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 Awareness Week: Senate Resolution honors Asbestos victims

A small community in Libby, Montana has been recognized by the U.S. Senate who passed a “Resolution”  for the hundreds that have died from the rampant death and illness caused from asbestos related exposure at the W.R. Grace and Co. mine. The resolution highlights the need to call upon the surgeon general to “warn and educate people about the public health issue of asbestos exposure, which may be hazardous to their health.”

The W.R. Grace & Co. mine operated from 1963 and then shut down in 1990 after large quantities of asbestos fibers were found in vermiculite. Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined from raw ore deposits in a method very similar to asbestos mining. During operation the mine employed up to 200 people and produced up to 200,000 tons of vermiculite a year, however, more than 3,000 people were affected from asbestos exposure who lived nearby.

The Libby tragedy was originally uncovered when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote a series of articles about Libby in 1999, titled “Uncivil Action: A Town Left to Die.” Following the release of the series, Libby received national attention to address the serious problem. A clean-up strategy began slowly identifying the sources of contamination as well as a thorough investigation of homes and businesses in the area. As of 2010, 1,460 businesses and residences have removed more than 900,000 cubic yards of contaminated material. The town has suffered from thousands of cases of asbestos and around 400 people have died from mesothelioma cancer to date. As for the town of Libby, even though the job is considered finished it will still remain contaminated for years.

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 Concerns Go Beyond the Sinking of Old Navy Ships

While reading the Wall Street Journal, I came across an interesting article about the U.S. Navy’s practice of using old warships as target practice and sinking them off the coasts of the United States.  For almost two years now there has been a moratorium on the Navy’s sinking exercises (SINKEX) because of the concerns of environmental groups as well as cost concerns.  But, after a review of these issues, the Navy decided to lift the moratorium on the SINKEX program and this summer undertook plans to sink three inactive vessels, the USS Kilauea, USS Niagara Falls and USS Concord, off the coast of Hawai‘i.

Many older US Navy vessels still contain hazardous materials such as PCB’s and asbestos.  For years conservation groups have raised concerns about the impact of these toxins on the environment.  These groups believe these inactive warships should be sent to ship breaking facilities and not sunk in the ocean.  Based on my experience, I know that older Navy vessels contained literally tons of asbestos which is part of the basis for these concerns.

Tons of Asbestos Products Used on Navy Ships

Naval vessels constructed during World War II and into the 1970’s were heavily insulated with asbestos.  On steam-driven Navy ships, asbestos insulation was used on hot piping and equipment to ensure that the equipment operated properly and that the seamen were not exposed to the extremely hot surfaces or subjected to intense heat.  The types of asbestos products included insulating pads, pipe covering, tape, thread, cloth, gaskets, packing, and cement.  Nearly every piece of machinery that needed to be insulated would have been insulated with asbestos materials.


Many of the asbestos products used in the construction and maintenance of these massive warships still remain aboard them today.  Removal of the asbestos and other hazardous materials aboard is a very costly procedure which was demonstrated when the USS Oriskany (CV-34) was sunk off the coast of Florida in 2006 to be used as an artificial reef.  In order to sink the USS Oriskany, the Environment Protection Agency required that the vessel to be completely cleaned up which cost around $20 million.

Concerns About Asbestos Are Not Only Environmental

The concerns about asbestos on Navy ships are not just an environmental concern.  Shipyard workers and Navy crewmen who served and worked aboard these vessels were exposed to the dangers of asbestos fibers on a daily basis as they constructed, repaired, maintained and lived upon these warships.  The crewmen and shipyard workers who served and worked aboard these ships are at a greater risk of developing mesothelioma, a rare and fatal lung cancer, and other asbestos related diseases due to their exposure to asbestos.

Our Clients Are Navy Veterans and Shipyard Workers

I have had the privilege to represent hundreds of U.S. Navy veterans and shipyard workers who sadly were diagnosed with mesothelioma because of their exposure to asbestos.  Since 1978 I have been fighting for the rights of U.S. Navy veterans and shipyard workers who were unnecessarily exposed to this hazardous material because the companies that sold these products failed to warn of the dangers that they themselves knew about.  To read more about how we have helped our clients recover for the injuries they and their families have suffered, please visit our website article and read about “Our results.”

If you or someone you love served in the U.S. Navy or worked aboard U.S. Navy vessels and has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important that all of you are aware of your legal rights.  Please contact us so we can help.


A Day of Hope & Remembrance at the International Mesothelioma Program

My client Hisae came to my office recently to share her experience at the International Mesothelioma Program’s “A Day of Hope & Remembrance” at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.  The International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) holds a special memorial service every year on the first Saturday in June. Families gather to honor their loved ones whose mesothelioma was treated at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Hisae had traveled to Boston in remembrance of her husband Barney.   I could tell that for Hisae the trip brought back many memories of all that  Barney had endured when he was diagnosed with his mesothelioma.  They were so hopeful for a cure when they traveled to Boston for Barney’s cutting-edge surgery, an extrapleural pneumonectomy combined with application of heated chemotherapy drugs to the chest cavity at the open surgical site.  Dr. Sugarbaker refers to this procedure as the in vivo model. Sitting for hours in her seat on the plane, Hisae kept thinking about Barney’s strength and bravery to make the trips back and forth to Boston when he was so gravely ill.

The House Supports Mesothelioma Patients and Families

Upon her arrival in Boston for the memorial service, Hisae headed straight for “The Meso House” as she calls it. This is where she stayed while Barney was hospitalized. She was happy to reunite with the housing coordinator, who warmly welcomed her as she always had in the past.  She observed some couples at The House and could empathize with them. Hisae and Barney stayed at The House together when her husband was out of the hospital but still needed follow-up care.  They were comforted by the support of the staff and other families there. The House is conveniently located across the street from Brigham and Women’s Hospital at 48 Francis Street.

Deep Appreciation for the Work of Dr. Sugarbaker

The International Mesothelioma Program is led by founder and director, Dr. David Sugarbaker, who is also the chief of thoracic surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the home of the IMP.

Hisae, like so many of my clients, feels deep gratitude and appreciation for the medical care her husband received through the International Mesothelioma Program and the pioneering work of Dr. David Sugarbaker.  She reconnected with some of her husband’s treatment team at the hospital.  Dr. Sugarbaker was at the memorial service.   Hisae was touched to see that he became emotional during the service.  She knows that he does everything possible to prolong the life of all of his mesothelioma patients, including her husband.

The IMP Offers Hope For Mesothelioma Treatment

Hisae participated in the lovely memorial service by taking her turn to place a flower in the vase at the front of the room while photographs of the mesothelioma patients scrolled on the wall.  Hisae was heartened to hear a woman speak at the service about her own mesothelioma surgery in 2005 and her wonderful story of survival and hope.

Without realizing it, the couple days in Boston brought some closure for Hisae to a still sad and painful chapter of her life.   I’ve represented so many mesothelioma clients over the years, and they all have compelling and touching stories like Hisae’s.  I commend Hisae for being willing to share her experience. My hope is that one day mesothelioma treatment centers like the International Mesothelioma Program will have many more successful outcomes for people diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Remembering a Pioneer in Medical Research

May 20, 2012, marked the twentieth anniversary of the passing of Dr. Irving J. Selikoff, one of the greatest advocates for public health that this country has ever known.  As I reflected upon his passing, I wanted to share some of my observations about Dr. Selikoff’s legacy.  I write this article to honor Dr. Selikoff’s memory and pay tribute to this exceptional man.

Dr. Selikoff was a medical doctor and epidemiologist who played a pioneering role in documenting and publicizing the relationship between asbestos and mesothelioma.  When I filed my first asbestos case in 1978, it was Dr. Selikoff’s research that helped me prove that asbestos was the cause of my client’s mesothelioma.

I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Selikoff in person several times.  He was a wonderful and inspiring man.  Although he faced ridicule, personal attacks, and even threats from the asbestos industry, he never backed down.  He was always positive and extremely motivated about his mission to protect workers and their families.


By exposing the hazards of asbestos, Dr. Selikoff helped to save the lives of thousands of American workers.  His work continues to have a profound impact on millions of people throughout the United States and the world.

Dr. Irving Selikoff’s Early Career

Dr. Selikoff began his career as a medical doctor in suburban New Jersey.  When he began treating members of the local Asbestos Workers Union, Dr. Selikoff noticed a surprising and disturbing trend.  Asbestos workers were being diagnosed with lung disease and cancer at a significantly higher rate than his other patients.  Moreover, he found several cases of pleural mesothelioma among asbestos workers every year – an incredibly rare disease that was almost unheard of in the general population.

Dr. Selikoff knew that something was wrong.  He began a larger epidemiological study to measure the incidence of cancer and lung disease among workers who were exposed to asbestos, including shipyard workers.   In 1963, these findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  His conclusion:  asbestos causes cancer.

1964 Conference on the Biological Effects of Asbestos

Although Dr. Selikoff was not the first to verify the connection between asbestos and cancer, he played a key role in publicizing the danger to workers.  The results of his epidemiological research were so alarming that Dr. Selikoff knew he needed to act.

Asbestos was widely used by American industry in the 1950s and 60s.  The public health implications were grave.  Dr. Selikoff was determined to make sure that the dangers of asbestos would not be ignored.

In 1964, Dr. Selikoff organized a conference on the “Biological Effects of Asbestos” through the New York Academy of Sciences.  The conference was a turning point in public and scientific awareness of the hazards of asbestos.   The discussions were far-reaching and even included presentations showing that housewives could develop mesothelioma from exposure to their husbands’ work clothes.

Dr. Selikoff’s Legacy

Dr. Selikoff continued to work on behalf of asbestos workers throughout his career.  The asbestos industry and its lawyers criticized and questioned Dr. Selikoff’s work.  But he was tenacious; he never backed down or gave up.  Dr. Selikoff continued his fight because he believed that the public deserved to know the truth about asbestos, and that industry and government needed to take action to protect workers and their families.

Dr. Selikoff eventually became director of Mount Sinai Hospital’s Environmental and Occupational Health Division in New York.  The division was later renamed the “Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine.”

Today, medical researchers at Mount Sinai are focused on finding new and better ways to treat mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.  The Mount Sinai Thoracic Surgery division is at the cutting edge of mesothelioma treatment and care.    While Dr. Selikoff may be gone, his great legacy lives on.

For more information on the latest mesothelioma research, visit our Mesothelioma Knowledge Center.

Hawai‘i Mesothelioma Researcher Makes Exciting New Discoveries

As an attorney who represents clients with mesothelioma, I have been privileged to visit the research laboratories at the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center on several occasions.  I have met with the incredible staff and gifted researchers who are doing groundbreaking work to further our understanding of mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure.  I am always impressed by these world-class researchers and by the students at the Cancer Center.

Haining Yang, Ph.D.


One such scientist is Dr. Haining Yang, Ph.D.  I recently read about some exciting new discoveries by Dr. Yang and about the research she was doing.  Dr. Yang is someone we should continue to follow closely as her important work may someday translate into cutting-edge treatments for mesothelioma victims.  We are very fortunate to have Dr. Yang on the team of talented researchers and staff at the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center.

Haining Yang is an assistant professor at the University of Hawai‘i Cancer.  Her work focuses on treatment and early detection strategies for asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.  Dr. Yang received her Ph.D., at Shandong University in China.  Among other things, Dr. Yang’s work focuses on early detection of mesothelioma using biomarkers, and she is exploring the effects of new chemotherapy drugs.


Dr. Yang Helps Lead The Charge Against Mesothelioma


Dr. Yang has made some very exciting discoveries that may translate into better detection and treatment methods for mesothelioma patients around the world.  For example, Dr. Yang discovered that TNF-alpha, a protein produced by the body during the inflammatory response which can be induced by asbestos, leads to a mediated survival mechanism that helps to protect damaged mesothelial cells from dying.  This then enables these damaged cells to divide and transform into what eventually becomes mesothelioma.


Dr. Yang more recently discovered the importance of HMGB1, an inflammatory mediator, in the growth and survival of a mesothelioma tumor.  When exposed to asbestos, mesothelial cells release HMGB1, which initiates the inflammatory process that is related to mesothelioma development.  It has been discovered that after the healthy cells are transformed, they are still “addicted” to the HMGB1, which is now believed to aid in the growth and development of a mesothelioma tumor.

New Discoveries May Bring New Approaches For Treatment


Mesothelioma is a very aggressive type of cancer.  Every year, thousands of people are affected by this disease.  Understanding why the cancer develops helps us to find new approaches for early detection, treatment and prevention of this deadly cancer.


Dr. Yang’s research brings us closer to understanding the cancer’s behavior, and what nurtures its growth and survival.  Traditionally, the aim has been to kill and remove deadly mesothelioma cells and tumors, but finding ways to prevent the cancer’s growth and survival may prove to be a very effective approach.


Many of the clients I have represented over the years have undergone surgery and chemotherapy treatments at some of the finest medical facilities in the country (“Outstanding Mesothelioma Treatment Facilities For Patients to Evaluate” article).  Unfortunately, surgical procedures are invasive and require a lot of strength, time and energy to recover from.  Chemotherapy drugs also have side effects that can leave patients feeling tired or ill, and can kill healthy as well as unhealthy cells and tissue.  Finding new, less-invasive ways of treating cancer would be a giant step in improving the quality of life for mesothelioma patients around the world, and I am proud that the University of Hawai‘i continues to be such an important hub for mesothelioma research.

For more information on asbestos and mesothelioma, including information on the latest treatment options, visit our Mesothelioma Knowledge Center.

Nuclear Submarine USS Miami Catches Fire

There are many nuclear- powered Los Angeles class submarines home ported in my own backyard at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard –the USS Bremerton SSN 698, the USS Jacksonville SSN 699, the USS Chicago SSN 721, and a number of others.  So I read with interest a report from Portsmouth Naval Shipyard located in Kittery, Miane, regarding a fire on board one of these submarines.

The Los Angeles-class of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines forms the backbone of the United States submarine fleet.  There are presently 42 on active duty making this class the most numerous nuclear-powered submarine class in the world.  A fire on one of these nuclear submarines is a serious matter.

Fire Caused By Vacuum Cleaner

USS Miami SSN-755

On May 23, 2012 the USS Miami SSN 755 caught fire.  The cause of the fire looks to be a vacuum cleaner on board.  The submarine was in the process of a 20 month overhaul at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.  The vacuum cleaner was being used by shipyard workers to clean up at the end of each work day.  Investigators are still unsure what caused the vacuum to catch fire.  The fire caused damage to the torpedo room, the crew’s quarters, and command control.  Luckily the nuclear propulsion plant had already been shut down for the overhaul.

Early estimates put the cost of the damage in the range of $400 million.  The Navy has said they intend to repair this Los Angeles Class Sub instead of starting from scratch on a new boat.  If the Navy goes forward with the repairs on the USS Miami, it will remain in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard until completed.

Nuclear Submarines and Asbestos

Although the nuclear submarines built today are asbestos free, significant amounts of asbestos insulating products were used on submarines from World War II up until the 1980’s, including nuclear submarines.  As a result, thousands of submariners and shipyard workers were exposed to this deadly carcinogen.  While at sea, asbestos insulation, as well as asbestos gaskets and packing, would often be disturbed during on-board repairs and maintenance.  This would release millions of tiny asbestos fibers into the small confined spaces of the submarines. Unfortunately, submariners aboard were exposed to the dangers of asbestos while they ate, slept, relaxed, and worked.

Likewise shipyard workers who constructed, repaired, and maintained submarines were exposed to asbestos products as they carried out their work.  Shipyard workers and submariners who worked on and served aboard U.S. Navy submarines are at risk of developing Mesothelioma and other serious asbestos related diseases.

For more information on asbestos exposure and shipyard workers and Navy veterans, please visit our webpage on asbestos exposure at jobsites.

Our Experience

Through our 33 years of practicing mesothelioma law, we have had the honor to represent hundreds of shipyard workers and U.S. Navy crewmen including those who served and worked aboard submarines.  Sadly, due to the very confined spaces of these boats the crews and shipyard workers had no choice but to inhale the deadly asbestos dust.  The companies who sold these asbestos products were well aware of its deadly potential and yet they continued to sell it without warning to its users.

For over 30 years the Galiher Law Firm has been representing asbestos victims to ensure they receive compensation from these companies.  If you or a loved one worked or served aboard a U.S. Navy submarine, it is important to inform your doctor so your physician can monitor you closely for signs of asbestos-related disease.  If you have an asbestos-related injury as result of your service, please call us so we can help you and your family.