RIP-OFF CITY: The Fine Print

Why Choose Roger G. Worthington, P.C. As Your Advocate?

Moral Implications of Mass Screenings, Mass Filings and Dividing up the Asbestos Debtor's Pie.
University of Texas Students Respond to 2002 Worthington Essay Contest.
Please read these three clear, concise and compelling essays by the winners.

mesothelioma asbestos

Cartoon courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial cartoonist John Sherffius

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UK and Europe About To Follow American Course

Monday September 9, 645 am ET

In many ways, asbestos is more of a scourge in Europe than the US.

From the docks of London, Glasgow or Cherbourg to the cement factories of Belgium and the Netherlands, the deadly mineral was used for longer and to more devastating effect than almost anywhere in the world. Professor Julian Peto of Imperial Cancer Research of the UK has estimated that 500,000 people will die of asbestos-related cancer in western Europe during the next 35 years

Until now, the big difference between Europe and the US has been the way victims have been compensated. In much of continental Europe, medical and welfare costs were traditionally picked up by the state. In the UK, seeking compensation through the courts was notoriously difficult.

But recent legal breakthroughs in Britain, France and the Netherlands may change all that.

In France, where vast quantities of asbestos were once imported from Canada for use in shipbuilding and construction, lawyers are expecting a flood of new cases after a ruling from the French Supreme Court in February. Verdicts of faute inexcusable, meriting higher pay-outs, were upheld against companies including Saint Gobain, Valeo and Etex of Belgium. Actuaries estimate this ruling alone could cost French insurers $6.7bn during the next 20 years

"The social security system can no longer afford to pay all the compensation claims, so the French government is making it quicker and easier for victims to pursue companies directly," says Sebastian Delfaud of PwC.

The House of Lords in the UK overruled in June a series of lower courts when it decided that difficulties in deciding exactly which fibre of asbestos had caused cancer cells to develop should not prevent victims from pursuing specific companies. This should open the floodgates for thousands of victims who would have struggled to bring personal injury claims in circumstances where they were exposed by a number of different companies.

"The past 18 months have seen a lot of mesothelioma and cancer cases put on ice until this was sorted out and the insurers have had it easy," says Andrew Morgan, a solicitor with Field Fisher Waterhouse, a London law firm.

Since 1999, Dutch courts have allowed similar breakthroughs for thousands of victims, many of whom were exposed when asbestos-containing waste was given away for road surfacing and household paving.

"It is slowly dawning on companies in Europe that they are facing a crisis here," says Laurie Kazan-Allen, a London-based campaigner on behalf of victims.

PwC predicts Europe's "asbestos epidemic" will cost insurers EU32bn-EU80bn ($31.7bn-$79.3bn). Builders Accident and Chester Street, insurers in the UK, have collapsed as a result.

The European Parliament, which outlawed asbestos in 1999, is this autumn expected to push for a harmonisation of compensation payments - in most cases, upwards.

Another threat faces Europe-based multinationals. As well as those such as ABB, which are caught in the US crisis, many who used asbestos in the developing world long after it was banned in rich countries are finally being held to account.

Cape, a London-based insulation group, has until September 14 to pay the first of £21m ($33m) awarded to 7,500 South African miners after they won a High Court battle to have compensation claims heard in the UK. The willingness of UK courts to hear such cases and grant legal aid for overseas victims heralds the possibility of hundreds more cases being brought from Africa and South America, where asbestos continues to be used long after bans elsewhere.

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Asbestos Claims 'affect 85% of US economy'

By Christopher Bowe in New York and Dan Roberts in London

Published: September 9 2002 20:21

Asbestos litigation in the US has spread to so many companies and divergent industries that it now "spans 85 per cent of the American economy," according to a Rand report to be published soon.

The claim is made in a draft report by the Rand Institute for Civil Justice, a non-profit research organisation, obtained by the Financial Times. It says the litigation has spread well beyond the initial asbestos-related industries into "virtually all parts of the US economy", and the costs of resolving asbestos claims had already reached $54bn by 2000.

The report also calculates potential lost new jobs and capital investment due to asbestos costs.

Rand, which began the study in August last year, calls the issue "the longest-running mass tort litigation in US history."

Asbestos, a fireproof fibrous mineral, can flake into microscopic shards that can cause mesothelioma, a deadly lung cancer, and other diseases. Claims are expected to rise and the total cost for companies and insurers could be $200bn-$275bn.

The Rand report finds that claims against non-traditional defendant companies is now almost equal to those filed against traditional defendants.

Litigation initially targeted the so-called "traditional" defendants, companies whose employees faced substantial daily exposure. They include asbestos mining, manufacturing, installation, shipyards, chemicals and utilities.

But the number of claims against non-traditional industries - such as textile workers who sometimes ran machinery containing asbestos - has escalated.

Rand says non-traditional defendants now account for more than 60 per cent of asbestos expenditures in 1998 and likely rising, compared with 25 per cent in the early 1980s.

It says the growing proportion of claims in non-traditional industries implies an increasing proportion of claims from people with "less severe" asbestos exposure than in the past.

Moreover, it finds that although mesothelioma cases are increasing, the percentage of all claims filed has decreased sharply, from 10 per cent total in the 1970s to 3-4 per cent last decade. Non-malignant claims have stabilised at about 90 per cent of filings.

Although the overall effect to the US economy is hard to estimate, the report says companies' asbestos expenditures could hurt investment and creation of new jobs. It estimates that asbestos litigation today has reduced capital investment by $10bn, or potentially 138,000 fewer jobs. That could grow eventually to $33bn in reduced investment and 423,000 jobs not created. However, jobs could be offset by competitors moving to fill market voids.

The group also says alternatives to the costly, inefficient tort system litigation could be explored.

The study is expected to be published later this month or in October. It comes at a time of renewed congressional interest in the subject, with the Senate Judiciary Committee poised to hold a hearing in the last week of September.

Campaigners regard this as a step towards introducing legislation which might limit the number of compensation cases clogging up the court system.

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Law Lords Allow Claims For Asbestos-Rrelated Disease When More Than One Employer Is Involved

Thu May 16,1018 AM ET

By SUE LEEMAN, Associated Press Writer

LONDON - After years of litigation, hundreds of victims of asbestos-related diseases who were exposed to the mineral fibers by more than one employer won their battle for compensation Thursday. In a decision that will hit insurers hard, Britain's highest court of appeal ruled that people suffering from asbestos-related diseases are entitled to compensation, even if they are uncertain which source of the dust caused their illness.

The Law Lords - five judges who sit in the House of Lords - overturned a Court of Appeal ruling in December that employers could not be held liable where it was impossible to prove which exposure caused the disease.

Experts say the decision is likely to cost insurance companies up to 8 billion pounds (dlrs 12 billion) to settle around 500 claims. George Brumwell, general secretary of the union Ucatt, which backed the action, said the judgment "will help thousands of sufferers from asbestos-related diseases and will teach the insurance industry a lesson it will never forget.

"The insurance companies have been shamed by this decision," he said. Led by Lord Bingham, the Law Lords spent three days hearing argument in three test cases. Lawyers for Judith Fairchild and Doreen Fox, whose husbands both died of mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, and 54-year-old Edwin Matthews, who is gravely ill with mesothelioma, had appealed the Appeal Court decision.

Fairchild, whose husband Arthur died in 1996, said Thursday's ruling was "the right result, not only for myself but the thousands affected by this terrible disease. My husband deserved to win." She can now expect compensation of around 191,000 pounds (dlrs 277,000. The Law Lords' decision also means that Matthews can keep 155,000 pounds (dlrs 224,000) awarded him earlier by the High Court. The Appeal Court had overturned that decision and ordered him to repay the money.

Adrian Budgen, a partner in the law firm Irwin Mitchell, which handles many asbestos-related cases, described the ruling as "fair and compassionate." "In the coming years there will be literally thousands of people in the U.K. who will develop asbestos-related illnesses and lose loved ones due to past exposure to asbestos.

"At least they will now have the comfort of knowing that the British justice system is on their side." Around 5,000 people died in Britain last year of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, and industry experts say the figure is expected to rise to 10,000 by 2010. Asbestos is a mineral that was popular as a thermal insulator. But while manufacturers and the government were aware of the health risks associated with occupational asbestos exposure, it continued to be widely used until the mid-1970s as an insulator and fireproofer.

People who were most-exposed to the substance - construction workers, welders, ship builders and auto mechanics - have been increasingly diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases, such as lung fibrosis and mesothelomia. It can take 50 years from the time of exposure to asbestos for the cancer to show up.

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Judge 'Amazed' by Honeywell Removal Attempt; Threatens Sanctions

May 2, 2002

GALVESTON, Texas - Asbestos defendant Honeywell International has evoked the ire of a federal judge in Texas after attempting to remove a friction product claim to federal court when he and several other federal judges have repeatedly determined they do not have jurisdiction over such claims.

Armstrong, et al., v. Honeywell International, Inc., No. G-02-261 (S.D. Texas). In a brief, but sharply-worded opinion issued three days after the removal attempt, U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent threatened to hold Honeywell in contempt if it again attempts to remove the claims to federal court.

As other friction defendants have done over the past six months, Honeywell removed the asbestosis claim in question arguing that it was related to the Federal-Mogul bankruptcy proceedings that are ongoing in Delaware. Previous attempts to do so have been thwarted by several federal judges in Texas and by the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which ruled recently that defendant Garlock Inc.’s move to remand cases on similar "related to" grounds was improper.

However, friction defendants have nonetheless continued to remove the claims to federal court by virtue of hypothetical claims for indemnity or contribution against the debtor, Judge Kent said in his recent opinion. Such was the case when Honeywell removed the instant claim on April 19. This time, however, Judge Kent said he had seen enough.

"Defendant Honeywell amazingly propounds the same old, tired, and now thrice-rebuked argument," Judge Kent wrote. "The Court is understandably confounded as to Honeywell’s rationale for removing this lawsuit, and queries as to how many times it must effectuate these remand orders for Defendants to finally grasp the big picture."

So, for the last time, Judge Kemp emphasized once again that the claims are not removable because they are not, as a matter of law, related to the Federal-Mogul case under Chapter 11. The judge remanded the case for what he said was the "final time."

"Although Honeywell’s conduct in removing this lawsuit is arguably sanctionable, the Court is loathe to waste any more of its valuable time on this case," the judge said. "Instead, the Court instructs Honeywell that any further attempts to remove this or similarly situated asbestosis cases may be regarded as an ACT OF CONTEMPT."

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Docs Fear Cancer Risk Downtown

Monday April 29 0100 AM EDT


New Yorkers who live and work near the site of the World Trade Center may be at increased risk of developing asbestos-related cancers, medical experts say.

The American College of Preventative Medicine said it is particularly concerned about a deadly form of cancer of the lungs called malignant mesothelioma.

Dr. Stephen Levin of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine revealed the possible increase in cancer risk while addressing a recent ACPM meeting of health experts.

He said the exact quantity of asbestos fibers emitted into the air after the collapse of the Twin Towers remains unclear.

But "it is likely that those individuals who live and work in close vicinity to the site are at some increased risk for the development of asbestos-related cancers, including malignant mesothelioma," Levin said.

The majority of people diagnosed with the disease have typically held jobs at which they inhaled asbestos over a prolonged period of time, such as construction workers, roofers and plumbers.

However, some with even brief exposure to asbestos have developed mesothelioma

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Asbestos Risk for Those at World Trade Site

Fri Apr 26,1022 AM ET

By Alison McCook

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Asbestos has been found in virtually all dust samples taken around the site of the collapsed World Trade Center in New York, and people who had direct contact with large quantities of such dust may be at slightly higher risk of cancer, an expert said here Thursday.

However, the vast majority of New Yorkers will have no ill effects from the asbestos released into the environment on September 11th, said Dr. Stephen M. Levin of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine at a press conference at the New York Academy of Sciences.

"I think we're not going to see a huge wave of mesothelial cases 20, 30 years down the road," Levin stated.

Asbestos, a substance used in fireproofing and insulation, if inhaled, can cause a rare type cancer known as mesothelioma, which originates in the lining of the lung and chest. The majority of mesothelioma cases appear 20 to 40 years after an exposure, and, in the US, around 2,500 people are diagnosed each year.

Although some cases of mesothelioma have been linked to as little as one month spent around asbestos, Levin said that the vast majority of cases stem from spending years working around asbestos.

During the construction of the World Trade Center, asbestos was lined along certain structures to prevent the building from buckling during a fire. On September 11th, the force of the collapsing buildings spewed large clouds of dust made up of concrete, fiberglass and asbestos.

Levin noted that the substance is present in many buildings and materials. Brake pads and lining contain asbestos, so even braking vehicles can release small particles of the mineral into the air, Levin said. Consequently, most people have traces of asbestos in their lungs, and most will never develop any long-term health effects.

At the World Trade Center site, rescue workers and those who cleaned out neighboring buildings have been "placing themselves at some small increase of risk," Levin said.

Levin noted that people who have a slightly higher risk of developing mesothelioma after the World Trade Center collapse are also those who were caught in the "cloud" that appeared when each building fell down, or those who returned to school or work when the area was still littered with dust, and reporters and camera people, some of whom spent weeks at the site.

Laborers charged with cleaning up dust and debris from neighboring buildings, most of whom did not use facemasks to protect themselves, might also be at risk.

People are more at risk of exposure from disturbing debris containing asbestos, and simply walking past the rubble does not pose a significant threat, Levin said.

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Swiss Approve Asbestos Probe Help

Thursday March 28, 1041 am Eastern Time
Associated Press

Swiss Judge Approves Help for Italy in Asbestos Investigation

BERN, Switzerland (AP) -- A Swiss judge has ordered two companies to hand over documents to Italian authorities carrying out a criminal investigation into deaths linked to asbestos, the justice ministry said Thursday.

Eternit AG -- a building materials manufacturer based in the eastern town of Niederurnen -- and the national workplace insurance company SUVA must comply with requests from the Turin public prosecutor, said ministry spokesman Folco Galli.

Italian authorities are carrying out a negligent homicide investigation into the deaths of at least 12 Italian former employees of Eternit who died from illnesses possibly caused by exposure to asbestos. Four of the employees were covered by policies taken out with SUVA.

Eternit admitted last month that at least 45 former employees have died from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs linked to asbestos exposure. No criminal or civil case has been opened in Switzerland.

Eternit insists it took precautions as soon as the possible dangers of inhaling asbestos dust became known, in the mid-1970s, and it eliminated asbestos entirely in 1990. However, cases of illness continue to occur because the dust can remain latent in the lungs for up to 40 years, Eternit said.

Despite the actions that the company took to protect its workers, "we cannot forget that around 45 employees who worked at Niederurnen died from mesothelioma, and we have to take responsibility for this part of our history," said Eternit chief Anders Holte.

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Experts See No End to U.S. Asbestos Lawsuits

Tuesday March 26, 451 pm Eastern Time

(Adds detail on insurance industry, paragraphs 15, 16, 17)

By Julie MacIntosh

NEW YORK, March 26 (Reuters) - Industry leaders across corporate America have assured investors they're prepared to handle a surge in asbestos-related lawsuits, but experts say the number of claims filed could quadruple from the current level of more than 600,000, pushing costs past $200 billion.

Preliminary results of the latest study from the RAND Institute for Civil Justice put the number of U.S.lawsuits related to asbestos injury or exposure filed to date at 600,000. But 500,000 to 2.4 million similar claims could still be filed, costing companies an extra $145 billion to $210 billion, RAND study author Stephen Carroll said on Tuesday.

"The most optimistic thing to be said is that we're maybe halfway through the whole thing, and we may be only 20 percent of the way,'' Carroll told a group of analysts and executives at a seminar held by Tillinghast-Towers Perrin and the Claims Resolution Management Corp. in New York.

At least five major corporate defendants have spent more than $1 billion on asbestos-related claims, and asbestos litigation has infiltrated about 85 percent of the nation's business sectors, Carroll said.

Companies ranging from oilfield services giant Halliburton Co. (NYSEHAL - news) to media conglomerate Viacom Inc. (NYSEVIA - news) and paper products maker Georgia-Pacific Corp. (NYSEGP - news) are fighting a wave of asbestos-related lawsuits.

While asbestos was widely used during the 1960s and 1970s, the number of claims filed annually has jumped sharply from 10,000 to 20,000 per year in the early 1990s to three or four times that amount in recent years.

Over 6,000 U.S. firms, along with many of their subsidiaries, are included on RAND's preliminary list of asbestos defendants. Various studies estimate the insurance industry, now struggling under the weight of asbestos-related claims resolution, could pay out $65 billion or more.

Miracle Turned Curse

A naturally occurring mineral that was once dubbed a "miracle'' for its strength and fire-resistant properties, asbestos was widely used for construction and manufacturing until scientists determined that inhaling its fibers could lead to respiratory diseases and various types of cancer including mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a deadly type of cancer that affects the area surrounding the lungs and abdomen. According to Tillinghast-Towers Perrin, the disease is found almost exclusively in people who have had prolonged exposure to asbestos.

Still, more than 3,500 products sold in the United States contained asbestos at the time of a 1989 study by the Environmental Protection Agency. And the mineral is still legal today, with no effective requirements for warning labels, Tillinghast consulting actuary Michael Angelina said.

Asbestos-related diseases can take as much as 50 years to materialize following exposure, which means victims exposed during America's heaviest period of asbestos usage may still develop related symptoms.

Because of this threat of exposure to a victim's health, "the propensity to sue has clearly increased for the non-malignants,'' Angelina said. Plaintiffs' attorneys are seeking new clients using ads in Sunday papers, screenings at workers' unions, and Internet sites.

But the fact that asbestos-related claims have doubled does not mean the costs of settling those claims will also double, Angelina said.

RAND's preliminary results showed nearly three-quarters of the asbestos-related claims pending in 2001 covered litigants who had no symptoms, while the frequency of filings for more serious asbestos-related injuries has remained relatively steady.

Settlements for non-malignant claimants often yield half the amount of money a lung cancer victim might receive, and only one-quarter of the amount given to a more severely stricken mesothelioma victim.

Right now, insurers in the U.S. are woefully under-reserved to pay the estimated value of claims rolling in, said lawyers speaking at the conference.

U.S. insurers -- who have paid out about $22 billion in claims so far -- only have about $9 billion set aside for future claims, said James Sottile of law firm Baach, Robinson & Lewis.

That means almost every liability insurer in the United States -- including giants like American International Group Inc. (NYSEAIG - news) and CNA Financial (NYSECNA - news) -- will have to set aside more cash to cover claims. Significant reserve increases could come as early as this year, Sottile told Reuters.

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World Mesothelioma Epidemic Approaching Fast

Asbestos exposure in malignant mesothelioma of the pleuraa survey of 557 cases.

Bianchi C, Brollo A, Ramani L, Bianchi T, Giarelli L.

Laboratory of Pathological Anatomy, Hospital of Monfalcone, Italy.

A series of 557 malignant mesotheliomas of the pleura diagnosed in the Trieste-Monfalcone area, Italy, in the period 1968-2000 were reviewed. The series included 492 men and 65 women, aged between 32 and 93 years (median age 69 years). Necropsy findings were available in 456 cases (82%). Occupational histories were obtained from the patients themselves or from their relatives by personal or telephone interviews. Routine lung sections were examined for asbestos bodies in 442 cases. In 109 cases isolation and counting of asbestos bodies were performed. A majority of people had histories of working in the shipyards. Asbestos bodies were observed in lung sections in 67% of the cases. Lung asbestos body burdens after isolation ranged between 20 bodies and about 10 millions of bodies/g dried tissue. Latency periods (time intervals between first exposure to asbestos and death) ranged between 14 and 75 years (mean 48.8 years, median 51.0). Latency periods among insulators and dock workers were shorter than among the other categories. High asbestos consumption occurred in many countries in the 1960s and in the 1970s. The data on latency periods obtained in the present study suggest that a world mesothelioma epidemic has to be expected in the coming decades. Ind Health 2001 Apr;39(2)161-7

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French Court Rules Firms Must Pay Asbestos Claims

Thu Feb 28, 6:01 PM ET

PARIS (Reuters) - A clutch of companies must compensate former French staff suffering asbestos-related illness, France's top court ruled on Thursday, paving the way for thousands more claims.

The appeals court in Paris ruled that 29 of 30 companies fighting claims, including auto-parts maker Valeo SA, must compensate former employees.

There was no comment immediately available from Valeo.

Even though France did not ban asbestos until January 1997, long after most other industrialised nations, the court ruled that employers were still responsible for ensuring that their workers did not become ill after exposure to the mineral.

"In accordance with the contract of employment...the employer has a safety obligation, especially with regard to sickness contracted by the employee due to products made or used by the company," the court said in its ruling.

Inhaling asbestos dust can cause deadly respiratory diseases like the lung cancer mesothelioma, which can take 40 years to develop.

The ruling sets a precedent and paves the way for thousands more claims from workers who have suffered illness following asbestos exposure, and may also spark claims from the relatives of deceased workers who came into contact with asbestos.

Compensation claims will initially be picked up by social security (news - web sites), but the cost is likely to be passed on to the companies themselves.

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The Lighter Side of HMO Abuse

January 10, 2002

The trend towards lower cost Health Maintenance Organizations has many Americans worried. Here are the "Top 21 Signs You've Joined a Cheap HMO"

  1. Pedal-powered dialysis machines.
  2. Use of antibiotics deemed an "unauthorized experimental procedure,"
  3. Head-wound victim in the waiting room is on the last chapter of "War and Peace,"
  4. You ask for Viagra. You get a popsicle stick and duct tape.
  5. The exam room has a tip jar.
  6. You swear you saw salad tongs and a crab fork on the instrument tray just before the anesthesia kicked in.
  7. "Take two leeches and call me in the morning."
  8. The company logo features a hand squeezing a bleeding turnip.
  9. Tongue depressors taste faintly of Fudgesicle.
  10. "Pre-natal vitamin" prescription is a box of Tic-Tacs.
  11. Chief Surgeon graduated from University of Benihana.
  12. Directions to your doctor's office include, "take a left when you enter the trailer park,"
  13. Doctor listens to your heart through a paper towel tube.
  14. Only item listed under Preventive Care feature of coverage is "an apple a day."
  15. Only participating Physicians are Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine.
  16. Only proctologist in the plan is "Gus" from Roto-Rooter.
  17. Preprinted prescription pads that say "Walk it off, you sissy."
  18. Your "primary care physician" is wearing the pants you gave to goodwill last month.
  19. 24-hour claims line is 1-800-TUF-LUCK
  20. Costly MRI equipment efficiently replaced by an oversized 2-sided copier.
  21. Enema? The lavatory faucet swivels to face upward.

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New British Court Blow for Asbestos Sufferers

Tuesday December 11 1:47 PM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - People suffering from asbestos-related diseases were dealt a major blow on Tuesday as a British court ruled that they did not qualify for compensation if they had been exposed while working for more than one employer.

The Appeal Court ruling by three of the country's top judges backed previous court rulings on the sensitive issue.

The court refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords but claimants may still renew their application directly to the Law Lords for leave to appeal.

"If this decision stands, it means that hundreds of people each year who are condemned to one of the most painful illnesses ever known...will now get nothing,'' solicitor Geraldine Coomb said after the ruling.

Tuesday's ruling followed six test case appeals involving claimants who have suffered or may suffer from asbestos-induced mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos working for more than one employer.

"The...decision means that many hundreds of people who develop the fatal disease of mesothelioma each year will now not be able to obtain compensation if they have been exposed to asbestos dust in more than one employment,'' fellow solicitor Patrick Walsh said.

"Through no fault of their own, they have been deprived of a remedy through the courts because of a technicality, even though their employers were insured, and those insurers took the insurance premiums,'' he added.

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Man Sets Himself on Fire to Protest Asbestos Use

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) - A man protesting Chile's use of asbestos and its high unemployment rate set himself on fire in front of the presidential palace Friday.

Police quickly extinguished the flames, but emergency room doctors said Eduardo Mino, 51, suffered life-threatening injuries.

Mino also wounded himself in the chest with a knife, police said.

Mino left a letter explaining he was a member of the Chileans Against Asbestos organization and had lived for years near a factory using the substance.

Government spokesman Claudio Huepe said Chile banned the use of asbestos in July.

Mino's letter also protested ``powerful businessmen responsible for unemployment, which brings hunger and despair,'' police said.

Scores of people were at the plaza in front of the presidential palace when Mino set himself on fire.

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Suit Alleges Insurers' Conspiracy to Hide Asbestos Dangers

November 27, 2001

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A class action lawsuit has been filed against more than a half dozen insurance companies alleging that the insurers conspired for decades with several asbestos defendants to conceal their knowledge of the dangers of asbestos. Wise v. Travelers Indemnity Co., et al., No. 01C-599 (W.Va. Cir. Ct., Berkeley Cty.).

In the nearly 100-page complaint - which reads more like a comprehensive history of asbestos litigation - the class alleges a trail of deceit dating back to the early 1900s and culminating with alleged deceptive discovery practices that forced asbestos claimants to accept undervalued payouts for their alleged injuries.

"Defendants conspired to do unlawful acts including deception and other acts of misconduct for the purpose of defrauding the plaintiffs and others into settling their claims for amounts substantially less than their true value or no[sic] bringing them at all," the class alleges.

Following a thorough chronology of the insurance industry reaction to reports of asbestos injuries - which dates back to the early 1930s - the complaint claims that the named insurers worked among themselves and with other asbestos manufacturers and sellers of asbestos to misrepresent and suppress relevant information about the asbestos dangers.

As a result, the industry has been able to argue that it was unaware of dangers associated with asbestos exposure until the 1960s, according to the complaint. And, the complaint alleges, they did so in an effort to injure plaintiffs including those named as plaintiffs in the class action.

"The insurers, in defending manufacturers and sellers against asbestos claims, hired lawyers and witnesses to represent that the knowledge of asbestos was not knowable until the mid-to-late 1960s, to create a fact issue where none existed, while fraudulently concealing their actual knowledge," the complaint says. "In effect, all of these Defendants have conspired and acted in concert among themselves and with others to defraud asbestos victims, such as Plaintiffs, of their right to fair and adequate compensation for their asbestos-related diseases and the effect thereof through creating and perpetuating the fraudulent state of the art defense."

Specifically, the putative class alleges that during Travelers-sponsored seminars held in the early 1980s, defense attorneys were instructed to never admit the authenticity of certain asbestos-related documents and to never introduce pre-1964 documents that would undermine a state-of-the-art defense.

Travelers encouraged the fraudulent state-of-the-art defense, all the while having first-hand knowledge that the defense was bogus, the complaint alleges.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages for participating in violation of West Virginia state laws governing unfair settlement and trade practices, among other things.

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California Continues National Lead in Non-Fuel Mineral Production

Nations Only Asbestos Procucer Brings in $3.38 Billion in 2000

For the second consecutive year, California led the nation in the production of non-fuel minerals, most notably sand and gravel with a 13.6 million ton increase in said two minerals over 1999, and a combined $1 billion value in revenues for the two, according to the Department of Conservation's Division of Mines and Geology and the U.S. Geological Survey. Additionally, California remains the only state in the nation to continue production of asbestos, boron and rare earth concentrates. California still allows production of asbestos with the substance ranking lower than the top three non-fuel minerals in revenue generated and already almost $3 billion of the annual non-fuel mineral revenue accounted for.

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German Utility RGW Announces Asbestos Death Toll

Friday August 3 113 PM ET

By Claire-Louise Isted

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's second biggest utility, RWE, said on Thursday that 85 of its workers had died from asbestos-related diseases since the 1980s.

The publication of the data follows a controversial report called "Deadly Dust,'' which appears in this week's issue of the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel. The report questioned the late timing of RWE's health-checks.

"The works cooperative of precision and electrical engineers today presented data on asbestos-related illnesses in the company,'' RWE said in a statement.

"There have been altogether 119 cases of recognised asbestos-related occupational diseases at RWE since the 1980s, of which 85 of the affected individuals have died,'' it added.

RWE Power and RWE coal subsidiary Rhinebraun recorded respectively a total of 60 and 59 cases of workers with asbestos-related illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer and cancer of the pleura.

"These figures show that the decision to continue occupational health asbestos prevention through a widespread programme of advice and examinations was right,'' RWE said.

But Der Spiegel argued that RWE was prompted to start an extensive examination programme only following the "chance'' discovery that 12 workers had died from asbestos-related cancer between 1982 and 2001 at the firm's Niederaussem power plant.

"Why is the RWE chief Dietmar Kuhnt only now reacting, a good 10 years after asbestos was banned because of its cancer producing effect, with such extensive measures?,'' it said.

"Are there more than the 12 known deaths at other RWE power plants?''

Cancer through exposure to asbestos can often produce no sign of illness for up to 35 years, and because of this long latent period, an increase in these cases can be expected until 2015, the magazine said.

Two thirds of the precision and electrical engineer cooperative's annual spending on occupational illnesses goes to asbestos sufferers, amounting to 85.3 million marks, it added.

The magazine anticipated RWE's explanation for the timing of the examinations as simply the result of its recent merger with former rival VEW.

In direct reply to Der Spiegel's report, RWE issued a statement earlier this week, explaining the health programme.

"As a consequence of the merger of RWE and VEW and the associated restructuring of the group, regulations and processes are being harmonised in many areas, including occupational health,'' the RWE statement said.

"In this connection, the question of dealing with former asbestos-exposed workers has also been intensively worked on since the spring of 2001.

"The aim is, in view of the very long time before a possible malignant outbreak of an asbestos-related disease, to guarantee a unified process in the future.''

RWE Power and RWE Rhinebraun said they will offer all current and retired workers from the companies' plants a further examination in a staggered process to try and prevent possible asbestos-related diseases.

"According to investigations by work cooperatives, the number of asbestos-related illnesses show, in all RWE companies, a rather modest trend compared with other utilities,'' RWE said.

"This additional precaution will result in at most a few isolated casesbecause even with high asbestos dust exposure, only a small number of malignant diseases is expected.''

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Giant French Artwork Coated with Asbestos

Thursday July 26 750 AM ET

By Nikla Gibson

PARIS (Reuters) - One of the world's largest paintings, a 6,450 square feet celebration of science and the wonder of electricity, is coated in cancer-causing asbestos, its curators said on Thursday.

The Museum of Modern Art in Paris said work would begin in December to remove the mineral fiber from the back of the 250 wood panels that make up fauvist painter Raoul Dufy's 1930s masterpiece "La Fee Electricite.''

"No other artwork has been found to contain asbestos so this procedure has no precedent and has had to be carefully planned down to the last detail,'' a museum official told Reuters.

"An art restorer will be on hand to oversee the work of the industrial asbestos removal team in order to ensure they are sensitive to the particular demands of this delicate job.''

Asbestos was a favorite insulation and fire retardant in the building industry after World War Two. It has since been identified as a cause of lung diseases and cancer and French law requires that all asbestos be removed.

It is not certain whether Dufy and his team of assistants treated the panels with asbestos themselves to protect them from fire or whether the work was done after the oil painting was moved to its present home in 1964.

The museum said that while it was obliged to remove the asbestos, the painting posed no risk to those who have admired it. "All the tests done showed the level of airborne asbestos was well below danger levels,'' the official said.

Dufy, who died aged 75 in 1953, painted "La Fee Electricite'' for a Paris electricity company as the decoration for its Hall of Light at the 1937 world exhibition in the French capital.

Each of the panels, which combine to depict the thinkers and scientists who contributed to the discovery of electricity and the lifestyle revolution it engendered, will have to be individually treated.


The room where the painting is on show will be closed to the public while work is under way.

The project is expected to last seven months and the museum estimates 50 panels will have to be removed from the wall. Le Parisien newspaper put the cost at seven million francs ($1 million).

"The work will be carried out from behind the panels, where access is possible, and the temperature within an isolation zone set up around the painting will be carefully monitored,'' the official said.

"It is impossible to use water to remove the asbestos, so instead it will be done dry by careful scraping.''

The extraordinary panorama, which chronicles the progress of science from Ancient Greece through Michael Faraday and Andre Marie Ampere, the fathers of electricity, up to the 1930s, took four and a half months to complete.

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WTO: Upholds French Ban on Asbestos

Tuesday March 13 3:39 AM ET

WTO Upholds French Ban on Asbestos

GENEVA (AP) - The appeals body of the World Trade Organization (news - web sites) has upheld a ruling that France is legally entitled to ban imports of all products containing asbestos on health grounds.

The body on Monday rejected a claim by Canada that the ban - which was imposed in January 1997 and also includes the manufacturing, processing and sale of asbestos within France - was illegal because it damaged Canadian economic interests and was a barrier to free trade. Canada is the main exporter of asbestos to France.

``We are disappointed with the Appellate Body report,'' said International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew.

Canada had appealed against the original ruling, issued last September, which said that legitimate public health concerns were sufficient to justify the ban.

The appeals panel concluded that France was correct to decide that asbestos fibers and fibers made of substitute materials were not ``like products.'' Therefore imports of the two products did not necessarily have to be treated the same.

That ruling went further than the original panel's decision, which said that the fibers were alike but had accepted that asbestos could be banned entirely on health grounds.

Canada claims that chrysotile asbestos, which is included in the ban, is not dangerous for human health if used carefully. It said asbestos-related diseases, such as lung cancer, are caused by the other form of asbestos - amphibole - which is already widely banned, including in Canada.

The European Union (news - web sites), which represents France in legal disputes in the WTO, claimed that both types of asbestos were dangerous and that it was not possible to ensure that it was always used safely.

Canada is the world's third largest producer of chrysotile asbestos with annual sales valued at $134 million. Production is centered in Quebec.

Canada had hoped to use a ruling in its favor to put pressure on the European Union as a whole. Brussels approved an EU-wide asbestos ban in 1999 and it is due to take effect in 2005.

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WTO: French Asbestos Ban Is Legal

Monday September 18 5:39 PM ET

By NAOMI KOPPEL, Associated Press Writer

GENEVA (AP) - The World Trade Organization (news - web sites) ruled Monday that a French ban on the import of all products containing asbestos is legal on health grounds.

A WTO panel of experts rejected a claim by Canada that the ban - which was imposed in January 1997 and also includes the manufacturing, processing and sale of asbestos within France - was illegal because it damaged Canadian economic interests and was a barrier to free trade. Canada is the main exporter of asbestos to France.

Canada immediately announced that it would appeal.

The three-person panel, headed by William Macey of New Zealand, heard evidence from both sides and sought the advice of U.S. and Australian experts in asbestos-related diseases.

Canada claimed that chrysotile asbestos, which is included in the ban, is not dangerous for human health if used carefully. It said asbestos-related diseases, such as lung cancer, are caused by the other form of asbestos - amphibole - which is already widely banned, including in Canada.

The European Union - which represents France in legal disputes in the WTO - claimed that both types of asbestos were equally dangerous and that it was not possible to ensure that it was always used safely.

In their 671-page report, the panel members ruled that France was in principle breaking trade rules because the ban favored producers of fibers which are used as substitutes for asbestos, but that the ban is acceptable on health grounds.

The ruling is a blow for Canada, which had hoped to use a ruling in its favor to put pressure on the European Union as a whole. Brussels approved an EU-wide asbestos ban last year and it is due to take effect in 2005.

Canada is the world's third largest producer of chrysotile asbestos with annual sales of $134 million.

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Official: Agency Knew of Asbestos

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency knew more than 15 years ago that asbestos fibers were killing people in the small Montana town of Libby but ``dropped the ball,'' a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle quoted Christopher Weis, an EPA toxicologist, who said the agency's headquarters was aware of the situation but never passed the information along to the regional office in Denver - which is now heading up the EPA response in Libby.

Nearly 200 deaths related to asbestos exposure have been reported in the Libby area, where a mine produced thousands of tons of asbestos as a byproduct of vermiculite, which is used in insulation, as a gardening additive and in other products.

The newspaper said Weis told a University of Colorado environmental journalism conference last week that an EPA study at the W.R. Grace vermiculite mine in the mid-1980s showed death projections of ``almost 100 percent'' for miners there.

``EPA is reeling in shock, the whole agency, as to how this slipped through the cracks,'' Weis told that gathering, the newspaper said. ``We dropped the ball.''

Weis did not return phone calls from The Associated Press. The EPA's regional office in Denver also did not return calls seeking comment.

Last November, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported the hazards in Libby in a series of stories. Those stories surprised EPA officials in Denver, said Weis, who was part of the federal response team in Libby.

Further investigation has shown that the initial tally of the death toll in the town of 2,700 people may have been low, Weis said, because asbestos-related problems are notoriously diagnosed inaccurately.

The mine's mill spewed as much as 5,000 tons of asbestos a day and other fibers apparently were brought home on the dusty clothing of workers. EPA is sampling air, soil and other materials in Libby to find out just how extensive the contamination is.

June 1, 2000

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Report: Asbestos Found in Crayons

SEATTLE (AP) - A newspaper reported Tuesday that two labs found asbestos in crayons, sending public-health and art-industry officials scrambling to allay concerns about possible health risks. A government agency said it would conduct its own testing.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that two government-certified labs found asbestos in crayons made by Crayola, Prang and Rose Art. Of 40 crayons that were tested from the three major brands, 32 were contaminated above trace levels, the newspaper said.

``We were very surprised to even see any of this in any crayon product at all,'' said John Harris, director of Lab-Cor, one of the two laboratories the newspaper used for the tests.

The Post-Intelligencer said the asbestos ``is most likely a contaminant of the talc'' used to strengthen crayons. The findings do not shed light on whether there is a public health threat, however. Controlled experiments would be required to determine any possible risk from airborne particles, Harris said.

There are no known reports of anyone getting sick from using or making crayons. And asbestos-related illness tends to result from exposure to airborne fibers - usually in an industrial setting.

The manufacturers said they did not believe their products posed risks, but that they were looking into it. Government officials also were investigating.

``We have never heard of this being a problem with crayons before,'' said spokesman Russ Rader of the Consumer Product Safety Commission in Washington, D.C.

``We are going to be doing our own testing of crayons to determine whether there is asbestos in the crayons or not,'' Rader said.

Neither the safety commission, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in Atlanta nor the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health were aware of any reports of asbestos-related health problems among people who make crayons.

Virtually all asbestos-related illness affects the lungs. Little is known about illness from ingestion, though a federal task force in 1987 said such exposure ``should be eliminated whenever possible.'' It can take decades for disease from asbestos exposure to develop.

Ronald F. Dodson, a longtime asbestos researcher at the University of Texas Health Center in Tyler, noted that ``some of us who are a little older had our shot at crayons ... and we've not picked up any correlations (to asbestos-related illness) in youngsters that ate it back then.''

He said the risk from asbestos in any context is ``correlated with it being fibrous and being free.'' If the fibers are stable or bound - in wax, for instance - they're ``not a problem,'' Dodson said.

Industry officials - and the industry's Art & Creative Materials Institute, which certifies art supplies for safety - disputed the newspaper's lab findings.

Binney & Smith, which makes Crayolas, is certain its crayons are asbestos free, said spokeswoman Tracey Muldoon Moran at company headquarters in Easton, Pa. But the newspaper report ``is certainly a concern for us,'' Moran said.

``We truly do not believe our products pose a health hazard, but we have begun to investigate alternatives'' to talc, Moran said.

Dixon Ticonderoga, which makes Prang Crayons in Sandusky, Ohio, also takes safety seriously, said Chief Operating Officer Ronald Shaffer at headquarters in Heathrow, Fla.

While its crayons have been certified asbestos free, he told the newspaper the company is working with its talc suppliers, ``trying to see what they know is in it.''

Rose Art Industries in Livingston, N.J., could not be reached for comment.

Debbie Fanning, executive director of the Art and Creative Materials Institute in Hanson, Mass., was adamant that there is no asbestos in the talc - nonasbestiform tremolite - used in crayons. ``His testing results must be incorrect,'' she said of the labs used by the newspaper. ``In children's materials, we do not allow any ingredients at a level that would be a hazard.''

May 23, 2000

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Environmental exposure to tremolite and respiratory cancer in New Caledonia: a case-control study.

Am J Epidemiol 2000 Feb 1;151(3):259-65

Luce D, Bugel I, Goldberg P,

A case-control study on respiratory cancers was conducted in New Caledonia (South Pacific), where a high incidence of malignant pleural mesothelioma had been observed. The disease pattern suggested an environmental exposure to asbestos. The first results showed that, in some areas, tremolite asbestos derived from local outcroppings was used as whitewash (locally named "po"). All cases diagnosed between 1993 and 1995 (including 15 pleural mesotheliomas, 228 lung cancers, and 23 laryngeal cancers) and 305 controls were included in the study. Detailed information on past or present use of the whitewash, residential history, smoking, diet, and occupation was collected. The risk of mesothelioma was strongly associated with the use of the whitewash (odds ratio (OR) = 40.9; 95% confidence interval (CI): 5.15, 325). All Melanesian cases had been exposed. Among Melanesian women, exposure to the whitewash was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer (OR = 4.89; 95% CI: 1.13, 21.2), and smokers exposed to po had an approximately ninefold risk (OR = 9.26; 95% CI: 1.72, 49.7) compared with women who never smoked and had never used the whitewash. In contrast, no association was noted between exposure to po and lung cancer risk among Melanesian men, probably because of lower exposure levels. Among non-Melanesians, the numbers of exposed subjects were too small to assess the effect of exposure to po. There was no indication of elevated risks for the other cancer sites.

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New York Executive and Company Sentenced for Illegal Asbestos Removal

Date: 1999/11/19
202-260-4355 <>

Salvatore Napolitano of Brooklyn, N.Y., was sentenced on Nov. 9, by the U.S. District Court in New Haven, Conn., to serve 15 months in prison, pay $19, 034 in fines and restitution and serve three years of supervised release after completing his jail term. The defendant's company, ECCO Construction Inc., was sentenced to five years probation and prohibited from working in construction projects involving asbestos. The defendants had pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act in connection with the illegal removal of asbestos- containing material during the conversion of a former Y.M.C.A. building in New Haven into an upscale apartment development in 1997. As a result of the conspiracy, untrained and undocumented workers from Mexico were used to remove asbestos from boilers, piping and floor coverings at the building. The workers were locked in the building and were not provided with equipment to protect them from inhaling asbestos fibers. As a result of this crime, asbestos fibers were released into the air at the construction site where workers and others could inhale them. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer, a lung disease known as "asbestosis," and mesothelioma which is a cancer of the chest and abdominal cavities. Asbestos filled garbage bags were also illegally disposed of in various locations around New Haven. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, and was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut.

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Asbestos Haunts Montana Town

Sunday November 21 12:13 AM ET

SEATTLE (AP) - Asbestos-related illnesses linked to a closed vermiculite mine have killed at least 192 people over the past 40 years in Libby, Mont., the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.

Doctors and townsfolk say at least 375 more have been diagnosed with ailments that were likely caused by tremolite asbestos - a rare and extremely toxic form of asbestos released by mining for vermiculite, a mineral that expands when wet and is used for insulation and gardening.

In addition to miners who were sickened in the town of about 2,500 people, their relatives also have been stricken through exposure to dust brought home on the miners' clothes, the newspaper reported Thursday and Friday.

Most contracted their terminal diseases - asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining - years ago, when the Zonolite Mountain mine released more than two tons of asbestos into the air per day, six days a week.

John Wardell, coordinator of the Environmental Protection Agency's operation in Montana, said that as a result of the Post-Intelligencer reports, the EPA would investigate the situation in Libby.

The mine in northwest Montana was closed nine years ago by by Columbia, Md.-based W.R. Grace Co.

"Obviously, we feel we met our obligation to our workers and to the community,'' said Jay Hughes, Grace's senior litigation counsel. Hughes said Grace spent millions to upgrade safety conditions and reduce dust at the mine.

The company was the focus of the book and movie ``A Civil Action,'' about a case concerning acute lymphocytic leukemia cases in Massachusetts that were linked to chemicals in drinking water.

Miners and their families from Libby are the victims named in 187 asbestos-related lawsuits filed against Grace. So far, 67 have been resolved, with Grace either settling out of court or found liable and ordered to pay damages.

The Post-Intelligencer counted the 192 deaths, dating to 1959, from court records and from interviews with families and doctors who are treating victims.

The Daily Inter Lake newspaper of Kalispell, Mont., said in its own report last Sunday that by 1959 one-third of workers at the plant had abnormal lung x-rays.

Respirators were provided in the 1950s, but rules requiring their use were not enforced, workers' lawsuits say.

State officials say they're confident that no asbestos is blowing off the mine site but admit it would not meet today's reclamation standards, which require covering thousands of tons of asbestos dust and mine waste with clean soil.

The Post-Intelligencer had two EPA-certified labs test five soil samples collected from the area.

Tremolite asbestos fibers were found in four of the samples - all at levels higher than those considered safe by the EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"More sophisticated testing would have to be done, but the levels (found in the samples) indicate that if it were a workplace, the workers picking huckleberries in that area would have to wear a respirator and a protective suit,'' said EPA official Armina Nolan.

A Grace spokesman would not discuss whether hazards remain at the site.

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R&D Magazine Lists Technology Winners

Monday September 20, 4:32 pm Eastern Time
Company Press Release

OAK BROOK, Ill.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 20, 1999--The ``Oscars of Invention,'' R&D Magazine's annual list of the 100 most significant technological breakthroughs of the year, feature winners that tackle several environmental issues, new medical diagnostic tools and several high tech products categorized as "smaller-faster-more powerful."

The prizes, to be awarded Sept. 23 at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, are the most prestigious in applied research, according to Tim Studt, editor of R&D, a Cahners publication.

The Chicago Tribune has called the competition, now in its 37th year, ``the Oscars of Invention.'' Past winners have included anti-lock brakes, ATMs, fax machines and halogen lights.

Among the 1999 winners:-- DMA, a chemical developed by W.R. Grace & Co. (Columbia, Md.) and Brookhaven National Laboratory (Long Island, N.Y.) that can penetrate and digest asbestos, leaving behind a residue that is safe and fireproof.--

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EU Commission Confirms Ban on White Asbestos over Canada's Idiotic Objections

BRUSSELS, July 27, 1999 (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Tuesday it had banned white asbestos, the only type of the fire-proof fibre still allowed in the European Union, after scientists said safer alternatives had now been found.

The decision was based on evidence that all forms of asbestos are carcinogens, causing asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, or cancer of the lining of the lung. Nearly 6,700 Europeans died of asbestos-related illnesses in 1995, according to EU statistical office Eurostat.

The decision to go ahead with the ban angered Canada, a major asbestos producer, which is already challenging France's domestic ban in the World Trade Organisation.

The decision will ban white asbestos in cement products such as pipes and roofing, brake and clutch linings for lorries, seals and gaskets and a number of other specialised uses from the beginning of 2005, the Commission said in a statement.

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Europe Proposes Asbestos Ban, Canada Worried

BRUSSELS, Aug 20 (Reuters) - The European Commission is drafting legislation to ban chrysotile or `"white'' asbestos in all 15 European Union nations, a leading official said.

"The Commission is...preparing a draft proposal for a European-wide ban on the marketing and use of chrysotile asbestos and asbestos-containing products...,'' industry commissioner Martin Bangemann said in an answer dated July 24 to a question from a member of the European Parliament.

Bangemann noted that 14 products containing white asbestos were already banned by EU legislation and nine EU countries had already introduced unilateral bans.

"This represents a significant disruption to the (EU) internal market and requires a solution at (EU) level,'' Bangemann said.

Britain on Tuesday became the latest EU nation to say it was also considering a ban. The country's Health and Safety Commission said it would start consulting interested groups about introducing such a ban in 2001.

Blue and brown asbestos, fibrous materials used extensively in buildings in the 1960s and 70s for their fire resistant characteristics, are already banned throughout the EU because of evidence they cause lung cancer and other respiratory damage.

A spokesman for Canada's EU mission said on Thursday it was watching the developments closely.

Canada is the world's second largest producer of white asbestos behind Russia. The other major producing nations are Brazil, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

In May Canada went to the World Trade Organisation to challenge a French ban on chrysotile asbestos introduced on January 1, 1997.

France was Canada's largest market for the product, which is used in the construction industry and is found in brake pads.

"We are certainly aware of the situation within the European Commission,'' the Canadian spokesman said. ``We will continue to follow closely what's happening.''

"There seem at the moment to be different views and they are trying to come to a common view on this,'' he added, noting Bangemann himself said details of the ban remained to be worked out and were subject to consultations with EU member states, which in the past have shown themselves divided on the issue.

At an EU social affairs ministers meeting in April, Greece, Spain and Portugal voiced objections to a complete ban.

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UK Set To Ban 'Killer Dust'

BBC, Aug. 20, 1998.

Plans to virtually ban the use of white asbestos, which kills thousands of workers every year, have been published by health and safety chiefs.

The UK's Health and Safety Commission is proposing to ban the use of the so-called 'killer dust', apart from in a few cases where substitute materials are not available.

Consultations will be held over three months from September and the action is expected to come into force next summer.

The use of brown and blue asbestos has been banned for some time, but white asbestos is still widely used in buildings.

Campaigners have been pushing for a ban on the dust since figures showed that as many as 3,000 people die from asbestos-related diseases each year.

A report commissioned by the HSC estimates that the death toll could rise still further past the year 2000 and could reach 10,000 a year by 2020.

Among those most at risk are builders, plumbers and shipyard workers who come into contact with the dust.

But it has also been used in schools and hospitals, posing a threat to children, teachers and nurses.

General Secretary John Monks said: "The death toll will continue to rise well into the next century, but at least we now know that the plague of asbestos-related diseases might be coming to an end."

Most white asbestos is imported from Canada, Russia and South Africa.

The TUC says it will contact the Canadian High Commissioner in London to urge his country to accept a ban on the use of white asbestos. see

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2,800 Americans Projected to Die of MM in Year 2000

June 15, 1998

According to Price Associates, Inc. of Washington, DC, "the mesothelioma rate for US males exhibits an increasing trend throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. The trend has been attributed to occupational exposure in the shipbuilding industry during World War II, in manufacturing, and in building construction. Incidence data (1973-1992) from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program were used to investigate current trends in age-adjusted and age-specific mesothelioma rates. An age and birth-cohort model was used to project both lifetime probabilities of mesothelioma by cohort and the annual number of cases expected over the next 70 years.

The current trend in female rates is flat. The projected average annual number of female cases is 500. For males, the age-adjusted mesothelioma rate is increasing solely due to the age group 75 years and over, albeit at a declining growth rate.. The pattern of rates reflected in the age and birth-cohort model suggests a peak in the annual number of mesothelioma cases for males at 2,300 before the year 2000. The number of male cases then will drop during the next 50-60 years toward 500.

These trends mirror the US trend in raw asbestos consumption and a reduction in workplace airborne asbestos levels. Am J Epidemiol, 145(3):211-8 1997 Feb 1.

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JM Asbestos Storms Chicago Beaches

Tuesday March 17 10:27 AM EST

Second asbestos cleanup planned at park

CHICAGO, March 17 (UPI) _ Another cleanup is in the works for the Illinois State Beach Park near Zion, where asbestos has been washing ashore.

Park workers found a two-foot piece of asbestos pipe during the weekend, raising fears last week's storm may have churned up more debris since an earlier sweep along the park's six-mile Lake Michigan shoreline.

Park Superintendent Robert Grosso told the Chicago Sun-Times Tuesday that when the sand was cleaned from the pipe, a gasket inside bore an imprint reading ``Johns Manville 107.''

The south end of the park borders a Johns-Manville industrial site encompassing a nearly-closed factory and a Superfund asbestos waste site capped in 1991.

Park officials have reportedly been finding asbestos-laden materials along the lakeshore since July. State-hired contractors wearing protective ``moon suits'' cleaned the shore earlier this month, finding some 300 pieces of asbestos debris. They'll return to the park this week for another sweep.

Grosso says workers are plotting the location of each piece of debris with a satellite system to see if there's any pattern that could help investigators pin down the source.

Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Carol Knowles told the paper environmental contractors next week will begin testing water, soil and air saples to determine whether the debris poses a health risk.

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Hostess Recalls Snack Foods

SCHILLER PARK, Ill., Jan. 27 (UPI) _

Interstate Brands Hostess Cake Division is voluntarily recalling Hostess and Dolly Madison snack foods manufactured at its Schiller Park, Ill., plant and sold in Michigan and other states for possible asbestos contamination.

The Twinkies, Hoho's, cupcakes, brownies, fruit pies and other sweets have a ``57'' code as part of their expiration date. The products were distributed in 21 states.

A company statement today says the snacks are being recalled because they may have been contaminated by asbestos fibers in insulation removed from a boiler at the plant two weeks ago.

In Kansas City, Interstate Brands Corp. lawyer Sandy Sutton says, ``It's purely's our first recall. There was a boiler removed and there may have been a release of asbestos.''

Sutton says there have been no reports of illness and tests have found no asbestos in any returned products. The 14 snack foods recalled _ which include Chocolicious, Light Cup, Oat Brand Muffin, Valetine, Hoppers, Dessert Cup, Honey Bun and Dolly Madison Cupcakes _ were shipped between Jan. 11 and Jan. 15 and have expiration dates between Jan. 22 and Feb. 13.

The snacks were sold in Illinois, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Consumers should return the products to the point of purchase for refunds.

Copyright 1998 by United Press International.
All rights reserved.

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The Devil's Advocate: "Medical Monitoring Not Necessary"

San Diego, Nov.14, 1997. There's something scary about a well-dressed asbestos company lawyer with impeccable manners and a winning smile. The image of respectability tends to overpower your senses. You hear their words and, like a charismatic preacher's, you believe them, even if they don't immediately register or, upon reflection, they don't jibe. You don't want to believe that a nice young professional man would ever say something "ugly." A good asbestos defense lawyer knows this, and knows how to use it against us.

I saw a master of the wily arts recently do the dance for about 850 asbestos company lawyers at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. The best suits from coast to coast gather every year about this time to conjure up new tricks they can use to persuade jurors that the wicked white powder is, in truth, as benign as mother's milk. A very impressive ballroom. Very plush. Crystal chandeliers, velvet drapes, gold-plated goblets, silver forks, mahogany waste baskets. A roasted pig turning on the spit over an open flame pit -- apple in mouth. An army of valets, porters, concierges, and all sorts of fetchers and wipers. A photo gallery of movie stars downstairs. Electric shoe polishers and a trowser press in every room. A hotel with history. For the new rich, the old rich, and the ambitious. Beers at 8 bucks a draft. You get the idea. A place that appeals to your vanity.

In a place so majestic, with an audience so learned and distinguished, your senses dull. You become swept up in the pageantry, the elegance. It becomes difficult to see through the pomp and glitter. You get comfortable amidst the splendor. You don't want to fight or rebel. You don't want to be skeptical. You want to believe. You want to shake off the nagging suspicions. You want to indulge. You survey the audience. Respectable lot. Manicured. Per capita incomes well into the six figures. Average billables in the two to three hundred range. "Yes," you tell yourself, "in this ballroom sits the collective brilliance that will overcome stupid suffering, greed and injustice."

You look towards the stage. You see the well-groomed lawyer with his projector. He is from a big firm from a big city. The word "prestigious" comes to mind. You are impressed with his vigor and confidence. You hear his words, earnestly spoken. They must be learned. I'm seeing citations to authorities on the big screen. Nicely delivered. Well done. But wait.

Did that well-dressed man just say what I just heard? He's talking about the "disbenefits" of medical monitoring. I just heard words to the effect that "Medical monitoring is not necessary, because there is no cure for mesothelioma and at best the patient's treatment would be palliative and he may only get another one or two years."

I have awoken from my slumber. My hypothalamus is shooting rockets into my brain: "Warning! Fox in the hen house!" I shake out the cobwebs. Did our Respectable Friend really argue against medical monitoring on medical grounds? Asbestos is a known carcinogen. Once implanted in the lungs, it won't go away. Like a timebomb. The latency period is anywhere from 12 to 50 years. A timebomb with a very long fuse. Mr. Speaker does not believe an asbestos exposed worker should get his lungs checked periodically? And he wants us to believe this dismal proposition is shared by various governmental and private medical associations?

Did he just insinuate that preventing pain and prolonging life for "a few years" were in themselves a cheap and ignoble pursuit? Don't check lungs because if lung cancer is detected at best you might only get to reduce the pain? That's a bad thing?

Can't be. The Ugly Message does not correspond with the Happy Medium. It's like finding a fungal spore on a fresh loaf of white bread. I better check it out.

I wondered if he really believed the hash he was flinging. I wondered if our God Fearing Friend would advocate this same thesis if his father was an asbestos worker, or if he himself had worked in a refinery with asbestos products. I sidled up to him later in the day.

A Fine Young Man. The word "Church Going" springs to mind. He looks you in the eye when he talks, sort of "strategically." Sir, would you get on an airplane whose engines and wings had not been inspected for metal fatigue in the past five years? Do you encourage your wife to have an annual pap smear? Do your children get their tetanus, measles, mumps, and polio vaccines? What if someone jabbed you with a syringe of HIV contaminated blood? Would you check that out?

Do you disagree with the proposition that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Would you discourage a person occupationally exposed to asbestos 20 plus years ago from having his lungs examined? Have you ever heard of Dr. Sugarbaker, Dr. Pass, Dr. Robinson, Dr. Kaiser, Dr. Rusch? Does Tri-modal therapy mean anything to you? Have you ever spoken to Marge Levine, or Dr. Stephen Jay Gould, or anyone profiled on my website who has beat the odds?

He of course did not take the bait. Of course he agrees with the common sense notion that it's best to detect cancer early and nip it in the bud before it spreads throughout the body. Why then, would this distinguished gentleman -- clearly a respectable lawyer worthy of admiration -- publicly advocate a position that he himself I'm sure would not follow?

The answer: Money. Cash. Negotiable paper. Billable hours.

It comes down to this: (1) who pays for the medical monitoring? And, (2) who pays my hourly attorneys fee? The polished young lawyer is paid by the asbestos companies to protect their pot. Asbestos companies are not very well-liked. They collectively infiltrated the lungs of millions of unsuspecting Americans with zillions of cancer causing asbestos fibers. And now the infected population would like for the companies who are responsible for planting the lung mines to pay for annual medical exams, for starters. Sound reasonable? Yes. Fair? Sure. Expensive? You bet.

So the not-very-well-liked Asbestos Company hires the very likeable lawyer to peddle an all new "medical/legal" policy that protects what's really important, their company's fiscal health. The new policy is as follows: It is unreasonable to monitor your lungs for asbestos-induced lung cancer IF you expect the asbestos fiber manufacturers to pay for the exam. Otherwise, sure, by all means, have your lungs checked. It could save your life, if not prolong your life.

This seems to be a problem that afflicts many asbestos company defense lawyers. The psychiatrists call it "cognitive dissonance" -- the conflict of holding two incongruous beliefs simultaneously. As a paid advocate, our friend can posit a persuasive argument that medical monitoring is not necessary or useful. But as a father, husband and otherwise reasonably prudent member of the species, he is a strong believer in frequent check ups to identify and resolve potential health problems.

The scary part is this: in the mind of a really good asbestos company lawyer, there is no conflict, no "dissonance" between the ears. The "good ones" have immersed themselves so deeply in the long con, you don't know if they're acting or not. They certainly act and sound like they're eating the same hash their flinging. These are the lawyers who rise to the top in their professions, the artful pros who become managing partners of prestigious firms, who are appointed to the Bench, and who succeed in politics.

I wonder how diligent our friends for the defense would be about medical monitoring if they personally spent 20 years in the boiler room of a ship with asbestos fibers flying around like snowflakes. Of course, the authentic devil's advocate wouldn't really mind a little asbestos, or a little heat.

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Australia Legal System Values Life of Mesotheliotic at $4,300

September 22, 1997:

Doctors have given Rolly Sabbadini weeks to live because of a cancer he contracted through work, but the law says his life is worth just $6000 ($US4300). "What a sham, what a total sham. I would say the legal system is inhumane and the politicians should be ashamed down to their bones," said Mr Sabbadini, 62, virtually confined to bed and fighting for every breath as he suffers the virulent asbestos-caused lung cancer, mesothelioma. Across Australia, lobbying from insurance companies and big business has led to governments gradually whittling away the rights of workers such as Mr Sabbadini to sue their employers over industrial accidents - moves which will lead to more dangerous workplaces, say lawyers. The trade-off was to have been higher no-fault workers compensation benefits but barrister Peter Semmler, president of the Australian Plaintiff Lawyers Association, said that had not worked out. He said lump-sum workers compensation benefits had never properly compensated for the lost rights of workers to sue their employers. Benefits for permanent brain damage are around $140,000, for example. He said in South Australia the rights of employees to sue their employers for negligence over workplace accidents were abolished in 1992. In Victoria employees can sue only if they suffer an impairment of 30 per cent or more. There are national moves to make such laws consistent across State and Territory boundaries and last week, Mr Semmler met officials from the federal Attorney-General's Department to argue against the moves. "We are doing all we can. We are getting evidence about the effect on people's lives of inadequate compensation," said Mr. Semmler.

He rejected claims that lawyers liked to fight it out in court because there was more money in it for them. Mr Sabbadini's lawyer, John Gordon, said there was evidence of an explosion of workplace accidents in New Zealand where common law rights to sue had been abolished.

Mr Sabbadini, of Perth, contracted the first stages of mesothelioma when he worked at the disastrous Wittenoom blue asbestos mine in Western Australia's north as a young migrant from Italy between 1955 and 1959. Unable to fight a court case because of his health, he agreed to an out-of-court settlement with his former employer, industrial giant CSR, which has admitted liability. His settlement included payments for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and $6000 for the loss of his life. Mr Gordon said people were unaware courts awarded only nominal amounts, rarely more than $15,000, for loss of life because it was considered difficult to put a price on it.

Mr Sabbadini said he did not want his death to be in vain and wanted to focus attention on anomalies in the law. "The laws that have been made by politicians and legal people do nothing to rectify the problem where a worker's life has been shattered by his employer's negligence," said Mr Sabbadini, who said he did not even have the strength any longer to hug his two-year-old grandson.

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Monday June 23 5:27 PM EDT

US High Court says rail workers must be ill to sue

WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuter) - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that railroad workers who have been exposed to asbestos, but have no symptoms of any disease, cannot sue their employers for emotional distress under a federal law.

The court ruled unanimously that a pipe-fitter exposed to asbestos while working for Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co. in New York City cannot sue for emotional distress under the Federal Employers' Liability law.

The lawsuit by Michael Buckley against the railroad affected about 140 other workers, who said they had been exposed to asbestos while working on pipes under Grand Central Terminal in the mid-1980s.

A federal judge ruled for the railroad, dismissing the lawsuit on the grounds that no damages could be awarded on mere exposure when no medical harm has been demonstrated. But a U.S. appeals court disagreed and reinstated the lawsuit.

The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer, said Buckley cannot recover damages for emotional distress unless and until he manifests symptoms of a disease.

The law does not allow workers to sue over ``exposure ... to a substance that poses some future risk of disease and which contact causes emotional distress only because the worker learns that he may become ill after a substantial period of time,'' Breyer wrote.

The court also ruled by a 7-2 vote that Buckley has not shown he was legally entitled to recover medical monitoring costs.

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Maryland Company and President Convicted

Seawitch Salvage and Kerry L. Ellis, Sr. of Pasadena, Md., president and owner of Seawitch Salvage Inc., of Baltimore were convicted on seven felony counts by a jury on May 30, in U.S. Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore. Crimes included violations of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Rivers and Harbors Act and making a false statement to a federal agency. The violations were committed while Seawitch was executing a contract with the U.S. Navy to demolish and scrap two vessels, the U.S.S. Illusive, a minesweeper, and the U.S.S. Coral Sea, an aircraft carrier. As a part of the contract, the defendants were required to see that asbestos and other hazardous materials were properly removed from the ships prior to dismantling them. Between May 1993 and September 1995, Ellis and Seawitch directed their employees to remove material which contained asbestos from the ships, however neither Ellis nor Seawitch was licensed to engage in asbestos abatement and removal activities. During the removal, workers were exposed to asbestos without protective equipment. Such exposure can significantly increase the risk of lung cancer, certain gastrointestinal cancers, mesothelioma, and a lung disease known as "asbestosis." In addition, Ellis submitted a false statement to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense concerning the removal of asbestos from the Coral Sea. Ellis and Seawitch were also convicted of discharging oil, construction debris, paint chips, metal fragments, insulation materials and other pollutants into the Patapsco River in violation of the Clean Water Act and the Refuse Act. If given the maximum sentence on each count Ellis could face up to 24 years imprisonment and/or fines of up to $1.6 million. Seawitch faces a maximum total of $3.2 million in fines. The investigation was conducted by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and other participants in the Baltimore Environmental Crimes Task Force with the support of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center.

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Russians Turn Asbestos into Blood Money

The town of Asbest, Russia recently began to experience growth in its economy. Asbest is the location of world's largest asbestos mining company, Uralabest. A few months ago the demand for asbestos rocketed upward. Asbetos fibers are used as a binding element in construction materials and automobile parts.

"Fortunately there is now demand for our product, and it's more than we can produce at present," said Yury Kozlov, director of Uralasbest, the world's largest asbestos mining company with 11,000 workers. Shunned by the United States and much of Europe since the late 1970s and 1980s, asbestos remains a construction staple in many developing nations, and Uralasbest has seen higher sales in Brazil, India and China as well as domestically, officials said. Asbest supplies about 20 percent to 25 percent of the world's asbestos and about two-thirds of the Russian supply.

As in the Western world, Uralabest employees learned that diversifying in a free market is not only the key for survival but success. At the city's asbestos research and design firm, officials are trying to market machines made for extracting asbestos from rocks as processors suitable for preparing cattle feed, sugar and other products. At Uralati, which converts raw asbestos into finished materials, a $420,000 investment by a group of Canadian-based investors which has a 15 percent stake in the firm. Uralati saw a 42 billion rouble ($7.6 million) paper profit.

Officials here describe the growing consciousness in the West about the health risks of asbestos as a tactic by firms offering alternative products. "I think it comes from a struggle among competitors to win market share," said the mayor of Asbest, Vladimir Vlasov.

A woman, who works at Uralabest as a spinner, knows that exposure to asbestos can cause cancer. "I am afraid for my health, but I've already been here so many years that I would like to stay until retirement age," says the woman, who at 38 is a 20-year veteran of the Uralati factory. She becomes eligible for a pension at 45.

Wasn't it Lenin who chided Capitalists when he snickered that you could sell a capitalist who is condemned to die the rope that will be used to hang him. In Abest, the Russians are making asbestos rope to hang themselves, along with the consumers of this deadly poison in China, Brazil and India.

Wake up!

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Manville is Back!

Manville, a name that is synonomous with asbestos death, is back. You will recall that Manville filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1982 to shield itself from about 17,000 lawsuits filed over asbestos-related claims, even though at the time it had $2.2 billion in sales and $60 million in profits the previous year. It emerged from bankruptcy in 1988, after creating a separate trust fund to settle the remaining asbestos claims.

When Manville emerged from bankruptcy (after its bankruptcy attornies siphoned off millions from the trust that otherwise would have gone to its victims), it changed its name to The Schuller Corp. But sales under the Schuller Corp have been flat. Just another building supply outfit.

"We have conducted considerable research which shows that customers, suppliers, do-it-yourselfers and the general public all have a high level of favorable awareness toward the Johns-Manville identity," said company chairman Charles Henry. "These results clearly suggest that renaming the company Johns-Manville will help strengthen market share and drive growth in our business ... Most people know or think of us as Johns-Manville. That identity has a much higher favorable awareness than the Schuller name," Henry said.

This reminds me of Orwell's "Animal Farm". Manor Farm was like a prison camp. The workers were slaves. When the workers revolted, and ousted the tyrannical oppressors, they changed the name to Animal Farm. After a period of time, greed and corruption reigned supreme and the collective farm was again renamed "Manor Farm". All of the original revolutionaries by that time had either been killed or imprisoned or just faded away.

If Manville's stock improves because of their name change -- a name associated with death, sickness and immeasurable human cruelty -- then we, the masses, are truly asses.

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Asbestos Epidemic

The British Government Committee on Sustainable Development recently urged the enactment of rules to safeguard against the potential disasters of genetic engineering. Sir Crispin Tickell, the panel's chairman, put the risks of genetic modification in the historical perspective. He said that pesticides, asbestos, thalidomide (a drug which caused birth defects) and chlorofluorcarbons (blamed for global warming) were four disasters of "plague proportions." He said that genetic modification of plants and animals would be the fifth.

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France Axes Asbestos

The French government has finally awakened. Despite over 75 years of evidence that asbestos kills, France waited until July 3, 1996 to announce a nationwide ban on the manufacture, import and sale of any product containing asbestos. France acknowledged that at least 2,000 Frenchmen will die this year due to their occupational exposure to asbestos.

Before the ban, France was importing 35,000 tons of asbestos every year, most of which was used in cements. The U.S. adopted a total ban in 1989 but the prohibition was appealed by the Asbestos Lobbyists and later overturned by U.S. Courts. Seven European nations, including Germany, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands, have imposed strict bans, while Britain and Japan, have imposed partial bans.

The French Government warned that the risks of asbestos diseases were high among construction workers, shipyard workers, laboratory technicians, railworkers and automobile mechanics.

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Kent Cigarettes Kill

A jury in San Francisco recently found that the asbestos fibers used in the filters of Kent cigarettes were dangerous and defective, and awarded a psychologist with malignant mesothelioma $1.9 million in damages. Kent used asbestos containing filters in their cigarettes from 1952 to 1956. The plaintiff smoked cigarettes, including Kents, from 1944 to 1963. Lorillard, Inc., which owns Kent, has filed an appeal.

Note: A recent medical article published in Finland reported the case of a pleural mesothelioma in an office worker who was employed for many years in a cigarette filter factory, where he was apparently exposed to asbestos. Huncharek, Scan. J. Work Environ. Health (Apr. 1994).

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Newt Gingrich: Let the Fibers Fly!

In 1990, Miller Nichols, the chairman of a real estate company, wrote a check to Newt Gingrich's political action committee -- GOPAC -- in the amount of $10,000. With that check, Nichols had greased Newt's palms with a cumulative total of $59,000 since 1985. The check contained a note: "The federal government is causing our company a great deal of financial distress. This is in connection with the asbestos regulations. It is costing my company millions of dollars to comply...." Gingrich wrote back that he would "look into" the "problematic asbestos regulations." Within the year, Gingrich fired off a letter to the EPA in which he lamented the "crisis arising in the courts from asbestos litigation." The letter was copied to Nichols.

Let me suggest a little bed time reading for Newt: the Ethics in Government Act of 1989, which states "No member of Congress shall accept anything of value from a person . . . whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance of the individual's official duties." We also encourage Newt Gingrich to ask the thousands of Americans who have lost loved ones to asbestosis and mesothelioma if they think "the costs" of regulating asbestos exposures in the workplace outweigh "the benefits."

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Even the Nazi's Condemned Asbestos

Several aluminum plant workers in South Texas with asbestosis have filed workers compensation claims seeking benefits due to their asbestosis. As of press time, none have received any benefits under the Texas workmens' compensation statute.

To put things in historical perspective, asbestosis became a compensable disease in Germany in 1936. Germany also began providing compensation to victims of asbestos-induced lung cancer in 1939.

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Prevention, Prevention, Prevention

Every time you pick up the newspaper, there's another story about the discovery of a new gene that, if tweaked in the laboratory properly, may cure anything from obesity to breast cancer. Balderdash. Prevention is the key. We don't need a great scientific breakthrough. Too much of our focus is on a miracle solution. Molecular biologists and geneticists have been on a research grant gravy train. Loads of research money is available to study how, for example, mesothelial cells suddenly go malignant. But precious little grant money is available to study prevention. As one cancer historian put it: "Prevention is cheap, but there's no glory in it. There are no Nobel Prizes awarded for prevention."

Of course, prevention can cost money. Special interests -- like those who cozy up to the likes of a Newt Gingrich (see above) -- abhor prevention. They would much rather pour money into theoretical research on "the magic bullet" than get down and dirty and beef up the enforcement of tough regulations designed to eliminate exposures to carcinogens in the workplace.

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Eagle Picher Industries Asbestos Liability at $2.5 Billion

Eagle Picher Industries (EP) made asbestos products, mainly insulation cements, from 1934 to 1971. In 1991, EP filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The bankruptcy recently estimated its liability for all present and future asbestos injury and death claims to be $2.5 billion.

In response, EP set aside $1 billion in order to increase its asbestos liability reserve. EP anticipates that over 150,000 claims will be filed against the asbestos injury settlement trust it set up earlier this year as part of its reorganization plan.

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Beware of Federal Court

In 1991, 27,696 claims filed in federal courts throughout the U.S. against various asbestos manufacturers were transferred by the Judicial Panel (a group of judges hand picked by the US Supreme Court) to Judge Weiner in Philadelphia. Since then, the Panel has transferred an additional 25,650 cases to Judge Weiner, bring up the total to 53,340. Judge Weiner has refused to set the cases for trial. He has refused to force parties to attempt to negotiate good faith settlements. The cases, some filed over 7 years ago, simply sit in a file collecting dust. If Judge Weiner does allow individual cases to be remanded back to the courthouse where they were originally filed, such as in Portland, Oregon, he orders the plaintiff to strike their claim for punitive damages.

The purpose of the consolidation of claims in Judge Weiner's Court was to "effect an overall savings of cost and a reduction of inconvenience to all concerned." The result, however, has been a delay and denial of just compensation to thousands of asbestos victims who had the misfortune of getting sick in a state where they sought justice in a federal court. We file all of our claims in state court, where the Panel does not have authority to transfer the case to Judge Weiner's basement.

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Tobacco-Related Cancer Deaths Good For Economy?

These are desperate times for the Tobacco Industry. A Philip Morris lawyer recently argued that cigarette smoking can actually enhance a state's coffers (in addition to increasing the sales of coffins). The State of Mississippi filed a lawsuit against Phil Morris seeking reimbursement of the millions of tax payer's dollars it spends every year to treat welfare recipients for tobacco-related illnesses.

Philip Morris' hired executioner argued that premature deaths of smokers save the state money, because once the impoverished smoker finally dies of cancer, the State is spared the cost of long term geriatric care.

Which raises the interesting question: if killing smokers is good for the state's coffer, why not put asbestos fibers back in the filters, just like Kent used to do back in the 1950's? This way, Philip Morris might argue, as the body count gets higher, the state can save even more money. Another "Final Solution" for the Fiscally Fascist : require all welfare recipients to smoke so that they die younger.

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George Bush Jr.

When George Bush Jr. campaigned for the governor's office in Texas last year, he blasted plaintiff's lawyers and juries for "driving up the cost of insurance". He promised that one of the first steps he would take as Governor was to implement a massive reform of the civil justice system. Well, Governor George got his wish. The Texas Legislature passed a sweeping set of tort reform laws that placed harsh restrictions on the juries' discretion to award "non-economic" and punitive damages.

Please check your insurance premiums. Have your rates gone down, as promised? Didn't think so. One of George's tort reform guru's recently admitted that personal injury lawsuits "really don't have that big an impact" on Texas businesses. Texas consumers, he warned, shouldn't be expecting any kind of tort reform "dividends" in the form of reduced insurance rates.

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Forty Eight Insulations Runs, Hides and Now Pays a Pittance

Another former asbestos manufacturer, Forty Eight Insulations, has agreed after years of litigation in the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts finally set up a Settlement Trust for asbestos victims. Forty Eight manufactured several asbestos products, including pipe covering, block and cement, from the 1950's through the 1970's

The Trust has been funded with $57 million, 73% of which will be used to pay settlements and expenses for claims filed before November 22, 1995. The remaining 27% will be set aside for claims filed after November 22nd.

The Trust will pay claims based on mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. Although the precise amounts have not been published mesothelioma victims will be paid an amount equal to four (4) times what a non-malignant claimant will receive. Lung cancer victims will receive twice as much as the non-malignant claimants. There will be no individual negotiation. All settlement amounts in each disease category will be the same.

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Manville Scrapes

The MPIST has begun settling claims submitted by persons deemed to be suffering from mesothelioma, lung cancer or disabling asbestosis. The Settlement allows initial pro rata payments of 10% of the liquidated value of the "Exigent Health" claim within 20 days of resolving the claim. The Trust does not guarantee that it will pay the balance of the settlement by any deadline. In order to be eligible for an Exigent Health Claim, the claimant must have cancer and be alive at the time the claim is submitted to the Trust.

At present, there are roughly 210,000 claims pending against the Trust. Since the Trust was created in 1988, it has resolved approximately 33,000 claims. The Trust predicts 314,000 claims by the year 2049.

As of early 1994, the Trust's liquid assets was approximately $725 million. In addition, the Trust has over $1 billion worth of other assets that can be converted into cash in order to pay claims. The overall value of the Trust has been estimated at between $1.8 billion and $2.5 billion.

The Trust has established a schedule of asbestos-related diseases and values as follows:

  1. Non Disabling Asbestosis $25,000
  2. Disabling Asbestosis $50,000
  3. Other Cancer $40,000
  4. Lung Cancer (1) $60,000
  5. Lung Cancer (2) $90,000
  6. Malignant Mesothelioma $200,000

The Trust Settlement allows for individual negotiation for "extraordinary" claims (defined as situations where he majority of the exposure was to Manville asbestos products or where special damages are "exceptionally" high). Exigent Health Claims will be individually evaluated on a first in first out basis.

It is unclear whether or when the Trust will fund the balance of the settlement after it pays 10% of the amount. A source inside the Trust has confided that it projects being able to fund only 12 to 18 per cent of the settlement value over a period of several years. Under the terms of the class action settlement, the Trust will be protected from any lawsuits except in a few cases. The Johns Manville Company filed bankruptcy in 1982.

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