the company have also refused to answer questions from the press detailing their involvement in using the contaminated materials. However, Posen has hired out another contracting firm that specializes in asbestos removal and remediation to report on the site and to help with other facets of the probe.

Lee County Commissioner Brian Bigelow voiced his hope that the data compiled by the investigators would reveal the level of potential health hazard that the asbestos-laced concrete could pose to both workers and to drivers using the newly expanded road. Although asbestos is considered “safe” as long as it stays bonded to the concrete material, the fibers can become highly dangerous when allowed to become loose and airborne, according to agency staff at the Department of Environmental Protection. DEP workers carried out air and soil quality tests at the site and have yet to find any loose fibers, but the investigation will continue until all parties can resolve the contamination issue.

Sources:

http://www.news-press.com/print/article/20100108/NEWS01/1080407/Roadside-asbestos-keeps-on-coming

http://www.abc-7.com/Global/story.asp?S=11792227

California Slated to Receive Asbestos Cleanup Funds

In December, President Obama signed a defense-funding bill that would allot $3.2 million to clean up and reclaim land around California’s Mount Umunhum near San Francisco. The area previously hosted Almaden Air Force Station from 1957 to 1980, a site that was home to many operations that left toxic wastes in the water and soil, including asbestos from abandoned buildings and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The federal funds are believed to be only a small fraction of the estimated $11 million required to fully reclaim the land. Rudy Jurgensen, a spokesman for the current owners of the site, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, said that his office would coordinate fundraising efforts to bring in the remainder of the funds needed to start the project.He stated that the efforts would also include approaching local, state and federal agencies for grants and low-interest loans.

Congressman Mike Honda, a Democrat who represents the district and led the charge for the funding on Capitol Hill, said that the cleanup project would start as soon as officers from the Army Corps of Engineers begin to develop a plan to remove the asbestos, lead paint and other toxic materials from the site. The Corps had previously surveyed the site to determine the levels of the various harmful substances present in both the still-standing structures and the surrounding soil and groundwater supplies.

According to the congressman, plans are already underway to tear down more than eighty structures on the site, including former officer housing, enlisted men’s barracks and a Cold War-era radar station known as “the Cube”. Congressman Honda also said that he would pursue another $800,000 in federal funding to cover the costs of the demolition. However, no mention was made on how the project would cover the costs of asbestos remediation and removal, nor were any timelines for the completion of the asbestos abatement efforts.

The radar station, erected in 1957, was used primarily as part of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) to oversee and intercept potentially hostile air traffic in northern California. During the base’s construction, workers used many materials that are now considered too dangerous or toxic. Many of the structures, including some of those used to house base personnel, used asbestos as insulation and fireproofing material.

The Air Force closed the station in 1980 and sold the land to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District in 1986. The district was created in 1972 to create and preserve open spaces on public land in the San Francisco Bay area. Until recently, the land around Mount Umunhum contained such high concentrations of asbestos, waste oil and other toxic chemicals that area had to be closed to the public.

With the start of the cleanup efforts slated for early 2010, area officials hope to create a public park from the scenic site. Park planners have submitted ideas for jogging and hiking trails that will allow visitors to enjoy the view from the top of Mount Umunhum, which spreads from the downtown San Francisco skyline to the waters of Monterey Bay, within the next two years.

Sources:

http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_14044562

http://kliv.com/Mount-Umunhum-in-line-for-federal-cleanup-funds/5952353

Australian Union Workers Fight for Asbestos Safety, Monitoring

Recently, an auction house (Pickles Auctions) located in Canberra, Australia was shut down due to improper removal of asbestos products. The closure was deemed necessary after it was determined the removal of the asbestos was both unauthorized and improperly performed.

The news was brought to the government’s attention through the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), who is authorized to enter worksites to investigate potential worker health hazards or safety breaches.

However, under new laws currently being considered by the Canberra government, union inspection of such sites could be made more difficult. As the present proposed laws stand, the CFMEU organizers who spoke up against improper safety at Pickles Auctions could have been prosecuted.

Sadly, Canberra government officials recently voted in favor of drafting tougher auditing laws as they pertain to unions. Though no knew laws have been enacted yet, surely this would be a major blow against worker safety in Australia.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring product that has been used in building insulation and many other commercial products. When inhaled, asbestos can cause mesothelioma.

The CFMEU is currently arguing against the proposed monitoring restrictions. Additionally, they are calling for the government to enact an asbestos register that would track individuals who have been exposed to asbestos. The goal of such a register is to document and track initial exposures so that workers can more easily seek fair compensation if mesothelioma does occur later in life.

Resource: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/10/20/2718784.htm

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/10/30/2728284.htm

Asbestos Exposure From Brake Dust Still A Concern

Asbestos is a fiber that is prized for its strength and heat resistance. These two unique qualities make asbestos an excellent component in vehicle brake pads. However, the hazards of asbestos exposure have long been known – inhaling such fibers can cause scarring of the lung tissue and, in some cases, rare lung cancers such as malignant mesothelioma.

Due to these health risks, the use of asbestos in brake pads had been largely phased out in vehicle production by the 1990s. Unfortunately, this does not mean that asbestos has stopped being a hazard to auto mechanics and others.

For one, late-model vehicles often still harbor brake dust that contains asbestos fibers. When this brake dust is released into the air – either by cleaning or repairing the brakes – asbestos inhalation can still occur. Original equipment brakes on vehicles as recent as 1993 were still being sold in the United States with asbestos brakes. Additionally, high-end imports, such as those sold by Land Rover, continue to incorporate asbestos linings into new vehicle models.

For two, many after-market brakes for sale in America still contain asbestos. These non-OEM parts continue to pose risks for auto industry workers and do-it-yourself gearheads.

So why, after decades of research that documents the hazards of asbestos brake dust, are automotive products still being manufactured with the fiber? Beginning in the early 1980s, European countries began banning the sale and production of all asbestos products. Today, 60 countries worldwide have enforced regulations that make the sale of asbestos products illegal.

The United States is not one of these countries.

In 1986, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced a proposal to ban the production of asbestos products in the United States. Under the proposal, a total ban on all domestic and imported asbestos products would be initiated by 1996.

Unfortunately, EPA’s proposed ban was overturned in the courts. This was largely due to heavy lobbying on behalf of brake rebuilders and other asbestos-related businesses.

As such, brake manufacturers are free to fabricate brakes that contain asbestos if they so choose. Furthermore, no law requires such hazardous products to be labeled in any way that might warn mechanics and other individuals about the potential for asbestos exposure. Sadly, this fact exacerbates the possibility for unnecessary inhalation of harmful mesothelioma-causing agents.

To minimize potential for asbestos brake dust exposure, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration recommends either wet cleaning procedures or the use of an enclosed high-efficiency vacuum when working with automotive brakes. Dry procedures such as air hoses are strongly discouraged, as these processes cause brake dust to become airborne.

Resource: http://www.aa1car.com/library/trtu796.htm

Surgeon General Finally Issues Written Warning of Asbestos

The dangers of exposure to airborne asbestos fibers have been known for decades. In fact, the fiber – which is often used for the production of insulation and flame-retardant products – has been linked to pulmonary problems since as early as the 19th century.

Despite this fact, a United States surgeon general had never issued a public warning to the public detailing the dangers of asbestos exposure. Finally in April 2009 Surgeon General Steven Galson issued a brief statement about the dangers of asbestos fibers.

Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are diagnosed in tens of thousands of individuals each year. Any effort that serves to increase awareness is seen as a potential way to reduce these numbers on the future.

But the question remains, why did an asbestos warning from a surgeon general take so long? Well, during the Bush administration, a form letter response basically stated that the surgeon general has more important issues to worry about than asbestos and mesothelioma.

That’s hardly a valid defense, however. Given that the eventual asbestos warning issued came in at well under 400 words, it’s hard to imagine that the statement took more than an hour to draw up.

More likely, the Bush administration was taking a passive stance against promoting asbestos awareness. This fact is backed up by the strong push by the Bush White House to restructure asbestos tort reform in such a way that it would be harder for asbestos sufferers to file asbestos lawsuits against their employers.

Regardless of past failures, the recent surgeon general’s warning is certainly a step in the right direction. Anything that informs U.S. workers and citizens to the dangers of asbestos exposure has the potential to improve early diagnosis of the illness.

Resources:

http://www.coldtruth.com/2009/09/16/asbestos-warning-finally-issued-by-surgeon-general-or-was-it/

http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/news/pressreleases/pr20090401.html

Kenney to Get Roof Repair, Asbestos Remediation

On August 3, work began on the roof of the Dennis M. Kenney Middle School as part of a construction project approved in January by Hannibal Central School District (HCSD) voters.

The school, located in Hannibal, New York, serves 505 students in grades 6 through 8, and is the only middle school in the district. Like many schools in the nation, it faces the need to renovate aging buildings, not merely to accommodate greater numbers of students but also to prevent buildings from falling into disrepair and presenting a danger to students, teachers and other staff.

This particular repair is aimed at a leaky roof on the older portion of the building, and is estimated to take about three weeks, according to HCSD District Superintendent Michael DiFabio.

The repairs and asbestos abatement will begin with a small, newer section toward the north end of the building, which does not require asbestos abatement. During the second week, however, workers will be doing double shifts on older roof portions for the first six days in order to complete the remediation before students and teachers return to school.

This secondary phase will accomplish asbestos abatement during the first shift, from 1 a.m. through 7 a.m. (Eastern Time), and roof replacement during the second shift, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. According to DiFabio, this allows the building to remain watertight during the remediation and repair.

Fabio has assured nearby residents that every effort will be made, during the pre-dawn hours, to keep lighting glare to a minimum and reduce the noise from the generator being used to run the lighting.

Asbestos remediation in older school buildings is often done during the summer months because this insures the safety of students and faculty. Improper, accidental or poorly managed asbestos remediation can lead to the spread of asbestos fibers and the potential for a number of asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis, lung and digestive system cancers, and mesothelioma.

Asbestosis is a respiratory disease that usually results from prolonged exposure to asbestos, and causes increased difficulty breathing and general debilitation. Lung and digestive system cancers caused by asbestos fibers are often treatable with either surgery or combination therapies. Mesothelioma, however, is rarely treatable because its long period of dormancy (up to five decades) allows tumors to become so advanced they frequently affect vital organs.

Most patients with advanced mesothelioma are commonly given from a year to 18 months to live.

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2009/08/roof_repairs_including_asbesto.html

http://www.hannibal.cnyric.org/Acrobat%20docs/NR%20–%20Start%20of%20KMS%20Roof%20Project%208-09.pdf

http://www.hannibal.cnyric.org/C4E%20Page.htm

http://www.greatschools.net/modperl/browse_school/ny/1073

Clemenceau May Have Found Final Resting Place

A French aircraft carrier containing more than 700 tons of asbestos could be dismantled in England after more than four years of legal controversy.

Once the pride of the French Navy, Clemenceau is set to be scrapped by Able UK an English firm that specializes in ship and offshore structure recycling.

The 33,000 ton carrier sailed more than one million nautical miles and saw action around the world that included protecting shipping lanes during the Iran-Iraq War and a support role during Operation Desert Storm.

The ship was originally set to be demolished in India’s notorious Alang shipyard but protests by Greenpeace and members of the socialist opposition halted the project as they called attention to working conditions and the ships toxic material that includes lead, PCBs, asbestos and other contaminants.

The ship was then returned to French waters and has sat idle while negotiations continue. Able UK indicated it has received the initial permits from the Health Safety Executive required for dismantling and will bring jobs to the Teesside area in northeastern England. The only major hurdle is that the company needs a transfrontier shipment permit to transfer the vessel from France to England.

Environmental exposure of asbestos in Quebec

Quebec’s environment ministry says people living in the asbestos mining regions are not in danger from airborne fibers. Tests were conducted three years ago, but the results were just announced. The ministry used Ontario’s standards for outside air asbestos concentrations. Earlier a study in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health had said the town of Thetford Mines was “severely contaminated”. That study had used the standards used to assess air in U.S. schools during asbestos removal operations.

Dana Corp agrees to asbestos settlement

The Associated Press reports that Chapter 11 embattled Dana Corp has filed papers in bankruptcy court. They are setting aside $2 million for asbestos claims resolution without litigation. Dana has received 150,000 claims of which 7 percent allege mesothelioma or another form of cancer.