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In The News

Mesothelioma and Asbestos in the News

Our lawyers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Pennsauken, New Jersey are always abreast of the latest developments in national mesothelioma, asbestos exposure, and personal injury news that could affect your case. We invite you to take a look at our collection of news articles to learn more about important new legal information or recent verdicts and settlements in our area.

The Shein Law Sponsors the 7th Annual Asbestos Awareness Conference

Published March 21, 2011

The Shein Law is proud to be a Platinum Sponsor of the 7th Annual Asbestos Awareness Conference, Asbestos: Impact on Public Heath, Environment, and the Economy, presented by The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO).  The ADAO, combining advocacy, community and education, is the largest U.S. organization serving as the voice of asbestos victims. The event will be held April 1 – 3, 2011, at the Atlanta Marriott Buckhead Hotel & Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Collaborating with the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, the ADAO has organized the annual international conference to bring together leading experts from around the globe to team up and boost efforts to completely ban asbestos.  Speakers will represent the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, and Germany.  They will discuss occupational and non-occupational exposure issues, detection and treatment advances, environmental and economic impact, and national and global policy.  Specifically, presentations will include the most advanced medical, occupational and environmental information to prevent home, school and work asbestos exposure, as well as disease prevention and treatment.
For more information on the ADAO and the 7th Annual Asbestos Awareness Conference, please visit:
http://www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/

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Senate Passes Resolution that Establishes “National Asbestos Awareness Week”

Published March 20, 2011

The Senate recently passed a resolution, sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), declaring the first week of April as “National Asbestos Awareness Week”. The resolution seeks to “raise public awareness about the prevalence of asbestos-related diseases and the dangers of asbestos exposure.” In addition, this is the first year that the annual resolution recognizes this week as “Global Asbestos Awareness Week”. The international activities will incorporate education, advocacy and community-driven efforts aimed at a worldwide ban on asbestos. The week’s endeavors will also seek to provide resources and support to asbestos victims and their families.

Senator Baucus was instrumental in urging the EPA to declare a public health emergency in Libby, Montana, following the documentation of extensive deaths and illnesses linked to W. R. Grace and Company’s asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mine in the town. “Asbestos Awareness Week is a rallying cry to keep the tragedy of Libby from happening again. It’s also an opportunity to remind people that much more work lies ahead to help victims of asbestos-related diseases,” said Baucus.

Read more
http://www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/adao-applauds-senate-for-passage-of-seventh-annual-resolution-that-establishes-%e2%80%9cnational-asbestos-awareness-week%e2%80%9d/

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Statement from Acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson about National Asbestos Week

Published April 1st, 2009

In recognition of ‘National Asbestos Awareness Week,’ I urge every American to become aware of the public health issues of asbestos exposure and the steps they can take to protect their health.

In recent decades, because of concern about asbestos’ health effects, production and use has declined substantially. Most individuals exposed to asbestos, whether in a home, in the workplace, or out-of-doors will not develop disease- but there is no level of asbestos exposure that is known to be safe and minimizing your exposure will minimize your risk of developing asbestos-related disease.

Asbestos is the name given to a group of fibrous minerals that occur naturally in the environment. Low levels of asbestos are commonly in the air as fibers enter the environment from natural rock outcroppings, products that contain asbestos, former asbestos mining and milling operations, and from disturbance of asbestos-containing material. It is when we are exposed to much more concentrated levels of asbestos that we should be concerned. Therefore, it is important for all Americans to be aware of asbestos levels in their environment.

Asbestos can be dangerous if it is inhaled. Activity that disturbs asbestos causing these small fibers to float in air increases the chances of inhalation and the contraction of asbestos-related diseases. Disturbance is what leads to exposure. Do not attempt to touch or remove asbestos by yourself. Only people professionally trained and certified to safely handle asbestos should remove it.

Once breathed in, asbestos fibers can remain in the lungs for years and even decades. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause inflammation and scarring of the lungs, changes in the lining of the chest cavity around the lung, and certain cancers. Remember that tobacco smoke greatly increases your risk of lung cancer if you have also been exposed to asbestos.

If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, I encourage you to speak to your health care provider. Your provider can tell you if any of your health problems might be caused by asbestos exposure.

To learn more about asbestos and asbestos related diseases, please visit:

http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/asbestos/

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/asbestos/

http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/

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Ban Asbestos in America Act

In September 2007 Congress passed the “Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007,” co-sponsored by Senators Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Barbara Boxer, D-California. The bill, initially supported by many prominent health and environmental experts, prohibits the use of the cancer-causing mineral in many common products. However, many of the same experts who testified in support of the bill are now saying that it doesn’t go far enough, and that industry lobbyists achieved significant gains in the final wording of the legislation.

“I passionately wish it covered all asbestos products,” said Senator Murray, noting that the legislation was modified in order to ensure it received the needed votes in both houses of Congress.

“The public will be given a false sense of hope and that, to me, is an outrage,” said Richard Lemen, retired U.S. assistant surgeon general and former acting director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. “As a result there are going to be thousands of people at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. No one knows how many will die.”

Among other things, the bill does not cover asbestos-contaminated talc produced by a certain mine in upstate New York, which goes into some art clays. It also does not prevent waste from taconite mines, containing asbestos, from being used in the construction of public projects like roads, bridges, and airports. Companies may still legally state that they are using asbestos-free products in these projects as well. Other loopholes include the possible reopening of an asbestos-tainted mine and the selling of its contaminated ore in numerous products.

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Asbestos a Deadly Legacy in Ambler

While asbestos was found at most Superfund sites in Bucks and Montgomery counties, no one can say for sure whether people who lived near the sites were harmed by it.

That is because the link between many contaminants and disease is uncertain; scientists think leukemia, for example, may be caused by exposure to certain pollutants, but it may have other causes, too.

That is not the case in Ambler, where the “White Mountains” of asbestos are definitively linked to lung disease.

“Ambler is the epicenter of asbestos disease around here,” said Dr. Chris Christensen, a lung specialist with Abington Pulmonary and Critical Care Associates. “There’s a huge group of people in that community who have (lung) problems – a marker that says ‘I am asbestos-exposed.’ ”

Asbestos is a flexible mineral made up of threadlike fibers. When inhaled, it causes the lung-scarring disease asbestosis and mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the lung.

For the better part of a century, asbestos was Ambler’s main industry. In the 1970s and 1980s, Ambler and the rest of the nation belatedly became aware of the risks of asbestos, which scientists had documented decades before.

Though Ambler’s asbestos plants are now closed, the mineral’s deadly handiwork is far from finished.

Ambler’s asbestos debris helped propel Montgomery County into 17th place on a list of the top 100 counties nationwide with asbestos-related deaths. The national study of deaths from 1979 to 2001 put Philadelphia in third place and Bucks County in 76th place. Since then, deaths in Pennsylvania and in Bucks and Montgomery counties from asbestos-related diseases have continued to climb.

Asbestosis and mesothelioma take decades to develop; many people who were exposed to asbestos in the households and on the White Mountains of Ambler are just now showing signs of illness, Christensen said.

“We’re just coming into the sweet spot of asbestos disease,” said the doctor, who treats several patients from Ambler. “Epidemiologists will tell you they don’t think they’re in the clear, nationally, from asbestos until 2030. Ambler is one of those places where you’ve still got another one or two generations coming into that sweet spot.”

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Just how many Ambler residents have died or are dying of asbestos diseases, no one can say exactly. No one has done a study to find out.

Even if they did, the existing statistics would likely under-represent the problem. The government didn’t even track mesothelioma as a cause of death until 1999.

“They only count cases of people who’ve had asbestosis, and someone knows about it and thinks to put it on the death certificate,” said Dr. Halbert Fillinger, Montgomery County’s coroner and medical examiner. “But I’m sure quite a few are missed. It is not an easy diagnosis to make.”

Having an Ambler address made the diagnosis a bit easier.

Keasbey & Mattison Co. opened in the borough in 1881 and, shortly thereafter, began making such products as asbestos-cement pipe and asbestos shingles. For decades, it and its successors, CertainTeed Corp. and Nicolet Inc., dumped asbestos-laden sludge, broken pipe, and shingles outside their plants.

The largest of the piles, along Locust Street and a service road on the borough’s southwest side, became known as the “White Mountains.” They eventually contained nearly 3 million cubic yards of debris, enough to fill two Empire State buildings. Children slid down their sides and played on the Locust Street playground, built right underneath the mounds on land the companies gave to the borough.

Dust kicked up from the mounds swirled asbestos fibers through the air down nearby streets for decades.

In Ambler, as in other places where asbestos companies ruled, men who worked with the fibrous mineral have been dying for decades. Then their wives began dying, after inhaling the fibers when shaking out their husbands’ dusty, asbestos-covered clothes.

Now, others have started to die, neighbors of the factories and men and women who played on the White Mountains as children.

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Joseph A. was one of them.

Joseph A. grew up on North Main Street, the son of an Italian immigrant who worked at the asbestos plant.

As a boy, he played on the White Mountains, according to the family’s attorney, Ben Shein. He sometimes visited his father at the plant and helped his mother with the laundry, washing his father’s asbestos-covered clothing.

It sounds reckless today, knowing what we know about asbestos, but everyone – the workers, the families, the town – had been assured for decades that the asbestos in Ambler wasn’t a problem.

“I played up there on top of those mountains every day, along with every other kid I knew,” remembered Eddie Flotte, 49, a watercolor artist who grew up in Ambler and now lives in Hawaii. “Nobody ever told us it was dangerous.”

Joseph A. died of mesothelioma in July 2003, shortly after turning 53.

Shein represented the family in a lawsuit against CertainTeed. Joseph A. had died by the time it went to court, but his videotaped deposition let the court see how emaciated he had become, how his wife had to help him dress, how a string of bells tied to his hand would summon her.

The case closed with a significant award for the Joseph A. family. How significant, the public won’t know. The resolution of the case is sealed, and Shein said he is forbidden from discussing it.

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Today, the White Mountains are covered. The EPA spent $5 million for layers of earth and plants to keep the asbestos fibers from becoming airborne.

However, three other of Keasbey & Mattison’s old asbestos dumps never made it on the Superfund list, including six acres near Butler Pike and Maple Avenue. After months of public controversy, a developer in October withdrew a proposal to build a 17-story condominium building on that site.

The asbestos-laden debris remains there today. The only “cap” is whatever earth and plants Mother Nature has provided. According to Linda Rebarchak, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, the owners are required only to fence the property and post signs warning of asbestos contamination. Asbestos-containing material is allowed to remain on the surface of the site, she said.

When asked how the DEP could allow that, Rebarchak responded, “We’re not a health agency.”

Meanwhile, the hulking factories begun more than a century ago by Richard Mattison still stand along Ambler’s train tracks, windows knocked out and rusted smokestacks reaching for the sky.

And Ambler? Ambler’s popularity is surging. Trendy boutiques and great restaurants lure fresh, young faces to its neighborhoods and earned it a spot on Philadelphia magazine’s 2003 list of “10 Cool Neighborhoods (You’ve Never Heard of).”

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