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.

SAMPLE CTA

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

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.


Mesothelioma Trust Fund | Congressional Interest in Asbestos

If you read the last article we posted about asbestos trust funds, you’ll remember the clever hammock analogy used to describe what they are. If you didn’t read it, you can do so here.

Now, the Government Accountability Office (GOA) – a sort of congressional watchdog group that keeps an eye on government spending of taxpayer dollars – has published a report that reveals the somewhat secretive system of asbestos trust fund payouts.

The report looked at 52 asbestos trust funds that have paid out over 3,000,000 claims for a total of about $17.5 billion. The investigation was prompted by the fact that these asbestos trust funds don’t publish details about their activities, yet do make general information available. Attorneys representing asbestos companies or defendants — in asbestos lawsuits filed by mesothelioma victims – raised a stink about the secrecy of the details and implored congress to get involved. The investigation proceeded to determine if, in fact, these asbestos trust funds were keeping details secret.

The investigation revealed only “one trust’s financial report contained claimant names and amounts paid to these individuals.”

The defendants in asbestos lawsuits have been the critics of asbestos trust fund secrecy. They allege that asbestos lawyers and mesothelioma law firms oversee the operation of these asbestos trust funds to prevent them from revealing how much their clients have been paid. This, they further allege, allows some asbestos attorneys to file claims with multiple trusts that could contradict each other.

The GAO report stated that 98% of asbestos trust fund claims go through what is called an expedited review process, which requires a claim form and some documentation that asbestos exposure happened. Perhaps the lawyers representing the asbestos companies want mesothelioma victims to have to go through much more than that to get the compensation they deserve?

According to the report, 65 percent of asbestos trust funds treat claims information as confidential and privileged. Defendants and insurers want the details to be available to them so they can reduce the value of the claims awarded to mesothelioma victims in court.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and suspect it’s due to asbestos exposure, contact a mesothelioma attorney at Sokolove Law for a free consultation. Also, write to your local congressman about keeping the details of asbestos trust fund settlements confidential and out of the hands of the asbestos companies.


Asbestos Death Estimates Shared at Australian Inquiry

Asbestos is expected to kill up to 40,000 Australians in the next 20 years, a grim statistic shared during a recent government inquiry into proposed legislation to eradicate this public health menace.

As reported in The Mercury, a number of groups with asbestos expertise provided evidence about the carcinogenic material during a Senate inquiry into the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency Bill of 2013. The bill aims to create a new national strategic plan for asbestos eradication, awareness, and handling in Australia.

Asbestos, a fibrous mineral widely used in building and construction materials, can cause a number of deadly diseases when inhaled or swallowed. Even short exposures can lead to asbestosis, asbestos lung cancer, and malignant mesothelioma, an aggressive and incurable asbestos-caused cancer.

The inquiry into the bill was held in Hobart, the capital of the Australian state of Tasmania. According to The Mercury, David Clement of the asbestos awareness advocacy group Asbestoswise warned officials that growing numbers of younger Australians are being diagnosed with mesothelioma due to exposures from home renovations. Approximately one in three homes constructed between 1945 and 1987 in Australia was built with asbestos products.

Clement told government officials that efforts to spread awareness about the dangers of asbestos through popular home renovations shows had fallen flat.

“The story we have with home renovations shows is that we have been banging on their doors for years trying to get on,” said Clement.

Another asbestos activist told the inquiry that 12 people die in Tasmania every year from an asbestos-related condition, and said it should be a legal requirement that sellers disclose whether houses have asbestos-containing materials. “We have a poison in our community that’s killing people and it’s going to keep on killing people until we do something,” Simon Crocker of Asbestos Free Tasmania told The Mercury.

In the United States, asbestos also remains a major cause for concern. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that in a six-year period (1999-2005), a total of 18,068 people died from malignant mesothelioma.

If you have been exposed to asbestos and developed an asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Call the experienced asbestos attorneys at Sokolove Law for a free case evaluation today.


So-Called “Transparency Act” Not Transparent

Recently, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee reintroduced the deceptively named “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2013.” The only thing transparent about this bill is that it’s part of another anti-accountability campaign intended to grant further protection to those who caused asbestos exposure and widespread suffering. Why should these corporations be held to a lower legal standard than their victims?

The objective of the bill is to delay, unnecessarily, the legal processes that deliver justice to asbestos victims. The industry is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. The plain truth is that this industry will unfairly hide behind FACT and wait for victims to die of asbestos-related diseases before they can receive justice. For more than eight decades, the dangers of asbestos exposure have been clear. Despite the known hazards of asbestos, the industry shielded the facts and continued to put workers and their families in harm’s way by exposing them to the toxic substance. The industry’s success is evident, as asbestos-related diseases kill approximately 10,000 Americans each year.

In its simplicity, the bill does nothing to ban the use of asbestos: Instead, it triggers more barriers to expedited asbestos case processing for victims. For instance, FACT would call for private asbestos bankruptcy trusts to release exhaustive individual information about asbestos victims. This motion alone would delay asbestos cases because it would enable asbestos defendants to overwhelm the trusts with information requests. It would take money put aside for victims of asbestos and use it to pay for teams of personnel to meet these reporting requirements.

All these measures would be taken because there is a baseless allegation of fraud. The asbestos industry’s own studies acknowledge there is no such widespread fraud. Even without this legislation, corporations can acquire all pertinent information to defend themselves against fraud.

Congress’ priority is to protect Americans, not those companies that knowingly exposed workers, families, and consumers to asbestos. With Congress set to vote on the Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, we urge the public to contact its congressmen and congresswomen to oppose the bill. If you would like to join the cause and participate in the petition, please visit //ban.


Quebec Prepares for Post-Mining Future

Canada’s asbestos era really does appear to be over, as a key asbestos mining region plans for a different economic base.

The mayor of Thetford Mines, Quebec, is calling on the government to help his municipality transition to a “post-asbestos” economy. Thetford Mines was founded in 1876 after large asbestos deposits were found in the area. According to a story in Montreal’s The Gazette, about 100 local miners were thrown out of work when the nearby Lac d’amiante (Lake Asbestos) mine in St-Joseph-de-Coleraine closed in 2011. The mayor believes the Quebec government has a “duty” to move quickly to support the region.

Recently, the government promised to commit $50 million (in Canadian currency) to “support economic diversification efforts” in Thetford Mines and the nearby community of Asbestos. The sum was originally earmarked towards a loan to fund the reopening of Canada’s last major asbestos mine, the Winnipeg Free Press reported in March. But the mine will remain shuttered.

Nevertheless, Canada has yet to enact a complete ban on the mineral — although asbestos causes serious illnesses, such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma cancer. Similarly, the United States has yet to join the more than 50 nations who have already enacted a complete ban on asbestos. As this blog noted, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency came close to implementing a ban in 1989, but the industry frustrated the attempt with a court challenge. 

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related condition, you may be entitled to financial compensation. To learn more about your legal options, please contact us for a free case evaluation. Mesothelioma attorneys have helped victims recover lost wages and medical costs.


Petition Urges Canadian Lawmakers to Pass Mandatory Asbestos Registry

A new online petition is urging the Saskatchewan legislature to approve a mandatory online registry of asbestos-containing public buildings in the province.

“Howard’s Law” (the bill 604 petition is here) was named in honor of asbestos advocate Howard Willems, who succumbed to mesothelioma cancer last November. Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.

According to Canadian-based CKOM, the goal of Howard’s Law is to protect construction workers, emergency responders and others from coming into contact with asbestos. Exposure to this toxic mineral can cause serious and fatal illnesses, including mesothelioma.

The bill was introduced last November by the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party and is currently awaiting a vote by Members of the Legislative Assembly.

“That was Howard’s wish, just that people have that knowledge and that the proper people deal with it,” said Jennifer Miller, Vice-President of Health Education at the Lung Association of Saskatchewan. According to Miller, the bill is popular among tradespeople and emergency responders. “Those are the people who need to know [about asbestos] when they’re going into a building, either to do work … or running into a burning building, they need to know,” she said.

According to Canadian-based CTV News, Howard Willems worked as a building inspector for 31 years. He claims there were no warnings on the buildings he inspected. Had he known asbestos was present, he would have taken steps to protect himself. Willems co-founded the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and had been lobbying for a mandatory asbestos registry when he died.

While a voluntary asbestos registry was adopted last year, it does not go far enough to protect workers, according to Willems’ stepson Jesse Todd. The voluntary registry does not include all of the necessary information to identify where the asbestos is and whether or not it is crumbling.

Disturbed asbestos fibers can become airborne and easily inhaled. “For people, especially construction workers going into these buildings, it’s important to know where the asbestos is located,” said Todd. “If they just start punching holes into these buildings, who knows what they are going to release into the air.”

As in Canada, there is no national asbestos registry system in place in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency once sponsored a National Asbestos Registry System to store data on the compliance history of firms doing demolition or renovation work. However, the current EPA website states the registry page is unavailable. It also said: “State and local agencies are no longer required to submit data uploads for inclusion in NARS.”

If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos, and have developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related condition as a result, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact the experienced mesothelioma attorneys at Sokolove Law to get a free case evaluation today.


Proposed Federal Bill Would Bypass Strict Asbestos Rules

A New York state congressman recently introduced legislation to soften asbestos safety standards in condemned buildings — an act which now is causing concern among safety experts.

The so-called “Common Sense Waiver Act” is the first proposal of the year from U.S. Rep. William Owens, D-Plattsburgh. The bill seeks to relieve localities of the financial burdens of performing complete asbestos abatements on buildings that are in imminent danger of collapsing, according to the Watertown Daily Times.

Owens argues that such stringent precautions are unneeded, saying, “What we hope people will do is go in, appropriately wrap the asbestos and take it to an asbestos disposal site. That could be done by a noncertified person. That’s really the goal.”

Full asbestos abatements on these types of building are a requirement of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency, not too surprisingly, isn’t showing support for the proposal. According to an EPA press officer, one agency administrator told Owens in a letter: “Asbestos is a cancer-causing substance that must be handled properly to protect people’s health.”

Some asbestos abatement specialists worry that the proposal favors cost-cutting over protecting the health and safety of the public and workers. “In my view you can’t discount the view that it can negatively impact people’s health,” says a safety director at a New York contracting company. The firm handles asbestos abatements. The safety director says, “I think too often we put dollars and cents over people’s health. Asbestos is a known carcinogen.You could be exposing the workers and the public to asbestos.”

Asbestos exposure is linked to a range of serious and deadly diseases, including malignant mesothelioma. This is a terminal cancer that is nearly always caused by inhaling asbestos fibers.

Have you or a loved one developed mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos in the workplace? Call us today for a free legal consultation — learn if you may be eligible to file a mesothelioma lawsuit.


Asbestos World Watch 30 Dec 2008

In WHYALLA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, AUSTRALIA, on November 13, 2008, the new office of the Whyalla Asbestos Victims group was opened in ABC Village. Surrounded by much fanfare, the opening of the new office was ushered in by a speech from the Deputy Mayor, Eddie Hughes, and an appearance by Councillor Merton Hodge. The future looks bright for the new location designed to remain at its current location for at least the next three years. As of the opening, the Whayalla Asbestos Victims group had been serving over 100 victims of asbestos in the area, but now with a more centralized permanent structure to invite people in, the group hopes to aid more silent sufferers around Whyalla. The purpose of the group is to give asbestos sufferers a chance to meet with others and to get moral support for their fight against the asbestos disease ravaging their body and soul. In LONDON, a High Court decision ruled that insurers had to pay from the time of asbestos exposure and not from the time of the diagnosis. This resulted in millions of pounds being owed by insurers to thousands of Britons who have asbestos related diseases.

The difference in time between exposure and the manifestation of symptoms of an asbestos related disease can be decades, but once a diagnosis is made, the patient’s life expectancy drops to between one and two years, with the average sufferer living just 14 months after diagnosis. The November 2008 High Court ruling overturns a Court of Appeals decision in 2006 which called for insurers to begin paying after a diagnosis was made rather than when the person was exposed. This decision was made on the grounds that their coverage plans from 40 years in the past was no longer in effect. Prior to the Court of Appeals case in 2006, the insurers had always paid from the time of exposure onward. This High Court ruling returns the insurers’ liability to what it had been before the Court of Appeals case in 2006, and now thousands of victims of asbestos and their families can claim the insurance money they are due without the long process through the courts they have had to take between 2006 and 2008.


Prisoners Put in Harm’s Way through Asbestos Exposure

Eighteen people at the McNeil Island state prison in Washington State were forced by supervisors to remove asbestos-contaminated tile without taking the proper safety precautions or wearing protective equipment. Washington state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) fined the prison $28,400 in July 2008 for the tile removal, which occurred in 2007. The officials with the prison argued that they did not believe that the Puget Sound Clean Air Act applied to the tile removal at the prison. The two prison supervisors in charge of the project were both certified for asbestos removal, but they did not follow the proper procedures to reduce the amount of asbestos dust released. Water should have been used to prevent dust from floating into the air, but this step did not occur during the tile removal. Consequently, the eight prisoners, eight Department of Corrections employees, and a flooring contractor’s crew were exposed to asbestos dust that rose into the air during the tile removal.

Inhalation of asbestos dust and fibers has been linked to several forms of lung cancer in humans, as well as a scarring of the lungs known as asbestosis . Many of the cancers caused by asbestos are rapidly fatal once they are diagnosed, usually decades after exposure. The risk for diseases to those who worked on the tile removal project at the prison was minimal according to the L&I report. The report noted that since there was a low amount of asbestos in the tiles and the glue holding them down, and the exposure was brief, complications from the asbestos exposure are not anticipated. The Department of Corrections (DOC) did not argue with the grounds of the L&I fine, but they did seek an appeal to reduce the severity of some of the charges and to allow some of the fine to be used to increase asbestos training and awareness for DOC supervisors and maintenance workers. Such training could prevent a similar situation from occurring again in the future.