World News Roundup: Asbestos Cases Outside the US

In Northern Ireland, women who developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure related to washing their husband’s asbestos-contaminated clothing are entitled to compensation under a bill introduced recently. The bill is still under consideration by the legislative body of Northern Ireland. Around 40 to 50 people die each year of mesothelioma in Northern Ireland, but compensation is limited to those who can demonstrate an occupational link. In addition to women, the bill will grant compensation to children who played around asbestos-contaminated clothes, as well as individuals who lived near asbestos-producing or using factories.

A New Jersey state court has ruled that fifteen citizens of Spain can sue Owens-Illinois in New Jersey. The fifteen men claim that they suffer from health problems related to asbestos exposure they received while working aboard US Navy and US Coast Guard ships docked in Rota and Cadiz in Spain. The men worked aboard the ships between 1950 and 1998, and state that they were exposed to asbestos dust and fibers while working with high-temperature insulation made by Owens-Illinois. An earlier court ruling had decreed that the case should be heard in Spain, rather than New Jersey. Judge Anthony Parrillo said that Owens-Illinois had not shown that Spain would be an adequate forum for the men’s dispute. Owens-Illinois counsel John Garde said that he was puzzled by the ruling, stating that, “I find it difficult to understand how an appellate division court can countenance keeping the cases in New Jersey when there is absolutely no relation to New Jersey. There is barely any relationship to the United States of America. He indicated that Owens-Illinois may appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

In the Northern Territory of Australia, inspectors have found asbestos in public housing and public buildings in numerous remote communities. Concerns about asbestos exposure were first raised in August of 2007 by trades people working in the communities, and an investigation was mounted by Australia’s Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. The investigation has found asbestos in 45 of 50 communities tested, with 23 more scheduled for inspection this summer. The department said that testing indicated there was no immediate health risk from the asbestos contamination. Some 26,000 people live in the 73 communities being evaluated. Mesothelioma deaths in Queensland, Australia, have jumped 30 percent in the last ten years, the fastest rate of increase in Australia.

Experts believe that the current Australian death toll from mesothelioma of about 3000 per year is set to double over the next decade, and attribute the increase to a rise in home renovations being done by amateur homeowners rather than contractors trained in the proper handling of asbestos contamination. Asbestos-related lung cancer rates are also rising rapidly.