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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query asbestos. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query asbestos. Sort by date Show all posts

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

US Surgeon General Alerts Americans to the Hazards of Asbestos Disease

The US Surgeon General issued an alert to Americans as to the hazards of asbestos disease, Dr. Regina Benjamin, on the occasion of National Asbestos Awareness Week 2013, has issued a statement alerting Americans to hazards of asbestos exposure.

The occupational exposure to asbestos remains a major health hazard to workers who are involved in the restoration, rehabilitation and repair of older buildings. Asbestos exposure causes latent medical conditions such as: asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a fatal malignancy. Asbestos is still not banned in the US.


During National Asbestos Awareness Week, April 1-7, I urge Americans to learn about the dangers of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs naturally in our environment; in rock and in soil.  Because of its fiber strength and heat resistance, asbestos has traditionally been used in a variety of building construction materials, as insulation and as a fire retardant.

Activity that disturbs asbestos causes small asbestos fibers to float in the air.  Inhaling these fibers leads to asbestos-related diseases.  Three of the major health effects associated with asbestos exposure are lung cancer; mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen and heart;  and asbestosis, a serious progressive, long-term, non-cancer disease of the lungs.

Anyone who disturbs asbestos is at risk.  However, it is of special concern for construction, insulation, and demolition workers, pipefitters, boilermakers and others who might disturb asbestos found in old buildings or equipment as part of their work.  The hazard is also very real to home handymen, first-responders, and community volunteers. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

A Complete Ban of Asbestos Urged

The following comment was submitted by Linda Reinstein, President/CEO, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) in response to the US EPA Proposed Rule to permit further use of asbestos in the US. EPA is developing a significant new use rule (SNUR) under section 5(a)(2) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for certain uses of asbestos that are no longer in use in the United States. Persons subject to the SNUR would be required to notify the EPA at least 90 days before commencing such manufacture or processing. The required notifications would initiate EPA's evaluation of the intended use within the applicable review period. Manufacture and processing for the significant new use would be unable to commence until EPA has conducted a review of the notice, made an appropriate determination on the notice, and taken such actions as are required in association with that determination.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

US Lawmakers Urged EPA to Investigate Talc Products

Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici today pressed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for answers following an alarming new Reuters report revealing that some everyday consumer products, including baby powders, may contain asbestos—a highly toxic chemical.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ban Asbestos: Rotterdam Conference Highjacked by "The Dirty 7"

Civil society groups attending the Rotterdam Convention conference in Geneva are expressing grave alarm that the Convention has been hijacked by the asbestos industry, which is determined to prevent the environmental and health protections of the Convention from being implemented.

For the fourth time, a handful of countries allied to the asbestos industry have refused to allow
chrysotile asbestos to be added to the Convention’s list of hazardous substances, even though the Convention’s expert scientific committee has repeatedly recommended that it be listed and even though it has been recognized that the listing of chrysotile asbestos meets all the criteria of the Convention. The committee’s conclusions are endorsed by all leading medical organisations and by the World Health Organisation.

“It is outrageous that seven countries – Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, India and Vietnam – are turning the Rotterdam Convention into a Convention that protects profits of the asbestos industry, instead of protecting human health and the environment,” said Kathleen Ruff, co-coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance.

“The Convention requires that countries practice responsible trade by obtaining prior informed consent before they export hazardous substances to another country,” said Laurie Kazan-Allen, coordinator of IBAS, UK. “But these seven countries are determined to practice irresponsible trade and to hide the hazards of chrysotile asbestos.”

Fernanda Giannasi, a labour inspector in Brazil, reports that, in her job, she daily sees products containing chrysotile asbestos entering her country without labels, and tells of the great many victims who develop cancers from asbestos exposure in her country. “Since these countries refuse to follow responsible trade information practices, it will force other countries to resort to other measures, such as a full ban on asbestos,” said Giannasi.

“Russia and Zimbabwe recently ratified the Convention and attended the Rotterdam Convention conference of the parties for the first time,” said Sugio Furuya of the Asia Ban Asbestos Network. “It seems that they ratified the Convention with the sole purpose of wrecking it in order to protect the profits of their national asbestos industry. This is shameful, cynical conduct on their part. They are ruthlessly destroying the Convention to achieve their aim.”

“If the Convention is not going to be implemented and become empty words on paper, then what is the point of having the Convention?” asked Emmanuel Odjam-Akumatey of Ecological Restorations, Ghana. “The credibility of the Convention, and all 152 countries who have ratified the Convention is a at stake.”

“These seven countries, allied to the asbestos industry, are demonstrating contempt for the right of countries to prior informed consent, which is the whole purpose of the Convention,” said Alessandro Pugno of the Association of Asbestos Victims Families, Casale, Italy. That is why we have once against brought one hundred people, representing asbestos victims organisations, in front of the UN headquarters in Geneva and presented to the president of the conference their letter, calling for chrysotile asbestos to be listed.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Asbestos: Strict Liability Imposed Against Product Manufacturers for Ordinary Product Life

The NJ Supreme Court decided an asbestos product liability case that mandates strict liability against manufacturers or distributors of products that contain asbestos-fiber. The court in granting strict liability for failure to adequately warn ultimate users during the ordinary life of the product of the dangers. The Court aligned NJ common law with the US Supreme Court, the NY Court of appeals and the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Monday, March 19, 2012

National Asbestos Awareness Week - April 1 to 7 2012

Max Baucus, U.S. Senator from Montana.Image via Wikipedia
US Senator Max Baucus (MT)

The US Senate has passed a resolution designating April 1- 7, 2012 as National Asbestos Awareness Week. Introduced by US Senator Max Baucus (MT), the mesure received US Senate approval the same day.

Co-Sponsors were:
Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] - 3/6/2012 
Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] - 3/6/2012 
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] - 3/6/2012 
Sen Isakson, Johnny [GA] - 3/6/2012 
Sen Murray, Patty [WA] - 3/6/2012 
Sen Reid, Harry [NV] - 3/6/2012 
Sen Tester, Jon [MT] - 3/6/2012



   A resolution (S. Res. 389) designating the first week of April 2012 as ``National Asbestos Awareness Week.''
   There being no objection, the Senate proceeded to consider the resolution.
   Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, the motions to reconsider be laid upon the table, with no intervening action or debate, and any statements be printed in the Record.
   The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
   The resolution (S. Res. 389) was agreed to.
   The preamble was agreed to.
   The resolution, with its preamble, reads as follows:
   S. Res. 389
   Whereas dangerous asbestos fibers are invisible and cannot be smelled or tasted;
   Whereas the inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers can cause significant damage;
   Whereas asbestos fibers can cause cancer such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other health problems;
   Whereas asbestos-related diseases can take 10 to 50 years to present themselves;
   Whereas the expected survival time for those diagnosed with mesothelioma is between 6 and 24 months;
   Whereas, generally, little is known about late-stage treatment of asbestos-related diseases, and there is no cure for such diseases;
   Whereas early detection of asbestos-related diseases may give some patients increased treatment options and might improve their prognoses;
   Whereas the United States has substantially reduced its consumption of asbestos, yet continues to consume almost 1,100 metric tons of the fibrous mineral for use in certain products throughout the United States;
   Whereas asbestos-related diseases have killed thousands of people in the United States;
   Whereas exposure to asbestos continues, but safety and prevention of asbestos exposure already has significantly reduced the incidence of asbestos-related diseases and can further reduce the incidence of such diseases;
   Whereas asbestos has been a cause of occupational cancer;
   Whereas thousands of workers in the United States face significant asbestos exposure;
   Whereas thousands of people in the United States die from asbestos-related diseases every year;
   Whereas a significant percentage of all asbestos-related disease victims were exposed to asbestos on naval ships and in shipyards;
   Whereas asbestos was used in the construction of a significant number of office buildings and public facilities built before 1975;
   Whereas people in the small community of Libby, Montana suffer from asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, at a significantly higher rate than people in the United States as a whole; and
   Whereas the establishment of a ``National Asbestos Awareness Week'' will raise public awareness about the prevalence of asbestos-related diseases and the dangers of asbestos exposure: Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved, That the Senate--
    (1) designates the first week of April 2012 as ``National Asbestos Awareness Week'';
    (2) urges the Surgeon General to warn and educate people about the public health issue of asbestos exposure, which may be hazardous to their health; and
    (3) respectfully requests that the Secretary of the Senate transmit a copy of this resolution to the Office of the Surgeon General.
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For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman  1.973.696.7900  jon@gelmans.com have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses. 


Friday, November 29, 2019

Efforts to Protect the Public From Asbestos Exposure

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today released a new report highlighting her office’s ongoing efforts to protect children, families, and workers from the health risks posed by exposure to asbestos.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Garlock reaches $480 Million settlement on asbestos claims


Garlock plans to emerge from bankruptcy and establish a trust in the amount of $480 Million to pay asbestos claimants and their families. Garlock a member of the EnPro Industries consortium had made asbestos gaskets.Asbestos is a known carcinogen and causally connected with lung cancer, mesothelioma and other malignancies as well as asbestosis.

Friday, May 1, 2015

WHO Reports Widespread Asbestos Exposure Continues In Europe

WHO
WHO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The WHO (UN World Health Organization) reports that 1 in every 3 Europeans are still exposed to asbestos.

About one third of the 900 million people in the WHO European Region live in countries that have not yet banned the use of all forms of asbestos, and this potentially exposes them at work and in the environment. In countries where asbestos is banned, exposure persists from past use. Exposure to asbestos can cause cancer of the lungs, ovaries and larynx; mesothelioma; and asbestosis and the most efficient way to eliminate these diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos. At its closure, the high-level meeting on environment and health in Haifa, Israel, urgently calls upon all European countries to eliminate asbestos-related diseases.

"We cannot afford losing almost 15 000 lives a year in Europe, especially workers, from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos. Every death from asbestos-related diseases is avoidable," says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. "We urge all countries to leave the Haifa meeting to fulfil their 2010 commitment and develop policies by the end of this year that will eliminate asbestos-related diseases from the face of Europe. There is very little time left for that."

Elimination of asbestos-related diseases was one of the major issues discussed at the Haifa meeting. Over 200 representatives of European countries and international and nongovernmental organizations attended the meeting to evaluate overall progress on environment and health in Europe.
An "eye-opener" report: progress toward the elimination of asbestos-related diseases

The report Progress toward the elimination of asbestos-related diseases, presented at the meeting, indicates that asbestos, a group of natural fibrous minerals, is responsible for about half of all deaths from cancers developed at work. According to new estimates, deaths from mesothelioma in 15 European countries cost society more than 1.5 billion euros annually (see table in Annex).

While 37 of the 53 Member States in the Region have banned the use of all forms of asbestos, the remaining 16 countries still use asbestos, especially for building materials, and some continue to produce and export it. Even after its use has ceased, asbestos lingers in the environment, so it needs to be safely removed and disposed without delay.

"Asbestos is known as a silent killer as health disorders from exposure to it usually appear after several decades. This means that many more people are expected to fall sick and die in the coming years throughout Europe", says Dr Guénaël Rodier, Director, Division of Communicable Diseases, Health Security and Environment. "This new report assesses how far European countries have got in eliminating asbestos-related diseases and provides recommendations for the future."

In one week, the Chemical Review Committee of the Rotterdam Convention will consider listing chrysotile or white asbestos, the most common form of asbestos, among the substances for which importing countries have to give their consent to the exporting party for the trade to occur.

"Elimination of asbestos-related diseases is a priority for Israel. Already in 2011 we have passed a law prohibiting the use of new asbestos, requesting removal of existing friable asbestos and guiding disposal of asbestos cement,", says Mr David Leffler, Director-General, Ministry of Environmental Protection for Israel. "An asbestos waste removal project is conducted in Western Galilee where by December 2014, 80 thousand cubic meters of waste were cleaned in 221 sites. Databases on asbestos-related diseases are considered key to monitor asbestos' health effects and are regularly maintained."
Paving the way ahead for better environment and health in Europe

All European countries present at the meeting renewed their pledges to work towards meeting the time-bound targets they adopted in 2010. This includes concrete steps to:
strengthen or establish partnerships with different stakeholders and processes, and utilize already existing policy instruments and tools;
  1. enhance the understanding and use of economic arguments to support action on environment and health; and 
  2. harmonize with the forthcoming post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

They also agreed to address the environment and health challenges of the 21st century posed by:
complex risk factors: air, water, waste or chemicals;
complex systems of direct relevance to environment and health: food, energy or cities; and
matters of international environment and health security: disasters and climate change.

The conclusions of the high-level meeting in Haifa are an important milestone in the run up to the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health planned for 2017.
The 16 countries that have not yet banned all forms of asbestos are: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Monaco, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
The five time-bound targets adopted by countries in the European Region in 2010 are to: provide safe water and sanitation to all children by 2020; create healthy and safe environments for children in their daily life by 2020; make children's indoor environments free from tobacco smoke by 2015; safeguard children's environments from toxic chemicals by 2015; develop policies to eliminate asbestos-related diseases by 2015.

The seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (RC COP-7) will be held from 4 to 15 May 2015, back-to-back with the twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (BC COP-12) and the seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (SC COP-7).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

$2 Million Verdict to Plastic Compounder Suffering Mesothelioma - Call For Asbestos Ban

This week a New York state jury awarded $2 Million dolars to a former plastic compounder who was exposed to asbestos fiber and was subsequently diagnosed with mesothelioma. The employee worked in a plastic factory in 1966 and poured raw asbestos fibers to make molds. Some of the asbestos fiber was supplied by Hedman Resources Ltd., a Canadian asbestos mining company.

Mesothelioma is a rare and fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fiber. Hundreds of thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the asbestos manufacturers and producers since the early 1970's in the US seeking benefits. Despite the continuing epidemic of asbestos related disease and massive weight of scientific evidence of the deadly carcinogenic qualities of asbestos, Canada continues to mine asbestos fiber and sell it worldwide. It is estimated that that 107,000 workers die annually from asbestos-related diseases.

To this day there is no asbestos ban in effect in the US. The Canadian asbestos industry still exports asbestos fiber used in the US and other parts of the world. On Thursday, The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) which combines education, advocacy, and community to provide a unified voice for asbestos victims, today announced with the Canadian Voices of Asbestos Victims the release of the North American Declaration to Eliminate Asbestos-Related Diseases.

The Declaration initiates an enhanced collaboration between the U.S. and Canadian asbestos disease victims and their families, public health organizations, environmental non-governmental organizations, occupational safety and health (OSH) specialists, and politicians. While ADAO has been individually partnering with Canadian counterparts for education, advocacy, and community initiatives for several years now, the North American Declaration for the Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases unifies the demands voiced by American and Canadian asbestos victims to eliminate asbestos-caused diseases.


To sign the petition to ban asbestos fiber click here: Petition to Ban Asbestos Fiber 
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For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman  1.973.696.7900  jon@gelmans.com have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

White House Contamination Highlights Asbestos Controversy

Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway and other senior White House aides have vacated their West Wing offices while asbestos is removed – even as the Trump administration is manipulating a federal chemical safety law to keep asbestos legal.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Illinois Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Clean Air Act Violations Involving Asbestos

The EPA was directed to set standards for radi...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Duane “Butch” O’Malley, 59, of Bourbonnais, Ill., who was convicted by a federal jury on September 26, 2011, for the illegal removal, handling and disposal of asbestos from a Kankakee building in August 2009, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by Federal District Court Judge Michael McCuskey. O’Malley was also ordered to pay restitution of $47,086 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) related to the clean-up of illegally disposed asbestos and ordered to pay a fine of $15,000. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials. When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause serious health problems, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.

“Asbestos must be removed in a safe and legal way in order to protect people's health and reduce the risk of exposure,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The defendant’s actions endangered the health of his workers and the surrounding community and the sentence shows that those who violate critical environmental safeguards will be prosecuted.”

“To increase his profits, a jury found that O’Malley knowingly disregarded federal environmental laws that require asbestos-containing materials be safely removed and properly disposed,” said U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis, Central District of Illinois. “This sentence is a consequence of the defendant’s flagrant disregard for his workers, the public, and the environment in exposing them to dangerous airborne asbestos fibers.”
During O’Malley’s trial, the government presented evidence that O’Malley, owner and operator of Origin Fire Protection, was hired by Michael J. Pinski in August 2009 to remove asbestos-containing insulation from pipes in a five-story building in Kankakee, Ill. that was owned by Pinski through his company, Dearborn Management, Inc. Evidence was presented that neither O’Malley nor his company was trained to perform the asbestos removal work and that O’Malley agreed to remove the asbestos insulation for an amount that was substantially less than a trained asbestos abatement contractor would have charged to perform the work. Further, O’Malley arranged for James A. Mikrut to recruit and oversee workers to remove the asbestos.

The government’s evidence showed that various provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and EPA regulations were violated, including, failure to properly notify the EPA, failure to have trained on-site representatives present, failure to ensure the asbestos insulation was adequately wetted while it was being stripped and removed, failure to mark vehicles used to transport the asbestos containing waste material and failure to deposit the asbestos in a waste disposal site for asbestos. Instead, the asbestos insulation was stripped from the pipes while dry, and then placed in more than 100 large, unlabeled plastic garbage bags. The bags were then dumped in an open field in Hopkins Park, resulting in soil contamination and exposing the workers hired by O’Malley to dangerous asbestos-laden dust.

Under the CAA there are requirements to control the removal, handling and disposal of asbestos, a hazardous air pollutant. Any owner or operator of a renovation or demolition activity which involves removal of specified amounts of asbestos-containing material must comply with the EPA regulations.

O’Malley was charged in June 2010 with five felony violations of the CAA, along with Michael J. Pinski, 42, of Kankakee, Ill., and James A. Mikrut, 49, of Manteno, Ill. Pinski entered a plea of guilty on Aug. 19, 2011, to one count of violation of the Clean Air Act. Mikrut pleaded guilty on Aug. 24, 2011, to five counts of violation of the CAA. The sentencing hearings for Pinski and Mikrut will be scheduled at a future date.

The charges were investigated by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Division. Assistant United States Attorney Eugene L. Miller and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney James Cha are prosecuting the case.

More information about EPA’s criminal enforcement program: http://www.epa.gov/oecaerth/criminal/index.html


....
For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman1.973.696.7900 jon@gelmans.com have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered work related accident and injuries.


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NJ Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that two men and the demolition company they operated have been indicted by a state grand jury on charges that they unlawfully removed asbestos from the former Zurbrugg...
Mar 19, 2012
Whereas the United States has substantially reduced its consumption of asbestos, yet continues to consume almost 1100 metric tons of the fibrous mineral for use in certain products throughout the United States;. Whereas ...
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"Objectives Asbestos is an inflammatory agent, and there is evidence that inflammatory processes are involved in the development of cardiovascular disease. Whether asbestos is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease has ...
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

National Asbestos Week, April 1-7, 2014

Statement from Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak about National Asbestos Week, April 1-7, 2014

National Asbestos Awareness Week, April 1 – 7, is an important opportunity to focus on the public health issues associated with asbestos exposure and related illnesses.

"Asbestos" is a commercial name for a collection of six highly durable fibrous minerals used for decades in thousands of commercial products, such as insulation and fireproofing materials, automotive brakes and textile products, cement and wallboard materials. Scientists have long understood that asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other lung diseases when the fibers are inhaled. Because of concerns about health effects, exposures to asbestos and certain uses of asbestos have been regulated in the U.S. for over 30 years.

In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance an individual has of developing harmful health effects. Asbestos fibers may be released into the air where they can be easily inhaled and contaminate the surrounding area during demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling.

For workers or homeowners, avoiding activities involving the disturbance of materials or products containing asbestos is the surest means of avoiding asbestos exposure. However, if you need to undertake such activities, there is guidance available to help you protect yourself and others. While most individuals exposed to asbestos, whether in the home or workplace will not develop disease – there is no known safe level of asbestos exposure and precautions should be taken to protect your health. Apparent symptoms and disease may take many years to develop following exposure, and asbestos-related conditions can be difficult to identify. It’s important to note that tobacco smoke greatly increases your risk of lung cancer if you have already been exposed to asbestos. Anyone who believes he or she has been exposed to asbestos should contact their health care provider for additional advice.

To learn more about asbestos and asbestos-related diseases, please visit:
http://www2.epa.gov/asbestos
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=4
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/asbestos/
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/asbestos/

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'Bakers contract cancer from asbestos in old ovens': tv programme
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Workers' Compensation: Experts Speak Out About The Asbestos ...
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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author NJ Workers' Compensation Law (West-Thompson) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers' Compensation Law (West-Thompson). For over 4 decades the Law Offices ...
http://workers-compensation.blogspot.com/

Yale Urged to Revoke Honorary Degree to Convicted Asbestos ...
Jan 05, 2014
Yale declined to send anyone to be interviewed about its refusal to reconsider awarding the honorary degree to the asbestos billionaire. The story runs for the first 16 minutes of the program and ends with me being asked if ...

….
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  jon@gelmans.com  have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Senator Boxer Calls for Expedited TSCA Asbestos Evaluation

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a letter today to Gina McCarthy, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging the Agency to move quickly to act on all forms of asbestos under the new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  EPA is required to select 10 chemicals that will be evaluated and then regulated if they are shown to present unreasonable risks. The full text of the letter is below.

August 26, 2016

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

I am sure you share my strong interest in maximizing the success of the new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and are working to identify positive early actions that demonstrate the Agency’s commitment to bold and effective implementation.

The first important decision EPA must make under the law is to select the initial 10 chemicals that will be evaluated and then regulated if they are shown to present unreasonable risks.  This decision must be made by mid-December of this year.  The chemicals selected will drive EPA’s agenda for the next several years. To build confidence in the agency’s ability to deliver meaningful results for our children and families, EPA must consider all forms of asbestos in this initial list of chemicals it acts on.

In 1989, EPA issued a comprehensive rule under TSCA banning and phasing out the major uses of asbestos.  Despite the extensive record compiled by the agency, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the rule.  The court’s decision paralyzed EPA’s existing chemicals program for the next two decades.  Asbestos became a poster child for the inadequacy of the law and a major impetus for TSCA reform.  As President Obama said when he signed the TSCA reform bill into law, “the system was so complex, it was so burdensome that our country hasn’t even been able to uphold a ban on asbestos….”

During the development of TSCA reform legislation, numerous members of Congress cited asbestos as an example of why the law must be revamped and emphasized that the new TSCA legislation would remove the roadblocks that stymied EPA’s first attempt to regulate asbestos.  Congress was also clear in the recently-passed legislation that regulating asbestos should be one of EPA’s top priorities -- the bill directs EPA to give priority to chemicals like asbestos that are known human carcinogens and have high acute and chronic toxicity.

Now that the impediments in the original TSCA law are gone, completing the job started by EPA in 1989 would send a strong signal that the new law can be effective in addressing the most dangerous chemicals in commerce.

The evidence regarding the dangers of asbestos is overwhelming. As EPA found in its 1989 rulemaking, “[it] is well-recognized that asbestos is a human carcinogen and is one of the most hazardous substances to which humans are exposed in both occupational and non-occupational settings.”  OSHA has similarly said it is “aware of no instance in which exposure to a toxic substance has more clearly demonstrated detrimental health effects on humans than has asbestos exposure.” OSHA has also emphasized that “[t]here is no "safe" level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos fiber [and] [a]sbestos exposures as short in duration as a few days have caused mesothelioma in humans.”

Asbestos continues to exact a high toll in disease and death on Americans.  According to the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), the estimated annual number of asbestos-related disease deaths is nearly 15,000 in the U.S., including nearly 11,000 deaths from lung cancer.

Though asbestos production has ceased in the U.S. and its use has generally declined, significant imports for a range of applications persist and exposures continue to occur with alarming regularity.  According to a detailed study by the Environmental Working Group, from 2006 to 2014, 23 ports on the Gulf of Mexico, West Coast and Eastern Seaboard received more than 8.2 million pounds of raw asbestos, as well as hundreds of shipments of hazardous asbestos waste and products made with asbestos.

Similarly, in its annual report on U.S. mineral importation and use, the United States Geological Service states that in 2015:

“Asbestos consumption in the United States was estimated to be 400 tons, based on asbestos imports through July 2014.  The chloralkali industry accounted for an estimated 88% of U.S. consumption.  The remainder was used in coatings and compounds, plastics, roofing products, and unknown applications.”

The World Health Organization (2006) has called for an end to the use of all types of asbestos as the most effective way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases.  From the European Union to the Persian Gulf, from industrial states like Japan to Africa’s developing economies, 56 nations have followed this recommendation and banned asbestos (with limited exceptions), according to the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat.

The combination of well-documented, widespread and serious health effects and ongoing use and exposure provides a strong basis for EPA to act quickly on asbestos.  With the new tools provided by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the U.S. now has the ability to be a global leader and join the many other nations that have acted to address the harms posed by asbestos.  EPA should seize this opportunity by including asbestos in the first 10 chemicals that it acts on under the new law.

I look forward to learning more about your plans for asbestos.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
Ranking Member
….

Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  jon@gelmans.com  has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

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