Labor Day Reflections

The Labor Day holiday is well known as a symbolic end to the summer season, when Americans take a well-deserved break to spend time with friends and family.  But there is more to the story than beach barbeques, fireworks displays, and street parades.   I want to take a moment to reflect on the meaning of this American holiday.  Labor Day is also a day for us to recognize the contributions and achievements of America’s workers.   This is a special holiday, which celebrates the men and women who work so hard to make our country a great place.

 Workers At Risk

For much of the twentieth century, the American workplace was often filled with a hidden hazard — the hazard of asbestos.   Asbestos was widely used at jobsites throughout most of the twentieth century.  Well known for its durability and versatility, asbestos was sold to the public as the ideal industrial material.  Workers were not told that asbestos was also a toxic and dangerous carcinogen, which can cause mesothelioma and other diseases decades after exposure.  Many American workers were put at risk for mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other diseases as a result of asbestos exposure on the job

I have been a mesothelioma lawyer for the past thirty-four years.  I have represented workers who were exposed to asbestos on the job and developed mesothelioma through no fault of their own.  I met my first mesothelioma client in 1978:  a retired electrician who was exposed to asbestos at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.  I have since represented thousands of other clients who were unknowingly exposed at mills, power plants, oil refineries, construction sites, military bases, and automotive shops.   I have also represented the wives and children of asbestos workers who were exposed to asbestos that these men brought home on their clothes after a hard day’s work.

 Honoring the Sacrifices of American Workers

My clients have made extreme sacrifices for our country, and for that, I am sincerely grateful.  Their hard work and dedication to their jobs have resulted in the durable products, homes, and buildings that we all rely on today.  And let’s not fail to acknowledge the military veterans, whose job duties entailed the fight for our country’s freedom.  I wish that these invaluable contributions did not come at the expense of my clients’ health, and too often, their lives.

On this Labor Day, I salute all American workers past and present.  These are truly our unsung heroes, whose contributions have molded this country into what it is today.   I am proud and honored to have been able to achieve full and fair compensation for so many workers and their families in asbestos claims over the past 34 years.

Mesothelioma and the Occult Exposure

In my thirty-three years as a mesothelioma lawyer, I have learned to investigate and identify those responsible for my clients’ asbestos exposure.  Of all the exposures to asbestos, the occult – or unknown – is perhaps the most difficult to identify.  Known as the Fifth Wave of exposure, it is one of the most prevalent stories told today by the newly diagnosed mesothelioma patient.

Uncovering Each Client’s History of Asbestos Exposure

Malignant mesothelioma is a “signal tumor” for asbestos exposure.  Asbestos exposure is the main cause of malignant mesothelioma, and the vast majority of the cases can be linked to a known occupational exposure.  However, in some cases, patients who have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma cannot recall where they have been exposed to asbestos – or they do not know that they were exposed to asbestos at all.

There is a very good reason for these patients’ lack of awareness.  Some exposures took place twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, and have been forgotten.  Other exposures were so minimal or took place in such unique settings or unusual circumstances that the patient is totally unaware of them.  Many of these exposures took place in childhood.

Asbestos Exposure Occurs in Many Different Settings

It is important for mesothelioma patients and their families to know that asbestos is found in many different products and exposures occur in many different settings.  Some of these may be familiar to most people; others are not so well-known.

Gaskets; sprayed-on fireproofing; fire blankets; plastic fillers; asphalt and vinyl felts; papers and adhesives; flooring and roofing materials; filters; putties, caulks, and cements; acoustical and decorative plaster; joint compound; ceiling and floor tiles; drywall and paints; surfacing and reinforcement materials; textiles; electrical wiring; and water supply lines – all of these are examples of products that may contain asbestos.

Asbestos is also present in friction products.  The asbestos in brake-linings and clutch pads is hazardous not only to mechanics working in garages, but also to the “weekend mechanic” who works on his or her own cars or trucks.

Other occupational exposures are not so well known:  bakers, jewelers, rubber workers, paper mill workers, teachers, custodians, laborers, and maintenance workers.

The “Secondary Exposures”

In addition to posing a hazard to those who are working directly with asbestos products, asbestos is also a danger to those who are merely in the vicinity – to “bystanders” and others who often unknowingly come into contact with asbestos dust. These are sometimes called the “secondary exposures.”  Asbestos fibers become airborne, and very small fibers can stay in the air for long periods.  There are many reports in the literature of mesothelioma arising from neighborhood and residential exposures – those who live near mines, shipyard, construction sites or factories where asbestos is in use or where demolition activities are taking place.

There is also the matter of “asbestos in place.”  Asbestos is most hazardous when it is friable.  It is present in many older buildings and it is released during repair work and during demolition and renovation.

Entire families have been exposed when workers brought home dusty clothes.  It is well known that women have contracted mesothelioma from washing their husband’s work clothes.  However, it is not so well known that asbestos dust brought into the home can remain there in carpets, drapes, and furnishings, where family members live and children play.

It is the invisible dust that poses the most danger.

A Brief or Low Level Exposure Is Enough

Even a brief or low level of exposure to asbestos is enough to cause malignant mesothelioma.  These types of exposure are very real, and they can have disastrous consequences.  There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, but you cannot recall ever having been exposed to asbestos – do not be so certain.  It is your attorney’s work to investigate all possibilities, and our team is prepared to do just that.  Although this can be a frustrating and sometimes daunting part of our work, in most cases this is not an unsolvable mystery.  In almost all cases of mesothelioma, there has been asbestos exposure in the patient’s past.

For more information on hidden asbestos exposures, please visit our Mesothelioma Knowledge Center.

Reliving History Aboard the SS American Victory

During my long career as a mesothelioma lawyer, I’ve had the opportunity to represent hundreds of Navy veterans and shipyard workers.   This work has given me a profound appreciation for our country’s historic Navy vessels and victory ships.  I am constantly amazed by the craftsmanship and skill of the men and women who designed, built, and maintained these magnificent machines.

A few months ago, I had the chance to experience a little taste of life aboard a World War II era ship, the SS American Victory.   The SS American Victory was launched in 1945 and served our country for many years, from World War II through Vietnam.  She is one of only four fully operational 1945 World War II ships in the country.

A Link to the Past

The trip was described appropriately as a “Relive History Cruise”.  We sailed from her homeport in Tampa, FL into Tampa Bay before returning to dock at the American Victory Ship Mariners Museum.  This was a true opportunity to relive history!  There were re-enactors from the Florida Historical Preservation Group, memorial and prayer ceremonies, World War II airplane flyovers, and a host of other activities which brought the WWII era back to life.

Learning Through Experience

For me, the trip on the SS American Victory was valuable on both a personal and professional level.  Through my 30 years of advocating for Navy clients, I have developed an extensive library of ship drawings and plans.  I’ve also visited numerous museum ships to educate myself about the engineering spaces and equipment on various classes of Navy vessels.  However, there is no substitute for seeing a historic vessel in operation.

The steam boilers and turbines on the SS American Victory were incredible!   There is nothing like the noise, heat, vibration and energy of the steam plant when the ship is underway.   Seeing these systems in action gave me a whole new appreciation for the harsh working conditions the sailors endured on those WWII-era ships.  I also had the chance to observe the ships’ valves and pumps in actual operation, much as they would have looked during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.   All of this gives me a greater depth of knowledge that I can use to advocate for my clients in Navy and maritime cases.

Unseen Dangers

My cruise on the SS American Victory also served as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the members of her crew, and all the men and women who served on Navy vessels and victory ships.   None of these ships could have accomplished their vital missions without their crews and we should never forget their contributions and sacrifices for us.

Sadly, many of our Navy veterans are still paying the price for their service to this very day.  Asbestos was used widely aboard navy ships and submarines for many years.  Although the dangers and hazards of breathing asbestos is fairly well known today by the general public, such was not the case for the Navy seamen and shipyard workers who built, repaired and maintained these ships many decades ago. Because there is a delay or latency between the time someone is exposed to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma and other lung disease, most seamen were not aware of the dangers of their asbestos exposure.  For more information about the risks to U.S. Navy veterans, visit our website page on Help for Veterans.

Preserving the Past and Protecting the Legacy

Museum ships like the SS American Victory provide me with valuable information and insight that I can use to help my clients obtain the compensation they deserve.  More than that, these museums preserve a priceless historical legacy which belongs to all American.  I encourage everyone to support not only the American Victory Ship Mariners Memorial Museum, but all the historical museum ships located across the country.

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.

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.