EPA Finally Admits Asbestos Presents an “Unreasonable” Health Risk
In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally designated asbestos as a chemical targeted for risk evaluation. A recent release by the agency in June 2022 was the final scope of Part 2 of this risk evaluation, performed under the Toxic Substance Control Act, as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. Notably, the EPA concludes for the first time that asbestos – a known human carcinogen – presents an “unreasonable” health risk to workers under certain conditions. The EPA has a deadline of December 1, 2024, to complete and publish the risk evaluation.
At Belluck & Fox, we are watching the EPA’s efforts carefully to conduct this risk evaluation in good faith and to ensure that the public knows just how dangerous asbestos can be. Asbestos exposure and its associated health risks – the sole cause of mesothelioma cancer – are not topics that we take lightly. While we believe this risk evaluation is a long overdue measure by the EPA, we are encouraged to see that their evaluation intends to cover a broad range of important issues pertaining to asbestos exposure, particularly in the area of legacy uses.
Part 1 of this evaluation was published in December 2022, and the first two of three installments of Part 2 were published in January 2021 and January 2022, respectively. In Part 1 of the risk evaluation, the agency concluded that chrysotile asbestos poses an “unreasonable” risk to human health after reviewing 32 conditions of use. The dangers of asbestos are posed to consumers, bystanders, occupational non-users, and workers in both direct and indirect contact with asbestos. The scope of Part 1 was limited to chrysotile asbestos since it is “the only form of asbestos known to be imported, processed, or distributed for use in the United States, including in manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, occupational and consumer uses, and disposal,” according to the EPA.
Part 2 of the risk evaluation centers on legacy uses of asbestos and its disposal, as well as describing previous asbestos uses, avenues of exposure, and impacted populations of that exposure. Due to this shift in focus, the use and presence of talc and five other types of asbestos fibers were included and addressed, in addition to chrysotile asbestos mentioned in Part 1. Construction materials would be evaluated as a legacy use due to their exceptionally high prevalence and opportunities for exposure. Talc is still found in many consumer products produced and used today, either as a main ingredient or as a filler, such as in lubricants, dusting powders, paint, paper, and roofing materials.
Our mesothelioma clients are victims of not only the long-term health ramifications produced by asbestos exposure but also the companies that used asbestos and asbestos-related products in abundance in the workplace. We are hopeful that the EPA will take steps to recommend a broad ban on asbestos products. Our attorneys will not stop fighting until our exposed clients and their families receive the justice they deserve.
Asbestos Was Used as Fake Snow and Christmas Tree Decorations
A white Christmas may fill you with happy memories and warm family moments. So might the classic film The Wizard of Oz. However, before the dangers of asbestos were well known, both of these had one concerning thing in common: asbestos was used as a substitute for snow.
Fake snow has a history of dangerous substances. Before asbestos, decorators would use borax flakes or even ammonia because, like asbestos, it had a white and fluffy appearance.
While this is an interesting historical tidbit, it’s also an important warning for people even today. If you have been using Christmas decorations that have been passed down from generation to generation since the mid 20th century, there is a chance they could be contaminated with asbestos.
In addition to the Wizard of Oz, it’s recorded that asbestos was also used as fake snow in Citizen Kane, considered by many critics to be the greatest film ever produced.
Why is this so important? Asbestos is a known carcinogen directly causing mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lungs. Even small traces of exposure to asbestos have been linked to cases of mesothelioma.
In fact, while we know of the well-documented severe dangers of asbestos, it is still not completely banned in the United States. Some products that still utilize asbestos include car parts and construction materials. Traces of asbestos have even been found in cosmetic products that include talc.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, Belluck & Fox can help. Reach out to our experienced attorneys today for a free consultation.
Global Study Finds Asbestos to Be Leading Cause of Lung Cancer in the Workplace
A new global review of data studies published in July by Brazilian medical journal Revista Gaúcha de Enfermagem found that asbestos accounts for the largest portion – 37.5 percent – of cancer-causing substances associated with lung cancer in the workplace.
The team that produced “Lung cancer related to occupational exposure: an integrative review” processed 32 databases over a ten year period from 2009 to 2018. Researchers discovered that the most exposed workers came from the secondary sector, with 50% of jobsite-related lung cancer cases belonging to former industry workers, and 6.2% belonging to former construction workers. The study found that other occupations with significant histories of asbestos exposure in the workplace included mining, transport, and painting.
Unfortunately, throughout their careers, many workers were unknowingly exposed to numerous carcinogenic substances, products, and materials. What’s even more disappointing is that many employers and manufacturers were aware of this fact and did little to protect their workers. It has since been proven that occupational exposures have long been seen as the primary causes of both lung cancer and mesothelioma cases.
Although asbestos is banned in many countries (the United States not included), lung cancer and mesothelioma diagnoses caused by asbestos continue to rise. “Lung cancer related to occupational exposure: an integrative review” stated that lung cancer accounts for the most common malignant tumor cases with 2.1 million diagnoses made worldwide in 2018, and a yearly increase of 2% in new diagnoses per year.
“These findings are important because they reaffirm what we have been arguing for years on behalf of our clients and their families,” said Joe Belluck, managing partner of Belluck & Fox. “Asbestos presents a clear danger to everyone who is exposed to it. We must continue to fight for a full ban on asbestos, and we must continue to hold employers and manufacturers accountable for knowingly putting workers in harm’s way.”
Belluck & Fox has decades of experience representing clients with lung cancer and mesothelioma caused by asbestos. Our experienced attorneys maintain a database of job sites and employers known to have used asbestos and exposed employees. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or lung cancer due to asbestos, reach out today for a free consultation.
Update on Banning Asbestos in the United States
Asbestos exposure is the leading cause of most people that are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, and is linked to the deaths of approximately 40,000 Americans a year. Those deaths are caused by lung cancer, asbestosis, cancer of the larynx, and ovarian cancer.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is also a known carcinogen, and is not banned in the United States. The importing of asbestos into the United States has actually increased in recent years. Asbestos is found in houses in insulation and multiple products have asbestos in them.
The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 is a bill that will ban asbestos importation into the United States. The bill has been named for Alan Reinstein, the late husband of Linda Reinstein who died of malignant mesothelioma. Linda Reinstein is one of the co-founders of Asbestos Disease Awareness Foundation who has been working tirelessly for banning asbestos for many years.
According to the ADAO website, the bill would:
- Ban importation and use of asbestos and asbestos containing products within one year of enactment.
- Require that Chlor-alkali plants using asbestos diaphragms would need to eliminate the use of asbestos and convert to non-asbestos technology following a transition period.
- Establish a new Right-to-Know program to require anyone who has imported, processed and distributed asbestos to report and disclose to the public how much asbestos has been in U.S. commerce, where and how it has been used, and who has been exposed.
- Require the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct a comprehensive study of risks presented by “legacy” asbestos used in buildings constructed decades ago but still present in millions of residences, businesses, factories, public buildings, and schools.
- Stringently control the presence of asbestos contaminants in consumer products and construction materials.
- Apply to the hazardous Libby Amphibole form of asbestos, found in attic insulation in millions of homes.
This bill was advanced out of the Committee on Energy and Commerce by a bipartisan vote on November 19th. The next step is to be voted on by the full House of Representatives. During these divisive partisan political times this is a very important step toward the goal of passing this bill into law.
As we pause this week to give thanks for our blessings it is also a time to reflect. For the mesothelioma community it is a time to be thankful for the support of tireless advocates for all their work on making banning asbestos in the United States closer to reality. The work of a few to benefit all. Thank you for trying to make this world a safer, healthier planet.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed, please reach out to Belluck & Fox for a free consultation. With laws and information available to patients changing all the time, we can be the experts that help you find justice.
Asbestos in Philadelphia Schools Reminds Us All to be Thankful Around the Holidays
As we approach the holidays, we often reflect upon what we are thankful for. We also reflect upon loved ones who have lost their battle to an illness. Being diagnosed with cancer is life altering. For some, it seems to paralyze them, for others it gives them a whole different perspective about life. Receiving this information about a new diagnosis of cancer including malignant mesothelioma triggers a host of emotions.
As we meet and visit with patients including people that are newly diagnosed or have recurrence of the disease, the emotions are wide and complex. No feeling is either wrong or right, it just is what you feel. Recently in the news a woman spoke about her new diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma. She had been exposed to a building containing asbestos for many years. As a result, a profession she loved and enjoyed came to a screeching halt.
It is unclear what symptoms had manifested in her to seek out medical help and confirm a diagnosis. I can imagine what the symptoms were that led to her diagnosis, but what she said was also something that I never really considered. With many tears she spoke about how her career has come to a sudden halt. Her tomorrow is tomorrow and she is unable to look beyond that. She was unaware of the asbestos that was in her place of work.
There has been a vigorous clean up at her workplace dealing with asbestos but still many issues are present. This woman talks about having a safe place to work for all, despite socioeconomic background. Fear of what faces her, and the physical pain that the interviewer speaks about is her primary focus most days. Emotional and physical pain is forefront and keeps her present with her illness which is difficult. Certainly identifying how you feel and speaking to others may be helpful but it does not change her situation presently.
Her plan is to have surgery in December and again the future is a bit unknown at this time. Speaking aloud sharing what her illness is, and how she obtained this diagnosis, can be helpful to many. Not everyone is aware of the dangers of asbestos until it hits close to home. As we progress with our knowledge of malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos related cancers, public awareness is key. Social media has also been a valuable tool connecting people to similar situations.
There are many support resources available to patients, families, and loved ones who are dealing with malignant mesothelioma and asbestos related cancers. Public awareness is key to all. Education has become more prevalent while more research has been done with asbestos related illnesses.
Behind every person diagnosed with this rare cancer, there are family members, friends, co-workers who are all affected. As we celebrate the holidays remember the people in our lives that are battling cancer and reach out if possible.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed, please reach out to Belluck & Fox for a free consultation. We’ve been fighting for patient justice for decades.
Are you a mesothelioma “survivor?”
Many people who have had cancer describe themselves as survivors, or warriors of cancer. Some people prefer “living with cancer.” A cancer survivor is a person with cancer of any type who is still living.
There are more people who are survivors of Mesothelioma than in the past. Some survivors jump out on social media, some are busy with fundraising continuing to try to advance treatment, others quietly lead their lives. Survivors come in many different faces. Yesterday I ran into a middle-aged woman who was a survivor. It has been many years since her initial treatment during which time she was very ill. She worked very hard and had her struggles, but seeing her now, one would never know of her battle with Mesothelioma. Today, from my observation, she is living her life and fulfilling her dreams. She has turned her hobby of art into a form of fundraising. She appears to be enthused about her new idea which creates double the excitement – she is a survivor of a rare disease, and she is trying to improve the lives of others who will battle this disease.
Getting diagnosed with Mesothelioma can be emotionally devastating, but for some, it has shown them something different. Not only do they want to live free from this disease but some want to make a difference for others. As earlier stated, some will jump out and announce what they are going to do while others will quietly lead by example. Some may connect with a new Mesothelioma patient and help coach them through the process. Despite what you do, the goal is to live. There are a million statistics out there regarding malignant mesothelioma, possibly more negative than positive, but be assured there are survivors who are leading busy, productive lives.
Some Individuals who have been faced with cancer prefer other terminology instead of survivor. Some people use the word warrior, or plain and simple “badass.” People’s terminology is usually associated with their personality and their experience with cancer. Whatever the label you prefer no doubt cancer has changed your life and the lives of the people you love. Many people explain that they appreciate life more, they are more accepting of themselves. They also experience anxiety about their health and feel unsure how to cope with life after treatment. We have met many types of people who have shown us how they live their lives, not defined by a diagnosis. Whatever path they chose there is no right or wrong way, it is just the way it is.
Whatever terminology you choose the best way to become that term is to get yourself to a Mesothelioma center. Your odds of beating this or treating this disease as a chronic illness are best fought when you are at a Mesothelioma Center of Excellence. Everyone wants to beat this disease, so reach out to make a phone call or email a healthcare professional with expertise in this field. Find the professional group of caregivers who are consistently working and whose approach to treatment aligns with what the patient wants.
Whether you’re a survivor, warrior, or badass, Belluck & Fox can get you the information and justice you need. Reach out for a free consultation today.
New Tumor Treatment for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Approved by FDA
In May 2019, the Food and Drug Administration approved a device for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma under the Humanitarian Use device section of their policy on rare diseases.
What is the new treatment?
This new therapy is Novacures’s Tumor Treating Fields delivery system, or NovoTTF-100L. Tumor treating fields are mild electric fields that pulse through the skin or scalp and interrupt cancer cells’ ability to divide. Electrodes are attached to the skin and attached to a portable device. The person keeps the portable device with them as they go about their activities of daily living. The treatment is portable and does not need to be done in a hospital or clinic setting. The therapy is continuous but can be interrupted for short time everyday. It is advised to be attached 18-20 hours a day to the person.
This treatment is non invasive and does not cause side effects that other treatments might, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fatigue. The tumor treating fields work by acting upon rapidly dividing cells of cancerous tumors without affecting normal cells. It targets highly charged proteins in the cells. The proteins are essential to the process of cell division which is how the tumor grows and spreads. With the tumor treating fields device the tumor is then prevented from dividing and growing.
Why was it approved?
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare disease and thus fits the description for approval under the Humanitarian Use Device clause. In order to qualify for this category the FDA must determine that the medical device is intended to benefit patients in the treatment of a disease that affects or is manifested in not more than 8,000 individuals in the United States per year.
The last relevant treatment approved by the FDA was chemotherapy with Pemextred and Altima in 2004.
How was it approved?
The Tumor Treating Fields device was first approved in 2011 for treatment of aggressive brain tumors called glioblastomas. For malignant pleural mesothelioma a clinical trial called STELLAR was conducted in Europe using this technology with patients that have the disease. The results were positive with an increase of overall survival in patients who took part in the trial, all of whom were not surgical candidates. It was used in conjunction with the approved chemotherapy for malignant mesothelioma, Pemextred and cisplatin.
What does it all mean?
This is progress for some patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. It gives them another option. This is not a cure, but an additional treatment to help overall survival used in conjunction with the first line chemotherapy, pemetrexed plus cisplatin.
When meeting with your mesothelioma expert and team ask if this treatment option would be beneficial for you or your loved one. If you have been diagnosed and are seeking information or justice, please reach out to Belluck & Fox for a free consultation.
Can you screen for malignant mesothelioma?
One of the difficulties in diagnosing malignant pleural mesothelioma is the long time between exposure to asbestos and the beginning of symptoms. The average incubation period for malignant pleural mesothelioma is 20-50 years. Are there any tests that can screen for malignant mesothelioma?
Screening is testing for a disease when there are no symptoms. The reason to screen people is that early detection usually results in better treatment options and improved success in treatment. Screening can help detect cancers earlier and start treatment when the disease is in an earlier stage. These screenings can take the form of blood tests, procedures, or x-rays, depending on the disease. Examples of different screening tests for cancers are a mammogram for breast cancer, colonoscopy for colon cancer, or a blood test for prostate cancer. Malignant mesothelioma – whether it is pleural or peritoneal – is usually diagnosed after other diseases have been ruled out.
In the past few years there has been the development of screening for lung cancer with a low dose CT scan. People that have high risk factors for lung cancer are screened using a cat scan. The yearly screening CT scan is recommended for patients that have a history of heavy smoking, who have smoked now or quit within the past 15 years and are between the ages of 55 and 80 years old.
Researchers in Toronto have conducted a clinical trial screening both people exposed to asbestos 20 years prior and people with known high risks for lung cancer, with a low dose CT scan. These are the same scans that have been used for detecting early lung cancer. Unfortunately, the researchers did not find the low dose scans to be a benefit in screening for malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Screening for cancer is important. Although this study did not prove successful, there are researchers continuing with this important work. Helping to develop a screening tool to detect malignant pleural mesothelioma will hopefully allow people to start treatment earlier.
If you have a diagnosis and need information of assistance, please reach out for a free consultation.
Patients Can Use Technology to Learn and Share Information
The average age of the person diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma is 60 years or older. With advances in technology, many are users of smartphones, technology, and the internet. There was a time when these technologies were mostly for the younger generation, but today we are all using these devices to some capacity. Technology has changed the way we obtain information, including some options for treatment for a serious rare cancer.
From my personal experience, patients use these devices to ask questions or seek further understanding. People have apps on their phones that help them monitor vital signs or schedule medications. This concept has become very beneficial to the mesothelioma community. Often these texts, pictures, and graph, or any information that can be shared with a healthcare professional can be a game changer. We as mesothelioma team members stay in tune with patients, but information that is in real time sometimes can state the facts and make the picture of what is going on clearer.
This avenue has allowed patients to feel more confident asking questions. Having a serious illness like mesothelioma forces you to contemplate the possibilities of treatment. As nurses, technology can help educate the patient about their disease treatment and recovery. When one understands this disease and its many complex characteristics it empowers patients. Technology has also empowered the patient making them feel in control.
Another reason to take advantage of technology is if you have traveled to a Mesothelioma Center of Excellence and you don’t live nearby. Sending pictures or texts can paint a clearer picture of what is going on. If you are staying nearby your treatment center and are away from home, FaceTiming with family can help this road be less lonesome or stressful. One of the keys to success on your journey with mesothelioma is keeping in control and giving factual information to the healthcare team.
At the end of the day a person needs to be able to participate in his own care and feel good about him or herself. If using technology to advance your understanding of this disease, or using devices to help maintain or improve your health is an option than this is what you should do. There are many devices on our smartphones that can track, monitor, and log information which helps give a picture as to what is going on. Communication with your mesothelioma team, with your family and friends, updating your progress, and becoming involved in support groups are now all accessible through technology. These services may not be for all and that is fine too. Whether you use the latest apps or not to obtain information, the bottom line is to do what makes you feel comfortable.
Belluck & Fox works tirelessly to help mesothelioma patients get access to information and justice they deserve. If you are diagnosed, reach out for a free consultation today.
Pleural Effusions & Mesothelioma
“My husband had a large amount of fluid drained from his chest a couple of times before he was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The other man we were talking to at the meeting never had any fluid drained. What does that mean for the future? Is that bad?”
This question in one form or another is asked frequently. The pleural fluid is located around the lung between the pleural and visceral layers – thin cell layers that line the lung. Usually in a healthy person there is about a tablespoon of fluid that lubricates the cell layers and allows the lungs to expand. Pleural effusions become significant when there is more than 200cc, just less than a cup. When draining a pleural effusion most practitioners stop draining at 1,000cc, around a quart.
There are many diseases that can cause pleural effusions. Some of the common reasons are congestive heart failure, liver or kidney failure, pneumonia, infection, and lung cancer. Malignant pleural mesothelioma is usually diagnosed after other more common reasons are ruled out.
In a research study published from the Academic Respiratory Unit at the University of Bristol, a team led by Anna C. Bibby looked at a center in England at patients diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma between 2008 and 2017. They looked back at the symptoms that the patient presented with, the presence and size of pleural effusions, and then followed the patients through their journey with mesothelioma.
They found that 82.8 percent of all 229 patients diagnosed during this time had pleural effusions. Of the 192 patients, 41 percent had fluid that occupied more than 50 percent of the hemithorax. They also confirmed that right sided tumors and early stage disease were more common in patients that have pleural effusions and those that don’t. In addition, they found that patients with pleural effusions were more likely to be short of breath as the presenting symptom. Those without pleural effusions presented with chest pain as the most common symptom.
This study looked at the size of pleural effusions, and whether or not you had a pleural effusion did not contribute to overall survival. The study also found that effusions are associated with lower disease stage. The reason may be that when someone is short of breath they may go to the doctors earlier and disease possibly diagnosed sooner leading to more treatment options.
The study supports once again the importance of seeking treatment at a Mesothelioma Center of Excellence with an expert team experienced in malignant pleural mesothelioma. Research is constantly behind the answers to questions and constantly evolving.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and has questions about this or any legal issues, Belluck & Fox is here to help you get justice. Call today for a free consultation.