Rare Disease Day 2014: Join Together for Better Care

Rare Disease Day 2014 There are more than 6,800 rare diseases that affect an estimated 25-30 million Americans. Although these diseases don’t occur often, they can have serious repercussions for the people living with them. Some rare diseases are hereditary, and others are due to environmental factors.

Mesothelioma: A Rare and Incurable Cancer

Mesothelioma is one of the rare diseases that are related to environmental factors. The only known cause of this deadly disease is exposure to asbestos. There are 3,200 people diagnosed with this aggressive and incurable cancer each year in the United States. Many of those diagnosed are not even aware that they were exposed to asbestos at their jobs or in their day-to-day lives. Symptoms of mesothelioma can take decades to appear. So in many cases, by the time they are diagnosed, victims may not have long to live.

Rare Disease Day, February 28, 2014

Today is Rare Disease Day, a worldwide event that was started in 2008 by EURODIS, a non-governmental alliance of patient organizations and individuals who are active in the rare disease field. Over the last six years, this special day has inspired more than 1,000 events — all with the goal of raising the public and policy makers’ awareness of rare diseases.

According to EURODIS, the day has “notably contributed to the advancement of national plans and policies for rare diseases in a number of countries.” This year’s theme, “Join Together for Better Care,” focuses on bringing everyone with, working in the field of, or creating policies for rare diseases out of isolation to work together in hope and solidarity.

How to Participate in Rare Disease Day

More than 80 countries are expected to participate in Rare Disease Day today. If you or a loved one is suffering from mesothelioma or another rare disease, here are 6 ways to participate in Rare Disease Day 2014:

  • Become a friend
  • Raise and join your hands
  • Tell your story
  • Download communications material
  • Join the conversation on social media
  • Organize an awareness-raising activity

Substantiation:

  • http://www.rarediseases.org/rare-disease-information/rare-diseases
  • http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/files/Rare_Diseases_FAQs.pdf
  • http://rarediseaseday.org


World Cancer Day 2014: Debunking the Myths about Mesothelioma

 

World Cancer Day, celebrated annually on February 4th, unites the world’s population in the fight against cancer. This year’s theme is “Debunking the Myths,” an important need for all types of cancer, including mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

There are about 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma each year in the United States. By increasing awareness of this deadly disease and debunking some myths about asbestos and mesothelioma, we can help fight cancer together.

5 Myths about Asbestos and Mesothelioma

  1. No One Uses Asbestos Anymore —It’s Banned
    Asbestos is not banned in the United States. There are strict regulations governing its use, but there are still more than 3,000 consumer products that contain asbestos today.
  2. Lawyers Exaggerate the Dangers of Asbestos
    There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma can take decades to develop, but the direct connection between asbestos exposure and this deadly disease is well documented.
  3. Mesothelioma Is a Disease of the Elderly
    People under the age of 50 are rarely diagnosed with mesothelioma, but there are confirmed cases of 13-year-old young women with mesothelioma in the United States and abroad.
  4. All Mesothelioma Victims Worked Directly with Asbestos
    Not only are those who worked directly with asbestos-containing products at risk for developing mesothelioma; family members’ secondary exposure puts them at risk as well.
  5. Those Who Worked around Asbestos Knew the Risks
    Until the truth came out in the 1970s, manufacturers hid the dangers of asbestos-containing products from the public and even from those who worked with these products daily.

Read more about these myths and learn six more. You can also sign our online petition to help ban asbestos now.


Georgia Demolition Company Fined for Asbestos Removal Violations

The Thompson Building Wrecking Company in Augusta, GA is facing fines of more than $63,000 for suspected asbestos removal violations that occurred during the demolition of a vacant school in Grovetown, GA.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Thompson Building Wrecking for two violations, according to a January 15, 2014 article in Augusta Chronicle. The first, three-part violation alleges the company exposed employees to asbestos-containing materials, failed to perform required airborne monitoring, and failed to mark off areas where asbestos was being removed. OSHA fined
Thompson $14,700 for these violations.

The second violation, as detailed in the citation, is for “willfully” failing to ensure the asbestos-containing materials were properly handled to minimize employee exposure, and resulted in an additional proposed $49,000 fine for Thompson Building Wrecking.

Owner Hiram Thompson is challenging the allegations, saying that the citations are the result of the OSHA inspector’s inexperience and lack of knowledge about asbestos removal procedures. While OSHA recently offered to reduce the fines, Thompson says he expects to have the fines dismissed outright.

“We’re a 52-year-old company and we’ve never had an OSHA violation in our 52 years,” Thompson said in the Augusta Chronicle article. “All our people were trained and worked within the specifications of asbestos abatement.”

It was commonplace for buildings constructed during the 1940s to contain asbestos. No one seems to be questioning whether or not the vacant school did contain asbestos. The point of contention is whether or not asbestos-removal practices mandated by OSHA to protect the health of workers were adequately and appropriately followed.


OSHA Updates Asbestos Fact Sheet

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the division of the U.S. Department of Labor that establishes protocols and procedures to ensure worker safety, has created an updated fact sheet detailing the hazards of asbestos and the rights of workers at risk of coming in contact with this deadly mineral.

OSHA created its asbestos fact sheet for employees and employers alike. It is intended to be an educational and informative resource to protect everyone from aggressive diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, an incurable cancer that is directly linked to asbestos exposure.

The fact sheet includes such information such as:

  • What is the hazard?
  • Where is the hazard?
  • Standards of protection
  • Permissible exposure limits
  • Workplace assessment
  • Monitoring for compliance

The existence of this fact sheet, as well as OSHA’s need to update it, speaks to the ongoing challenge of protecting the public from the hazards of asbestos. It is not uncommon — even today — to find names of prominent corporations splashed across news headlines for asbestos exposure violations.

Any employee who suspects asbestos-handling violations at their workplace should feel empowered to contact OSHA confidentially at 1-800-321-OSHA. Calls placed by many anonymous concerned workers have triggered on-site inspections that revealed serious asbestos-handling violations.

The OSHA Asbestos Fact Sheet lists workers’ rights, including:

  • The right to working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
  • The right to receive information and training on OSHA standards at their workplace and asbestos hazard prevention.
  • The right to review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • The right to get copies of test results that identify and measure hazards.
  • The right to file a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA’s rules.
  • The right to exercise their rights under the law without retaliation or discrimination.

The OSHA fact sheet on asbestos can be found here.


Ohio Company Cited for Improper Handling of Asbestos

The South Point Biomass Generation Plant in South Point, Ohio, has been issued a notice of violation for improper handling of asbestos, according to Herald-Dispatch.com, an online news site.

The citation was issued by the Portsmouth Local Air Agency, which oversees air quality issues on behalf of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The agency received a complaint last fall from a private citizen who revealed that Biomass employees were coming in contact with asbestos fibers through the course of demolition work being done on the third floor of the building.

An on-site inspection on October 22, 2013, found what later analysis confirmed to be friable, asbestos-containing materials throughout the building, according to the news report.

When asbestos is in a “friable,” or easily crumbled, state, it can be deadly. The microscopic asbestos fibers can become airborne, where they can be inhaled or ingested and lodge in the lungs or stomach and cause serious illness such as mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer.

Once the presence of asbestos in the building was confirmed, the notice of violation was issued.

The notice lists several violations, according to the Herald-Dispatch.com, including Biomass’ failure to notify the appropriate agency prior to commencing demolition work in a building containing asbestos, failure to remove the asbestos from the building prior to demolition, and improper storage of asbestos-containing materials.

According to the notice of violation, “It was observed that the contractor was not using water to control dust from the mechanical demolition activities. The contractor was observed demolishing/scrapping in the power house building at the South Point Generation Biomass facility without using water spray to control visible emissions being created by the demolition activities.”

Two buildings next to the power plant building had already been demolished and removed. While it is quite possible that the buildings also contained asbestos, there is now no way of knowing for sure.

Cindy Charles, director of the Portsmouth Local Air Agency, was unable to comment further, as it is an ongoing investigation, and the Herald-Dispatch.com was unable to reach Biomass owner Mark Harris for comment.


Hawaii Company Faces Fines for Asbestos Violations

Asbestos is a health danger even in an idyllic setting like Hawaii.

Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) is proposing to fine Hale Mahaolu more than $155,000 for failing to protect workers and the public from the risk of asbestos exposure.

Hale Mahaolu is a nonprofit corporation that owns and manages affordable housing for elders and families. According to DLIR’s Occupational Safety and Health Division, the company’s managers knew that units at the Lahaina Surf Complex in Maui contained asbestos. Licensed asbestos abatement contractors had been hired to do work there in the past. But between January and June 2013, the company allowed non-licensed contractors as well as its own employees to perform construction work at the complex that brought them into contact with asbestos.

Air quality was not monitored during the construction, and neither internal nor contracting workers were notified of the presence of asbestos.

“Hale Mahaolu sacrificed worker and public safety through the deliberate neglect of safe asbestos handling fundamentals. This exposure could and should have been prevented,” said DLIR Director Dwight Takamine in a statement.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once widely used in building materials and consumer products. It provided effective insulation and fire resistance. However, studies have since shown that asbestos is a cancer-causing substance. Although the use of asbestos has diminished since the 1970s, asbestos-containing materials are commonly found in older buildings and pose a potential health danger to workers.

Asbestos-containing materials may release microscopic fibers into the air if disturbed or damaged during construction. Inhalation of the fibers can lead to devastating diseases such as mesothelioma, a rare and fatal cancer that affects the thin linings of the lungs.

The state cited Hale Mahaolu for two “willful” violations: one for failing to monitor air quality during work with materials containing asbestos, and the other for its failure to inform contractors of the asbestos. Hale Mahaolu was also cited for a “serious” violation because it failed to train its own employees on safety precautions while working with materials that contain asbestos.

Under Hawaii law, a willful violation is committed with “intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety.” A serious violation is found when “there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known about.”

Hale Mahaolu has contested the state’s citations.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and later diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Contact Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation.


Make This Your Resolution: Ban Asbestos

There’s always time to make a meaningful resolution. So as the new year gets rolling, why not make a resolution in 2014 to do something that can help yourself and others in the long run? This can be the year that you join the fight to ban asbestos.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral once prized for its strength and ability to resist heat, fire, and chemicals. Asbestos fibers were included in many products to make them more durable and fireproof. Asbestos was also used as an insulating material in many buildings – including homes and schools – in the United States.

Today we know that this “miracle mineral” is not what it seemed. Asbestos is now classified as a cancer-causing substance by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Studies have found that exposure to asbestos increases the risk of mesothelioma, a rare and fatal cancer, as well as other serious diseases.

Despite the dangers of asbestos, the U.S. has not banned this toxic substance even though asbestos bans exist in more than 50 other countries.

Here’s where you come in: Make it your 2014 resolution to help ban asbestos now. Some ways that you can do this include:

Contact Congress: Write a letter to your U.S. Congressman/Congresswoman or U.S. Senator urging them to ban asbestos-containing products.

Get Social: Keep current with the latest updates on this effort by connecting with Ban Asbestos Now! on Facebook and following us on Twitter.

Asbestos is a dangerous substance that should be banned before it can claim more victims. You can make a difference in 2014 by pushing for a ban on asbestos.


Ohio Man Gets Jail Time for Illegal Asbestos Dumping

A federal judge handed out a one-year jail sentence to an Ohio man who pleaded guilty to illegally disposing of asbestos.

John J. Mayer, 52, was sentenced last month by U.S. District Court Judge James Carr. According to the Toledo Blade, Mayer pleaded guilty last July to charges that he violated the federal Clean Air Act.

“I’m sorry for doing the wrong thing, not just because I got caught, but because it was the wrong thing,” Mayer told the court during his sentencing. Mayer admitted that in 2010, he and workers in his employ removed scrap metal from a former manufacturing plant and in the process filled 82 bags with insulation that contained asbestos.

Several of the bags were found dumped in various neighborhoods in Toledo, Ohio.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was very useful for insulating and fireproofing buildings but is now known to be toxic to humans. It has been largely phased out of U.S. construction since the 1970s, after health officials and the public became aware of its dangers. If inhaled, asbestos fibers can lead to serious diseases such as mesothelioma, a rare and fatal cancer.

Because asbestos-containing materials are still present in thousands of public and private buildings in this country, strict state and federal regulations for its handling and disposal are enforced to protect the public from exposure to asbestos.

According to the Blade, Judge Carr pointed out during the sentencing that Toledo has many older buildings that contain asbestos and emphasized the need for enforcing the laws regarding proper disposal of this toxic substance. “It’s a serious offense, and it’s something that when the government successfully prosecutes someone that the public becomes aware of that and hopefully it deters similar conduct,”  said the judge.

Prosecutor Gene Crawford pointed out that Mayer chose disadvantaged neighborhoods in which to dump the contaminated waste, declaring, “They don’t deserve this.”

In addition to serving the year-long jail sentence, Mayer will pay a fine of $2,000.

A co-defendant, Timothy Bayes, 32, is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 27, 2014, according to the Blade.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Contact Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation


Asbestos-laden Colorado Eyesore to be Demolished

Residents and business owners of the Havana district of Aurora, Colorado, are relieved that an eyesore known as the Fanfare building is finally coming down. Built as a shopping center in the 1960s, the property has sat abandoned and neglected for more than 20 years. It looks like “a soccer ball sliced in half sitting on concrete,” according to the Denver Post.

But the problems with the Fanfare building are more serious than its appearance – the exterior of the dilapidated structure contains asbestos.

The building’s new owner, the city of Aurora’s Urban Renewal Authority (AURA) had long hoped to buy the Fanfare site and redevelop it as part of neighborhood revitalization efforts. The discovery of asbestos in the building, however, slowed the process.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral once widely added to building materials and consumer products to add strength and fire resistance. Although its uses were limited by the federal government during the 1970s, asbestos-containing materials are still present in millions of older buildings. Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause devastating diseases such as mesothelioma, a fatal cancer that attacks the linings of the body’s major organs.

When the surfaces of asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged, microscopic fibers of asbestos are released into the air. Without appropriate safety precautions, demolition of the Fanfare site could be hazardous, putting workers and nearby residents at risk of asbestos exposure.

The presence of asbestos increased the purchase price of the building from $2.75 million to $4 million, since the city opted to buy the land “development ready,” according to the Post. This means that the previous owner must demolish the building and safely remove all toxic materials before the city will take possession of it.

Asbestos abatement and demolition of the Fanfare building are expected to begin in the next few weeks, and the city will then solicit proposals for new development.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and later diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Contact Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation.


Holiday Decorations Stored in the Attic? Watch for Asbestos

Many people venture into their attics at this time of year to pull out treasured family Christmas ornaments and decorations. Unfortunately, in some older homes this innocent holiday activity has the potential to expose parents and children alike to the dangers of asbestos.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was used for decades in building materials and other products due to its durability and ability to resist fire. However, studies have linked asbestos to serious diseases such as mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer. There are 3,200 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed annually in the United States.

Before the health hazards of asbestos were widely understood, an estimated 35 million buildings in the U.S.—including many homes built in the nation’s snowbelt—were insulated with Zonolite. This brand of insulation was made with a mineral called vermiculite that sometimes contained asbestos, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

There is no level of asbestos exposure that is considered safe. So the EPA advises homeowners not to store boxes or other items in an attic insulated with vermiculite. Without professional testing, there is just no telling if the dust contains asbestos fibers. If asbestos dust is on boxes of holiday decorations that are moved into living areas, the tiny fibers could become airborne and be inhaled by anyone in the home. Making trips in and out of the attic with the boxes could also expose you or loved ones to this toxic substance.

Enjoy the festive season but make sure to protect your family and yourself from exposure to asbestos: Consider leaving those old ornaments and decorations in the attic.