Friday, May 24, 2013

World Nations Deny Dangers of Chrysotile Asbestos

Seven nations won out against 143 others in the debate over whether chrysotile asbestos should be added to the United Nation’s Prior Informed Consent (PIC) list of hazardous substances in the Rotterdam Convention. India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe all objected to the addition at the sixth meeting of the Rotterdam Convention which took place April 28 – May 102013, in Geneva Switzerland. It comes as no surprise that the countries which objected to the listing are home to a booming asbestos industry. Russia alone mines an estimated 1,000,000 tons of asbestos annually and is the supplier for half of the world’s chrysotile production.

In September of 2012, Canada, which was the sole objector to the addition at the 2011 conference, announced it would no longer object to the listing. Russia, which had not yet been party to the convention, quickly filled Canada’s place. In November of 2012, Russia hosted  the “scientific” conference: “Chrysotile Asbestos: Risk Assessment and Management”, at which “scientists” presented studies showing that chrysotile is safe and presents no danger to human health. The consensus at that conference was that chrysotile shouldn’t even be included on the Rotterdam Convention’s ballot for addition to the PIC.

The Russian Chrysotile Association’s website (eerily mirroring Canada’s taxpayer-funded Chrysotile Institute which closed its doors in early 2012) states that chrysotile is safe, and the attempts worldwide to ban its use are aggressive ploys by asbestos replacement products manufacturers. There is even a comic which depicts the big, bad corporations of alternative products pitting war against the poor, beleaguered working man, the hero of the story is Super Chrysotile, of course.

What does come as a surprise is India’s objection. They had received a standing ovation at the 2011 convention when they withdrew their objection to the listing. In this article,  India’s own media expresses confusion as to why Indian representatives at the conference objected to the listing.

Thailand’s media also expressed frustration of their government’s handling of the asbestos issue in the article “Asbestos kills, that's for sure” published April 26, 2013 in the Bangkok Post. It reports that the Thai government approved a ban on asbestos in 2012, but the ban has not yet been implemented. This article regarding trade between Russia and Thailand sheds some light on the issue stating: “Russia has urged Thailand to think carefully about a proposed ban on asbestos imports because of concerns over the health and safety of consumers. Thailand and Russia have set up a working committee to consider the issue. Romanov expects it to come up with concrete solutions to allow asbestos imports to Thailand.”

New additions to the PIC list of hazardous substances include the insecticide Azinphos-methyl, two flame retardants, PentaBDE and OctaBDE, and a fabric protector PFOS. The only two substances under consideration which were not added are chrysotile asbestos and the herbicide paraquat, whose addition was opposed by Guatemala and India.

Paraquat is toxic to human beings and animals and according to the Centers for Disease Control, research has shown that it is linked to development of Parkinson's disease. Ingestion of 2 teaspoons of paraquat is enough to cause liver, lung, heart, and kidney failure and lead to death. It is already banned in more than 40 countries, including Switzerland, the main manufacturer of the formulation.

The convention’s objective is to promote accountability among nations and protect human health. Inclusion does not imply that a substance has been banned, just that its import, export and use is severely regulated requiring warning labels and the exchange of information regarding safe handling practices. Decisions are determined by consensus, but groups such as the Rotterdam Convention Alliance are working to change procedure so that decisions are decided by the majority, and cannot be hijacked by a few Industry funded outliers who place profits above human health. If corrupt industry officials are allowed to influence the decisions of the convention, it defeats the purpose of the convention itself.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Recent Study Reveals Treatment Factors Associated With Long Term Survival for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer which, like pleural mesothelioma, is caused by exposure to asbestos. Instead of attacking the pleura that surrounds the lung, this type of mesothelioma attacks the lining which surrounds the organs of the abdomen. Peritoneal mesothelioma is very rare, accounting for only approximately 500 of the 2,500 to 3,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed per year.

Prior studies have revealed that treatment utilizing cytoreductive surgery to remove all visible tumor in combination with intraoperative or perioperative high-dose regional chemotherapy to kill any remaining tumor cells offers the best prognosis and has become the standard of care in treating peritoneal mesothelioma.

In an effort to identify the factors that contribute to long term survival, an analysis of 211 cases of peritoneal mesothelioma from 1992 and 2010 was performed by doctors at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Patients treated with cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraoperative peritoneal chemotherapy showed median survival of 38.4 months, with 41% surviving at least 5 years, and 26% surviving to 10 years. The use of the chemotherapy agent Cisplatin resulted in prolonged survival in all patient groups over the use of mitomycin-C which in the past was the most common agent used.

Women tended to respond better to the treatment than men. Age and completeness of resection or tumor removal also contributed to the most favorable response. Ultimately, the stage of the disease played a key role in patients’ response to treatment.

Peritoneal mesothelioma tends to offer a better prognosis than pleural mesothelioma due to the location of the disease which is surgically more accessible, but if left untreated is just as aggressive as pleural mesothelioma. Patients exhibiting the longest survival rate had regular post treatment follow-up and additional treatment at the onset
of any recurrence of the disease.

Read the full abstract here.

Peritoneal patient profiles:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Hunt for A Cure: W&C responds to WSJ article

The Wall Street Journal, which is in the business of putting asbestos trial lawyers out business, contacted me over a year ago. They wanted to run an article about my donations to medical research.

As a journalist myself in college, it didn’t take long for me to figure out their angle. They wanted to show that somehow my practice of sponsoring medical research, as opposed to spending oodles on TV and Google ads, was “fishy” if not “rotten.”

The result of that year long quest appeared today in the crusty WSJ under the byline of reporter Dionne Searcey. The title: “Mesothelioma Doctors, Lawyers Hunt for Valuable Asbestos Cases.” 

Right away you get a feel for the slant. We are “hunters.”  Now, I’ve gotten to know Ms. Searcey fairly well and my guess is she didn’t write the headline.  Contrary to the splenetic anti-lawyer bias of the WSJ’s editorial board,  Ms. Searcey actually went the extra mile to check her facts, question her own biases, and listen to contrary points of view. To her credit, she even previewed with me the accuracy of the quotes she attributed to me and others.  In sum, she has shown a degree of professionalism I did not expect from her employer, and I respect her methods greatly.

But I wanted to clarify just a few points.

First, we wouldn't be in this mess if the asbestos industry hadn’t created it.  Nor would we be fussing about the ethics of sponsoring medical research if the asbestos industry itself had not steadfastly and stupidly refused to clean up their horrific mess.

Second, if the parties responsible for the asbestos cancer mess won’t clean it up, who will? The Federal government has not invested in medical research commensurate with the size of the problem, their responsibility (for Navy vets, meso is a “service connected disability) or their own fault. Meanwhile, the number of people diagnosed with meso is “too small” for Big Pharma to justify any serious investment. The labor unions are broke. If not the patients and their advocates, who will step up? 

Third, if money curries favor, from a strict profits and losses perspective, why hasn’t the asbestos industry donated to research?  A few years ago, Dr. Cameron was invited to speak to 600 asbestos defense lawyers, insurance adjusters and company reps.  He talked about the medical and ethical benefits of sponsoring research. How much did they pony up? Zero. Now, that’s “disgraceful.”

The asbestos industry is notorious for corrupting the medical and scientific literature with false and deceptive articles they paid for designed to prove to juries that asbestos is as benign as mother’s milk. If anyone knows how to curry favor with money, it’s the asbestos industry.

It simply boggles my mind that the industry, after 50 years of wasting tens of billions of dollars on phony research and medical mercenary “experts,” still has yet to see the economic benefits from finding a cure.  Put lawyers like me out of business! Save asbestos-tainted companies from bankruptcy! Spare millions of people agony, misery and death! It makes dollars and sense.

Fourth, the only “stakeholders” that really don’t want to see a cure for mesothelioma are the legions of “bill to kill” defense lawyers. They get paid by the hour. It’s in their economic interest to drag out tedious, life-sucking litigation, as the John Johnson case sadly but clearly demonstrates.

That said, over the past 25 years, I have met several honorable defense lawyers who agree with me that their clients should indeed invest in a cure.  They agree with me that they should find a way to resolve meritorious cases early before racking up thousands and thousands in legal fees. And they agree that it makes no sense at this late date for asbestos defendants to invest in crackpot “experts” to gin up junk science to bamboozle juries, when the money should instead be invested in cleaning up their horrific mess. 

We are quick to forgive in this country.  People, like corporations, make mistakes. What’s unforgivable is the perpetuation of that mistake by stubbornly refusing to own up to it.

Finally, maybe I’m wrong about the “benefits” of keeping meso patients alive. Unfortunately, as long as certain states limit or eliminate the damages available in wrongful death cases, then the bad guys will indeed have an economic incentive to hasten their victim’s demise.  It’s no secret that here in California the asbestos companies generally settle wrongful death claims for far, far less than they do for living claims.  The law encourages this wicked behavior.  In this dark and dusty light, it’s no wonder the bad guys don’t invest in a cure.

My firm’s motto has always been: “Asbestos Lawyers for Life.”  Yes, it’s in my firm’s interest to help my clients live long and prosper.  The day that in this great country we hold in contempt efforts to cure cancer but applaud and reward the cancer creators, well, that’s a day I’d rather put off, and I don’t think I’m alone.


Hunters for Justice and a Cure for Meso: The John Johnson "Fight Meso" Family, sponsors of the Dana Point Grand Prix

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Workers Memorial Day--Remember the Dead, Fight for the Living

In recognition of Workers Memorial Day 2013,  Worthington & Caron would like to acknowledge all of the working men and women who have been hurt, taken ill or have died in pursuit of their piece of the “American Dream”. This, of course, includes hundreds of thousands of workers who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis as a result of exposure to asbestos in the workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established on April 28, 1971 with the mission of assuring safe and healthful working conditions by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, outreach, education and assistance. The anniversary of this day has been designated Worker’s Memorial Day, a day to honor all men and women who have been injured or have lost their lives due to a workplace accident or exposure.

According to the World Health Organization approximately 125 million people in the world were exposed to asbestos at the workplace, and more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related disease. One in every three deaths from occupational cancer is estimated to be caused by asbestos.

Even though OSHA established regulations regarding the handling of asbestos in the early 1970s, many manufacturers continued using asbestos in their products for many years--in some cases decades later. The OSHA regulations proved to be of some effect in reducing exposures to existing asbestos that had been installed years earlier and could be marked and cordoned off at jobsites such as factories, refineries and power plants. However, the regulations proved to be less effective in limiting exposures to new products that were used by workers or by others in their presence at jobsites. As disease caused by asbestos typically doesn’t manifest until 20 to 50 or more years after exposure, it is anticipated that the incidence of asbestos disease will remain at its current rate for years to come.

Many believe that the conduct of asbestos companies from the 1930s through the 1980s is one of the worst examples of companies placing profits ahead of public safety in our nation’s history. Worker’s Memorial Day is a powerful reminder of the importance of worker health and the need to prevent this situation from ever occurring again.