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National Mesothelioma Awareness Day 2011


National Mesothelioma Awareness Day 2011 marks opportunity to take note of present-day asbestos dangers

Monday (Sept. 26) is National Mesothelioma Awareness Day, an occasion created to give voice to American victims of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Congress approved a resolution in 2009 establishing National Mesothelioma Awareness Day. Mesothelioma Awareness Day 2011 comes at a time when the public now is beginning to truly recognize the dangers of mesothelioma and the asbestos products that cause it.

Although mesothelioma awareness is not yet widespread, the public for years has known of the dangers of asbestos. Asbestos is an insulating material used because of its extreme cost-efficiency. However, exposure to it is the leading cause of mesothelioma.

Over many decades, millions of American workers were exposed to asbestos. The result is that, today, around 3,000 people annually are diagnosed with mesothelioma.

A common misperception, however, is that asbestos products have been erased from the market and that the risk of mesothelioma has been eliminated. Not true.

Granted, in the 1970s, federal regulations clamped down on the allowable uses of asbestos, but millions of buildings and utility systems nationwide still contain the substance.

Moreover, asbestos is still being mined, produced, and marketed elsewhere on the planet, giving rise to new generations of asbestos exposure victims in China, India and other countries with emerging economies that have a demand for cheap insulation products.

And, despite the enormous health risks, millions of dollars worth of asbestos continue to be exported from North America to these nations, putting workers at danger. Mesothelioma from asbestos exposure may become a health crisis in these countries in the coming decades.

National Mesothelioma Awareness Day is an opportunity to make this nation aware of the current state of asbestos production in the global economy. Weitz & Luxenberg has, for the past three decades, been one of the nation’s leading champions of Americans exposed to asbestos and then afflicted with mesothelioma. We have won many millions of dollars for workers who were exposed to asbestos.

This Monday, we want to take a moment to help raise awareness for the future victims of asbestos exposure. Please, on Monday, help get the word out about mesothelioma and the clear and present dangers of asbestos.

If you or someone you know has a question about mesothelioma or asbestos exposure, feel free to contact our representatives. And if you or a loved one has mesothelioma, that is all the more reason to let your voice be heard.


1978 Pinto explosion lawsuit, like asbestos verdicts, held negligent corporations responsible

33 years ago today, three teenage girls died after their 1973 Ford Pinto caught fire after being rear-ended by a van on an Indiana highway. The tragedy ended in a historical lawsuit in which the Ford Motor Company was charged with reckless homicide. Much like the asbestos verdicts, the lawsuit taught corporations what Americans would not accept: deadly workplaces, dangerous products, and “callous indifference to public safety.”

The explosion that killed the Erlich girls was not the first: rear-impact collisions involving Ford Pintos had a tendency to end in a burst of flames, and the ensuing lawsuit was not the first leveled against Ford because of the Pinto’s flammability. But it was the first lawsuit that charged a corporation with murder.

As often happened with asbestos verdicts, the jury sided with the plaintiffs, finding Ford responsible for the deaths of the three young women. When a grand jury returned indictments against Ford on three counts of reckless homicide in the Ehrlich case, it was the first time that a corporation had been charged with murder. (History.com)

Though the reckless homicide conviction was ultimately overturned, the case was part of a nationwide change in mindset about corporate responsibility, which had begun in the 1960s with the first asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits and landmark asbestos verdicts.

An earlier lawsuit against Ford for an explosive death in situation nearly identical to the Erlich girls’ was upheld, with a California appeals court finding that Ford’s "institutional mentality was shown to be one of callous indifference to public safety."

In May 1972, a woman was killed when her Pinto caught fire after being rear-ended on a highway. Her passenger, Richard Grimshaw, suffered burns on over 90 percent of his body, and sued Ford for damages. Mr. Grimshaw’s lawyer found that the Pinto's gas tank was located behind the rear axle, leaving it vulnerable to rear-end collisions.

Not only had Ford known about this design flaw, they opted not to change it because of costs—a decision one could only classify as callously indifferent to public safety. As with asbestos corporations, cost-effectiveness had been prioritized over public safety.

It was only through lawsuits and compensatory asbestos verdicts that large corporations learned it was more cost effective to create safe products and in the case of asbestos, safe products and workplaces.

Tornado Sheds Devastating Light on the Asbestos Problem in Joplin

In May, the region of Joplin, Missouri was struck by a devastating tornado, “the deadliest to have hit the United States since 1953.” (Time)

Images of the affected areas show buildings and other structures, both old and new, badly damaged or completely demolished.  When the tornado struck, “dangerous materials like asbestos” (Ozarks First) were emitted into the air, endangering the lives of those who lived and/or worked in the area. 

Tragically, it took a tornado to force residents to realize that they’d been living with the highly carcinogenic material. Even though the dangers of asbestos have been known about since the 1800s, it was pervasive in construction till the 1970s. Many of those who are currently suffering from mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis developed these diseases because they either personally handled asbestos products, or worked in environments where asbestos was ubiquitous.

So far in Joplin, cleanup crews have collected “more than 2,600 tons of asbestos,” (Ozarks First) for “disposal to a regulated landfill.” (Ozarks First) But this brings no comfort to those who are already dying from one of the asbestos diseases due to past exposure. It wasn’t until as recently as the 1970s that the government began to take steps to regulate asbestos use. Three months after the disaster, Joplin is still reeling and the “asbestos collection process is anything but simple.” (Ozarks First). The cleanup crews’ efforts can be impeded by wind and rain and the protective gear that they wear doesn’t necessarily guarantee their safety because asbestos fibers are easily transferable.

In the past, there wasn’t much interest in protecting workers from asbestos inhalation. As such, many workers in Joplin and in other communities across the country were exposed and 20-50 years later, developed mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer or asbestosis. 

If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer or asbestosis, you are encouraged to seek legal assistance. Visit www.weitzlux.com for a free legal evaluation.


Researchers fear North Dakota erionite will lead to mesothelioma epidemic, as it did in Turkey

Michele Carbone of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center (which recently received $3.6 million from an anonymous donor, to support mesothelioma research) has spent much of his career working with three mesothelioma-stricken towns in Turkey.

Years of research led the doctor and his team to the conclusion that erionite in rocks used to build villagers’ homes was the cause of the towns’ astounding mesothelioma mortality rates. Ed Yong provides the following figures to demonstrate the abnormality of the Turkish communities’ plight:

“Since the 1970s, this rare type of cancer has been responsible for almost half of all the deaths in three villages – Tuzkoy, Karain and Sarihidir. For comparison, in 2008, the disease only accounted for 0.4% of deaths in the UK.”

Now Dr. Carbone is worried about people in towns nowhere near Honolulu or Karain. In Dunn County, North Dakota, there is naturally-occurring erionite in the gravel paving over 300 miles of road. Carbone and fellow researchers had cause for concern, and their findings in a recent study validate those concerns:

“Airborne erionite concentrations measured in ND along roadsides, indoors, and inside vehicles, including school buses, equaled or exceeded concentrations in Boyali [an erionite-rich town in Turkey], where 6.25% of all deaths are caused by MM [malignant mesothelioma].”

However, there was some good news:

“With the exception of outdoor samples along roadsides, ND concentrations were lower than those measured in Turkish villages with MM mortality ranging from 20 to 50%.” This does not mean that North Dakotans should assume they are safe, however—the physical and chemical properties of erionite from Turkey and ND are “very similar, and they showed identical biological activities.”

Dr. Carbone writes, “We hope that the lessons learned from such experiences will help to prevent a possible new wave of [malignant mesothelioma] in the United States that could be caused by erionite.”

U.S. Navy asbestos exposure under the sea: innovative recycling or recipe for disaster?

Will a manmade reef—made from The USS Arthur W. Radford, a 563-foot naval destroyer active from 1977 to 2003—bring Navy asbestos exposure to the underwater ecosystem it is supposed to support?

Like the asbestos materials meant to protect the sailors and ships that instead gave many sailor asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos diseases, will the contaminants aboard the Radford do more harm than good?

That’s the argument going on between supporters of the artificial reef and skeptical environmentalists.

The Seattle Times reports that private contractors are preparing to sink the Radford into the Atlantic Ocean, twenty miles east of Fenwick Island, in “the latest addition to a Navy recycling program that turns outworn warships into habitats for marine life.”

Sinking naval vessels for artificial reefs is meant to create a habitat for animals, a boost in tourism by creating an unconventional reef, and way to get rid of decommissioned Navy ships. Environmentalists worry that pollutants like PCB and asbestos could affect the fish native to area, draw in fish from other places, disrupting the ecosystem, and possibly poison people who eat the fish that live in the artificial reef.

Though PCB-contaminated fish does not cause lung cancer, like asbestos can, it is a frightening prospect, and one that environmentalists like Colby Self, the green-ship recycling coordinator for the Basel Action Network, can envision all too well.

“They're throwing debris down there and saying it's an economic opportunity, but they're not looking into the environmental impacts," he said. Despite the worries of federal officials and marine biologists, the Navy still plans to sink the destroyer.


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National Cancer Institute. "Asbestos Exposure: Questions and Answers."

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. "Asbestos: Health Effects."

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. "Public Health Statement for Asbestos."


American Cancer Society. " What Are the Risk Factors for Malignant Mesothelioma?"

The Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/mesothelioma/DS00779/DSECTION=all&METHOD=print

The American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_3X_How_is_malignant _mesothelioma_diagnosed_29.asp?sitearea

The American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_1X_What_are_the_key_statistics_for_malignant _mesothelioma_29.asp?sitearea

The American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/downloads/PUB/DOCS/SECTION28/89.pdf

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation http://www.marf.org/Resources/UnderstandingMeso/MesoDetails.html

United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology http://sup.ultrakohl.com/Uscap/uscap05/meso3.htm

Macmillan http://www.cancerbackup.org.uk/Aboutcancer/Whatiscancer/Whatiscancer/related_faqs/QAs/502

The United States National Library of Medicine http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000116.htm

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