Asbestos at Library has Created Major Health Risk

Renovations at the New South Wales State Library in downtown Sydney, Australia have exposed hundreds of patrons to asbestos, notes an article in the The Advertiser newspaper.

Work safety authorities stopped renovations on the library earlier this week after members of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) alerted the organization to the asbestos find. One union official said the discovery of the asbestos has put countless lives at risk.

CFMEU NSW assistant secretary Brian Parker also believes that the health of many has been compromised due to attempts to cut corners on the job.

Mr. Parker said the asbestos was detected on Monday but the builder failed to get a licensed industrial hygienist to assess the contamination and determine safe ways to remove it. Workers and members of the public passing by the site had been exposed to the risk until WorkCover – the State’s workplace safety, injury management, and workers compensation system – shut down the site, he said.

“The lives of building workers and members of the community who access the library have been put at risk because the builder… breached basic health and safety laws,” Parker said.

A spokesman for the builder, Safin Corporation, was unavailable for comment.

Airport Control Towers Full of Asbestos

According to representatives from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the Professional Airways Systems Specialists, some of the nation’s many air-traffic control towers are plagued with deteriorating conditions, including exposed asbestos, toxic mold, and a variety of pests like bats and wasps.

In a report to Congress, members of these organizations said the deplorable conditions are “endangering airplane passengers and threatening the health of air-traffic controllers, union officials and equipment repairmen.

“That’s intolerable,” responded Rep. James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He and other lawmakers scolded the Federal Aviation Administration for failing to ask for as much fix-up money as Congress had suggested, reports an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Neglected buildings are in dire need of maintenance and repair, including removal of dangerous friable asbestos, but the FAA is ignoring cries for help, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the Professional Airways Systems Specialists.

“Congress recognized the problem, Congress authorized the money, but the FAA did not use the money,” said Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., chairman of the panel’s aviation subcommittee, which held the hearing.

Pat Forrey, president of the controllers association, said the FAA has failed to answer pleas from controllers to fix chronic and dangerous conditions at dozens of sites.

“Aging air-traffic control facilities have not been a priority for the FAA,” he said.

Forrey added that many controllers are suffering from respiratory problems, skin rashes, and other ailments that may be a result of exposure to asbestos or mold.

Steel Workers Win $3.97 Million in Asbestos Case

The families of three former Bethlehem Steel workers were awarded $3.97 million in a Maryland asbestos case the plaintiffs’ attorney said was the first of hundreds of such cases.

According to an article in the Insurance Journal, the plaintiffs had sued General Electric in Baltimore Circuit Court in regards to asbestos-lined industrial brakes used in cranes and other equipment at the mill. Attorneys for the plaintiffs told the newspaper that juries are willing to give awards in industrial brake cases similar to those in automotive brake cases.

“The brake manufacturers and General Electric had taken a fairly strong position that they didn’t want to pay what people in Baltimore have received for asbestos-related injury claims, and I think this points out to them that the injuries from the brakes are just like the traditional brake cases and the values are similar,” Edmonds said.

The three steelworkers in question, Henry Copland, Dennis Ellison and Elihu Alford, died of mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused lung cancer, which their families believed was caused by the brakes on cranes and the mill motor used to transport steel. GE claims its brakes did not give off dangerous fibers and that the men’s cancer was caused by other materials at the Sparrows Point steel mill.

Copland’s family received $1.205 million, Ellison’s family received $760,000 and Alford’s family was awarded $1.96 million. Edmonds had asked for between $3.5 million and $5 million per family, based on government figures for computing the value of a human life.

Originally, 20 defendants were part of this suit, but the others were dismissed or settled prior to the trial.

Con Ed Designing Asbestos Removal Plan for NY Explosion Site

Tenants and residents waiting to return to their homes and businesses near 41st and Lexington will have to wait until Consolidated Edison devises a plan to remove asbestos from the crater caused by last week’s steam pipe explosion.

According to an article in the New York Times, before crews can make underground repairs, Consolidated Edison officials first must present a plan to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection for removing toxic asbestos from the hole, said Andrew Troisi, a spokesman for the city’s Office of Emergency Management.

Yesterday was the first day that crews from Con Edison and other utilities, like Verizon Communications, made their way into the crater to assess the damage. They were accompanied by representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency. Besides asbestos, they located a leaking water main.

Until the asbestos is removed, Con Ed will be unable to restore steam to at least five buildings around the explosion site near Grand Central Terminal. The businesses use steam to power their heating and air conditioning systems. In the meantime, business tenants were losing both patience and dollars as they were unable to retrieve important papers, computers, and other tools necessary to continue with business as usual.

West Dallas Residents May Have Been Exposed to Asbestos

Hundreds of West Dallas (TX) residents showed up at an area hospital this weekend to be tested for possible lung ailments, caused by exposure to asbestos from a local vermiculite processing plant.

A story on WFAA-TV Dallas/Fort Worth profiled the saga of scores of West Dallas residents who’ve been suffering from various respiratory ailments. Recently, these concerned residents found out that the cause of their problems may be the W.R. Grace Texas Vermiculite plant that closed 15 years ago in their neighborhood.

So many of the affected showed up at Parkland Hospital on Saturday that many were turned away and the hospital had to schedule another screening session for Sunday afternoon.

I would like to know before I leave here, just how bad my body has been destroyed, said West Dallas resident Linda Williams.

Williams has suffered from chronic bronchitis, shortness of breath, and fluid build-up in her lungs. She hopes this x-ray will help her understand the source of some of her medical problems but it won’t begin to answer her questions.

“Right now, we’re damaged goods and we want to know who’s responsible,” she said.

Anyone who either worked, or lived within a quarter mile radius of the plant during the 40 years it made insulation is being screened, the story explained.

“When we lived in the projects you know, the windows were open, and then the smokestacks, all of that smoke would come into the windows,” said Augustine Raymundo.

Violet Bowens, who found a spot on her lung, says all of her children have been sick. Now she worries for the next generation.

“Then I have grandchildren that are sick. Learning disabilities and just, you name it. And you think it’s all connected? I think all of that is connected,” she said.

High School Asbestos Concerns Linger

Parents and staff members at a Fullerton, California high school remained concerned about asbestos exposure, even after renovation projects have been completed.

Members of the Troy High School community met Monday at the school to hear Dr. R.J. Maurer, director of occupational health at St. Jude Medical Center, discuss health issues related to asbestos. Teachers, students, parents, and staff were worried about the residual effects of the asbestos-related carpet removal which took place at the school in 1999 as well as the two-year modernization process from 2005 to 2007, which may have released asbestos into the air, says an article in the Orange County Register.

Maurer gave an overview of air quality exposure and latency, said the article. He told the concerned crowd that in his more than 30 years of medical practice, he hadn’t encountered any patients with mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer. He explained that the disease remains latent for up to 40 years and that the majority of those affected have been employed in shipyards or other industries where they worked with the dangerous mineral on a daily basis.

Some disagree with the doctor’s opinion. Judy Haag, who has worked in a Troy office for 26 years, said she has been experiencing shortness of breath for three years.

“Over and over the doctors ask if I was exposed to asbestos and chemicals,” she said. “The vent above my desk was filled with white powdery stuff that fell out. But I’m more upset that those of us who used to work at Troy were not notified about this situation.”

The district maintains, however, that the amount of asbestos in the air was well within acceptable levels.

Family Sues Oil Giants for Asbestos Exposure

The family of a late Port Neches (TX) refinery worker is suing Chevron USA and Texaco for negligently exposing their benefactor to asbestos during his employment at a plant there.

According to an article in the Southeast Texas Record, Lee Robinson Sr. worked as an operator for Neches Butane, where he allegedly contracted an asbestos disease, specifically lung cancer, for which he died a painful and terrible death on Dec. 14, 2006.

The suit was filed on behalf of Lois Robinson and her children Jeanie, Lee and Stephen, with the Jefferson County District Court. It states that “during Robinson’s employment as an operator, he used and was exposed to toxic materials including asbestos dust and/or fibers. As a result of such exposure, Robinson developed an asbestos-related disease, specifically lung cancer.

Like most asbestos suits, this one also alleges that the oil giants knew of the dangers of working with asbestos but allowed their employees to continue without regard for their health or safety. The suit also states that Chevron USA and Texaco failed to take the necessary engineering, safety, industrial hygiene and other precautions and provide adequate warning and training to ensure that the deceased was not exposed to the asbestos-containing products.

Community Concerned About Asbestos at Hunters Point Site

Community Leaders in the Bayview-Hunters Point district of San Francisco have come together to discuss the ongoing health complaints associated with a new development being built at the site of the old Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

An article in the Fog City Journal notes that residents and community leaders are concerned that the development company, Lennar Corporation, is cutting corners when it comes to safety issues involving air quality regulations. Asbestos is known to be present at the Hunters Point site because shipyards were one of the major consumers of asbestos before warnings were issued in the 1970s about the dangers of the toxic material.

Residents say the incidence of respiratory ailments has increased among those who live or work in the area. They contribute the rise to airborne asbestos and other leftover toxins from the shipyard, including arsenic.

The dust particulates are being released into the air as a result of heavy equipment grading on large swaths of rock and earth in an area know as Parcel A. The area is known for swirling winds capable of carrying dust particulate matter in all directions over large distances, notes the article.

Some community activists believe that Lennar’s shortcomings are being ignored because the project has the backing of the city’s mayor and several other political giants in the area, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco in Congress.

Minister Christopher Mohamed, a well-known voice in the community, said that in May 2006, he was informed about high levels of asbestos dust in the area. He noted that area children had been complaining about breathing problems and tear-swollen eyes.

“This went on everyday practically for over a four-month period,” Mohamed said during a presentation to as many as 50 attendees.

Mohamed said that just a few months later, a worker at the construction site told him Lennar crew workers were being sent home because of high dust levels. Yet a school, located adjacent to the project, had not been informed about the health hazard. Mohamed emphasized the fence line for the school is just ten feet from the construction site and has been directly impacted by “dust clouds.”

“They were blasting the community with asbestos laden dust,” Mohamed said.

“You can’t hardly knock on a door in Bayview-Hunters Point where you can’t find a person that’s been ill-affected by that shipyard,” Mohamed said.

Some Asbestos Found After NY Steam Vent Explosion

New York officials announced on Thursday morning, July 19th, the day after a steam vent exploded at 41st and Lexington, that air quality tests showed no asbestos in the air – as was originally reported – but they did find asbestos in some debris and dust that had settled.

An Associated Press article reported that the city Office of Emergency Management said tests were continuing in the area, but that long-term health problems were unlikely.

Crews worked overnight to assess and repair the damage after the eruption that sent people running for cover as debris rained down, said the article. About 30 people were injured, at least four seriously, officials said.

Many equated the chaos of the explosion of the 83-year-old steam pipe with the scene after the 9/11 tragedy, but on a smaller scope. We were scared to death. It sounded like a bomb hit or a bomb went off, just like 9/11. People were hysterical, crying, running down the street, said Karyn Easton, a customer at a salon a few blocks from the site of the blast. It was really surreal. But city officials quickly ruled out terrorism, reports noted.

Environment quality officials say they took eight air quality samples shortly after the explosion. None showed any significant amounts of asbestos. However, six of 10 samples of debris and dust came back positive. Residents who were already in the area were permitted to stay. The city told them to keep windows closed and air conditioners set to recirculate indoor air instead of drawing it from outside, and anyone exposed to the falling debris was instructed to wash carefully and isolate soiled clothing in plastic bags.

The city has been under fire for allegedly underplaying the poor air quality found throughout the city after the 9/11 tragedy. Many first responders and Ground Zero workers have already been sickened with respiratory diseases due to toxic dust.

Louisiana DEQ Denies Asbestos Allegations

A recent congressional report that criticized Louisiana officials for not doing enough to monitor the risk from asbestos in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina has come under fire from the state’s top Department of Environmental Quality official.

According to an article by the Associated Press, Mike McDaniel, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, called a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report critical of asbestos monitoring “riddled with unsubstantiated editorial comments, misleading statements and inaccuracies.”

He made those comments in a letter sent Thursday to the GAO, Congress’ investigative arm.

The report, which was released late last month, said that environmental regulators potentially exposed scores of residents, volunteers and workers to asbestos fibers by not doing more to monitor the contaminant in the cleanup after Katrina.

State officials countered, saying state that there has been an exhaustive effort to monitor for asbestos. The DEQ added that no measurable amounts of asbestos showed up in any of the more than 20,000 samples taken, mostly during demolitions.