Asbestos Awareness Week: The Facts

Today marks the last day of Asbestos Awareness Week.  However, the effect educating oneself and sharing information with loved ones will have a lasting impact. Share these facts with your loved ones, friends, and community to bring awareness to the dangers of asbestos.

Question #1: What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring microscopic mineral that can be a health hazard when it becomes friable or brittle. When asbestos fibers are disturbed and become airborne, they can be very easily inhaled. When asbestos is inhaled, its sharp and rigid fibers stick in the soft tissue of the respiratory system and can lead to the development of mesothelioma and other forms of cancer.

Question #2: Where is asbestos found?

Asbestos is a common name for six naturally occurring silicate minerals. Because of its highly desirable commercial uses, asbestos was  used in many schools, homes, commercial and industrial buildings, large manufacturing parts for ships and water sewage plants etc. With asbestos being used in more than 3,000 consumer products it is still frequently found in kitchen tiles, ceiling tiles, outside house siding, and piping.

Question #3: Who is at risk for exposure to asbestos?

Asbestos exposure is widely known to be a risk only to the workers on a job site where asbestos was once used or is currently being used, like construction sites, industrial buildings with ceiling and floor tiles, building shingles, as well as ships who used asbestos spare parts to change large gaskets. However, secondhand exposure can occur to anyone when workers who come into contact with asbestos carry the fibers home on their clothing. Military veterans, teachers working in older school buildings, people who renovate older homes, firefighters, people living near asbestos manufacturing facilities and many others are also at risk for exposure to asbestos.

Question #4: Diseases associated with exposure to asbestos fibers

Over a period of time, these fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation, which can affect breathing and lead to serious health problems such as:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Asbestosis
  • Lung cancer

If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, you should inform your physician and ask if they would recommend any pulmonary function monitoring or further screening for asbestos disease.

The law firm of Galiher DeRobertis & Waxman honors the memory of the countless lives lost to asbestos disease. We are proud to represent clients with mesothelioma and their families. We fight hard to win compensation, justice, and accountability from the corporations that manufactured and sold this known carcinogen.

Asbestos Removal and Disposal: A Continuing Hazard

Most Americans now know that asbestos is a dangerous mineral which can cause respiratory diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.  For many years, however, asbestos was used in a wide variety of products such as drywall, insulation, cement, tile, electrical cable, brake pads and even cooking utensils, to name just a few.   Many companies continued to use asbestos in their products well into the 1980s and 90s, even after they knew that it was hazardous.

Today, we can still find asbestos in older homes, schools, mills, factories, and other commercial buildings.  If it is not handled properly, this asbestos may present a health risk to our communities.

This is a matter of special concern to me as a mesothelioma lawyer.  For more than 30 years, I have represented workers and families who were exposed to asbestos through industrial use in the past.  It is critical that we take steps to make sure that people are not exposed to asbestos in the future.

Dealing With Asbestos Today

Although asbestos was a cheap material to use, it isn’t necessarily cheap to remove.  Asbestos inspections and removal can be timely and expensive.  For example, some large buildings that contain high levels of asbestos cannot simply be demolished; asbestos-containing materials must be removed piece by piece.

Recently, I read some disturbing stories which brought my attention to a rarely discussed step in asbestos removal – disposal.  Asbestos today is often classified as hazardous waste, and not all facilities will accept asbestos-containing materials.  As a result, people may find it easier to illegally dump asbestos in public areas.  This can pose a serious problem for those in the surrounding area who may just see a harmless pile of debris.  In addition, those who may be ultimately called upon to remove the debris may also be at risk of inhaling asbestos fibers.

Encouraging Safe Asbestos Removal and Disposal

It is so important that we create accessible and affordable channels to make safe asbestos removal practical.  We cannot make the process so difficult or expensive that people are encouraged to take shortcuts when dealing with this very serious problem.  Moreover, we cannot afford to have accurate inspections, thorough removal, and then fail in safely disposing harmful asbestos materials.  We must succeed in all stages, from the initial inspection for asbestos to its disposal, it is important that the diligence continues throughout the entire process to ensure the safety of those who may have contact with these materials.

 Society’s Position Toward Asbestos

As a mesothelioma lawyer, I have been helping asbestos victims and their families for over three decades, and I have seen a giant shift in attitude of our society when it comes to asbestos.  Through litigation efforts, we have successfully deterred asbestos manufacturers from continuing to produce asbestos-containing products, and we have raised awareness of asbestos in our communities.

Today, we see asbestos-related problems being treated with the gravity they require.  Together, we have managed to change some very harmful actions and attitudes, but the remnants of those decisions are still present today.  Therefore, we must continue to be mindful and thorough in removing asbestos from our environment to help mitigate potential asbestos-related illnesses in the future.

Prevalence of Asbestos & Asbestos Disease in US Pacific Islands

It is well known that for decades asbestos was used worldwide in an overwhelming number of construction and industrial applications, as well as in many consumer products.  Unfortunately, exposure to asbestos can cause debilitating lung diseases, including mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the lungs for which there is presently no cure.  Accordingly many organizations have studied where and how asbestos was previously used in an effort to estimate the prevalence of asbestos related diseases.

Asbestos Use and Exposure in US Pacific Islands

I recently read in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) investigated the past use and potential asbestos exposure in the US Pacific Islands which consists of American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the Republic of Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.  The WHO’s Regional Framework for Action for Occupational Health 2011-2015 calls for a collaborative effort in the US Pacific Islands to effectively eliminate the threat of asbestos in today’s society.  Understanding where and how asbestos exposures have occurred is key to this effort.

The data search focused on the environmental presence of asbestos, where potential exposures occur, and related diseases.  Although the data is limited, it is clear that the potential for asbestos exposure in the US Pacific Islands is significantly higher than previously thought for a number of reasons.

Asbestos Use at Shipbuilding Facilities

One of the primary sources of asbestos exposure stems from the fact that shipbuilding facilities were located on some of these islands.  As we know from our own experience in the United States, prior to the mid 1970’s, asbestos was heavily used in the maintenance and repair of ships.  The islands of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands served as active military ports during World War II.  Guam maintained active shipbuilding facilities even after World War II.  Both military and civilian workers at these sites were likely exposed to asbestos.

Data Underestimates Asbestos Disease

Professionals involved with the study concluded that the existing data probably underestimates the actual prevalence of asbestos diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.  This under reporting is a result of substantial gaps in the information regarding asbestos exposure, consumption and disease in the US Pacific Islands.  However, there is sufficient evidence that confirms asbestos is and has been present on these islands for decades.  If this gap in asbestos related data continues, it will hinder the efforts to regulate and reduce the health effects of asbestos.

Asbestos Exposure Cause of Mesothelioma

Asbestos exposure is the cause of mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by the inhalation asbestos fibers.  Asbestos insulation was heavily used in the construction, repair and maintenance of US Navy vessels. Many asbestos-containing materials were also used in the construction of military and civilian buildings in the 20th century, as asbestos was an excellent fire proofing and insulating material.  As these buildings begin to deteriorate, need repair or are destroyed, the risk of asbestos exposure still remains prevalent in today’s society, including in the US Pacific Islands.

Mesothelioma victims typically do not begin to show symptoms of the disease until 10 to 40 years after the initial exposure.  This latency period in the disease may be hindering countries such as Asia, India and the US Pacific Island in keeping accurate records of asbestos related disease and exposure.  Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma are typically in their 50’s or 60’s and only start to show symptoms in the later stages of the disease.  Sadly, there is currently no cure for this devastating disease.  For this reason prevention and awareness of asbestos is imperative in these countries.

Asbestos Awareness & Prevention

The Galiher Law Firm has been representing victims of mesothelioma for over 30 years.  I have been a strong advocate of the awareness and prevention of this deadly disease.  One of the keys to someday eliminating this terrible disease is prevention of asbestos exposure.  My law firm and I commend the World Health Organization for all of its efforts to raise awareness to prevent and eliminate asbestos from many countries.


Multimedia Presentations Change Patients’ Attitudes Toward Clinical Trials

I recently read about a new study conducted by researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.  This study, published in the Journal of Oncology, focused on changing patients’ attitudes towards clinical trials which are studies conducted with patients to test the safety and effectiveness of new drugs and innovative treatments.  The study revealed that cancer patients’ perceptions and attitudes regarding clinical trials tend to be negative.  The study’s lead author, Paul B. Jacobsen, Ph.D., one of the senior members at Moffitt, noted

“Clinical trials are critical to the development of more effective cancer treatments, however, clinical trials are hampered by low rates of patient participation.”

Changing Attitudes about Clinical Trials

The study was conducted to find ways to change this negative mind-set and to increase the willingness of patients to participate in various clinical trials.  Researchers decided to try using a multimedia approach which involved many different forms of audio and visual materials to change patients’ behavior towards participation in clinical trials.  The researchers discovered that this new multimedia approach had a greater effect on changing patients’ attitudes than the standard literature about clinical trials which is typically provided.

The study took 472 cancer patients who had never been asked to participate in clinical trials before and divided them into 2 groups.  One group was exposed to a multimedia presentation of materials regarding clinical trials.  The other group was provided existing pamphlets, brochures, and paper work describing clinical trials.  The study revealed the group who had received the multimedia presentation showed an increased willingness and enthusiasm about participating in clinical trials compared to the group that was simply provided with the standard printed materials.

Although this study only reached a small group of cancer patients, the new multimedia approach has the potential to have a tremendous impact on cancer patients’ perception of clinical trials in the future.  I have seen firsthand the benefits that can come from clinical trials research and am happy to see that researchers are finding ways to better educate patients’ about clinical trials so they seriously consider participating.

Clinical Trials Are Critical to Finding a Cure

I cannot stress enough the importance of clinical trials in someday finding a cure for many kinds of cancer, including mesothelioma.  Many of these studies have led to new treatments and drugs that have increased life expectancy and quality of life for many cancer and mesothelioma patients.

For example, the chemotherapy drugs Cisplatin and Gemcitabine were tested in collaboration with one another in a clinical trial.  The results of this clinical trial showed that their effectiveness in treating patients with mesothelioma was much greater when they were used together.  This new treatment is now available to mesothelioma patients as a viable treatment for their cancer.

There are hundreds of clinical trials beginning every day, but with low patient participation the true effects of these groundbreaking therapies, treatments and drugs may never be fully determined.  The results of this study demonstrate effective ways to increase the number of patients willing to participate in such clinical trials.

My Clients and Clinical Trials

I strongly urge all of my clients to talk to their doctors and medical professionals about participating in clinical trials.  This is a very important decision, but also an individual one that needs to be made by patients in consultation with their treating doctors.

The results of clinical trials help to improve the outlook for all of those suffering from devastating diseases like mesothelioma.  I am proud of all of my clients who have participated in clinical trials.  I strongly recommend if you or a loved one is suffering from mesothelioma that you discuss your options for participation in clinical trials with your doctors.

For more information on clinical trials please visit our webpage on clinical trials.