Thursday, April 25, 2013

Canada Drops Opposition to Chrysotile Addition to List of Controlled Hazardous Substances

The United Nation’s list of Controlled Hazardous Substances is maintained by an international treaty made up of representatives from around the world known as the Rotterdam Convention. The Convention’s purpose is to set standards of protocol for the regulation of global trade of hazardous materials in an effort to protect human health and the environment.

Chrysotile has been on the list of considered additions to the list of Controlled Hazardous Substances since the Convention’s first meeting in 2004. However, in order for chrysotile to be added, the vote needs to be unanimous among the represented countries. The addition of chrysotile has been strongly opposed by countries with large stakes in the asbestos industry including Brazil, Canada, China, India, Kazakhstan and Russia. Inclusion does not imply that the substance has been banned, but that its import, export and use is severely regulated.

India withdrew its objection to the addition of chrysotile at the 2011 Rotterdam Convention, but Canada, which was exporting thousands of tons of chrysotile asbestos to other countries, objected on the basis that it was a propaganda ploy by groups wishing to benefit from the trade of replacement products such as cellulose and ceramic.

That same year the last operating asbestos mine in Canada ceased operations and the Canadian government committed to lend the mine $58 million to restart production. But in 2012, the newly elected government announced it would not honor the commitment. The new Ministry also announced that it would no longer oppose the addition of chrysotile to the list of Controlled Hazardous Substances.

The sixth meeting of the Rotterdam Convention runs from April 28 to May 10, 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland. While it is unlikely that other countries in opposition will follow suit, Canada’s change in stance is an important step toward placing of public health above corporate gains.

Chrysotile asbestos is a fibrous magnesium silicate mineral that is the most abundant variety of asbestos found on earth. The largest known natural deposits of chrysotile are located in Quebec, Canada and the Ural Mountains in Russia. Chrysotile is most commonly exported to developing countries which have failed to implement proper safety regulations to protect citizens.

Due to the unyielding of vested corporate interests, the danger of chrysotile asbestos continues to remain a contentious topic. However, in February 2013, the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer called for an end to all uses of asbestos reiterating all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic and can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Report Notes Unusual Side Effects from Alimta Chemotherapy

A report in the March 2013 edition of the medical journal, Lung Cancer, details two unusual side effects seen in a 77 year-old man who was receiving Alimta chemotherapy in the course of maintenance therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma (“MPM”). One week after the patient received his seventeenth cycle of Alimta, he began suffering from neutropenic enteritis (“NE”), a potentially life-threatening condition associated with inflammation of the cecum or bowels which was treated with antibiotics. Another side effect experienced by the same patient was severe hyperpigmentation, which is the discoloration or darkening of the skin all over the patient’s body.

There are prior reports of two patients receiving Alimta in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer who developed NE, but this is the first documented case of an MPM patient exhibiting NE. Hyperpigmentation has been documented in two previous patients receiving Alimta. But this is the first case where both symptoms/side effects were exhibited in the same patient.

Since its approval by the FDA in 2004, pemetrexed, brand name Alimta, has been routinely prescribed in combination with cisplatin or carboplatin for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. To this day, Alimta/cisplatin remains the only FDA approved chemotherapy drug combination for the treatment of mesothelioma.

Even though it was ultimately approved, the clinical trials of Alimta/cisplatin showed only a 41% partial response rate and an increased median survival rate of only 2.8 months compared to patients treated with cisplatin alone. Furthermore, in its approval letter, the FDA noted that it’s approval of Alimta/cisplatin was limited to use with patients who are not eligible for surgery.”

More recent published trial data reveals that a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy is almost always associated with the longest survival times. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin Urges Americans to Learn the Dangers of Asbestos

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin issued a statement urging Americans to learn and take precautions against the dangers of asbestos as part of Asbestos Awareness Week which took place April 1 – April 7.

The World Health Organization estimates that over 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related disease--10,000 of those deaths occurring in the US. Almost all of us are exposed to very low levels of asbestos in the air, but most will never develop an asbestos-related disease unless directly exposed to higher concentrations.

Asbestos is banned in over 50 countries throughout the world including most of Europe and all of Australia. Asbestos has not yet been banned in the United States, most of South America, China and Asia. Mining for asbestos is banned in the US, but asbestos is still imported and used in a wide range of products.

These days, most exposures to asbestos occur from renovations performed on buildings and homes built before the 1980s, automotive work and clean-up from natural disasters. Asbestos fibers are invisible and most people are unaware that it is present in the air they are breathing.

The following is a list of “usual suspects” for containing asbestos:

  • Roofing materials
  • Popcorn ceilings
  • Drywall and drywall mud
  • Vinyl and linoleum floor tiles
  • Cementious or transite pipe
  • Wall or ceiling insulation
  • Textured paint and patching compounds used on wall and ceilings
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves and fireplaces
  • Hot water and steam pipe insulation
  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets
  • Automotive brakes and clutches

This informative video shows in detail what to look out for in the home if you suspect asbestos is present.

If you suspect asbestos is present, do not disturb it, and contact an accredited asbestos abatement professional who can let you know whether it is safely contained or if it presents a danger to you and your family.

For more information on asbestos please visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Huffington Post Debunks Claims of Fraud by Supporters of the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act”

Currently before the House of Representatives is House Resolution 982, the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2013”. Supporters of the FACT Act claim that their goal is to protect the rights of victims affected by asbestos exposure. They assert that the bill is necessary to address what they claim is “rampant fraud” in claims filed with asbestos bankruptcy trusts.

Huffington Post business writer Brian Young has examined the issue in two recent articles published on We believe that Mr. Young has effectively revealed how corporate interests have levied false accusations against an all-too-familiar scapegoat, asbestos plaintiffs’ attorneys, in order to pass legislation that will hurt, not help, the asbestos cancer victims they claim their bill is designed to help.

In his article, “Shedding a Tear for the Insurance Industry?, Mr. Young reveals that the FACT Act  is supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC, a “non-profit” group of legislators, businesses and foundations,  is funded by corporate interests including Exxon Mobil and the Koch brothers, among others. The group pushes for legislation that supports lowering minimum wage, fights clean-energy and clean-air initiatives, and strongly opposes government involvement in the regulation of corporate activities.

In a follow-up article, Mr. Young responds to a Wall Street Journal Article which seems to take the side of the bill’s supporters. Young states, “The bill is just the next step in the insurance industry's coordinated campaign to make this debate about lawyers vs. poor, beleaguered corporations.” The truth is that there are more asbestos claims being filed not due to fraud, but due to the widespread use of this extremely dangerous mineral which these corporations knowingly exposed workers and by extension their families to. The reason these people are entitled to any compensation at all is proof to the fact that these companies had complete disregard for the health and safety of others and placed profits above human lives.”

“These companies cry that too many new claims are being filed so fraud must be occurring, although the WSJ’s article specifically identified only two isolated incidents of improper claims being submitted to asbestos bankruptcy trusts out of the 850,000 the WSJ examined that have been filed over the last 30 years.”

"ALEC and their allies in government and the media can cry their crocodile tears for the poor, downtrodden insurance companies, but I won't shed a tear for the multimillion dollar industry. Like most people, I will send my sympathies to the families of people whose loved ones suffered and died terrible deaths -- and I will cheer the lawyers who defend them when they get their well-deserved day in court."

Well said Mr. Young!!