Asbestos Found in Residence Hall at North Carolina State

Housing officials at North Carolina State University in Raleigh closed a residence hall earlier this week when contractors discovered and disturbed asbestos inside the building.

According to an article in the college’s newspaper, The Technician, asbestos was discovered on the south side of Bragaw Residence Hall, prompting the hiring of a licensed abatement company to remove the hazardous material.

“It’s standard with our renovations, especially with buildings built before the early 1970s,” housing facilities associate director Barry Olson said of the asbestos cleanup. “There is typically some level of asbestos containing materials that is safe to human beings unless disturbed. In the case of renovation, materials are disturbed.”

Olson said the university is committed to keeping students and staff as safe as possible, so they hired a local company to remove the material and conduct follow-up testing to be sure all the air is free of airborne asbestos fibers.

“We’re going through and not only removing it but…following all of the requirements through the EPA for safe removal and disposal,” Olson said of the collaboration between NCSU and Matrix.

The particular work being done this summer, according to Olson, involves removing floor and ceiling tiles and pipe insulation.

“In this particular case we are removing mastic, or glue, underneath all of the floor tiles, the mastic holding the ceiling tiles in place and some pipe wrap,” he said, noting that the glue contains asbestos as does the insulation around the pipes.

“They wet it down, remove it, double bag it and then dispose of it according to [Environmental Protection Agency] regulations,” Olson explained to students.

“Asbestos was a very common building material for a number of years and if left undisturbed, it’s safe,” he said. “It’s when you disturb it, then it becomes problematic. We’re removing it and making the environment completely safe.”

Spanish Workers Can Sue US Company for Asbestos Exposure

A New Jersey appellate court ruled that fifteen Spanish workers can sue an American company for asbestos-related diseases they say they developed due to work they performed on U.S. Navy ships in Spain.

According to an Associated Press article, the court ruled 3-0 in favor of the workers, reversing an earlier ruling made by a lower court that dismissed their lawsuit against manufacturer Owens-Illinois Inc. on jurisdictional grounds.

The workers, who toiled aboard U.S. Navy ships from 1950 to 1998, claim they were exposed to asbestos insulation products that were manufactured at New Jersey-based Owens-Illinois plants.

A lawyer for the company, John C. Garde, said that he was not sure yet whether or not Owens-Illinois would appeal. However, he questioned why the men should be allowed to sue in New Jersey when the injuries occurred overseas.

“I find it difficult to believe that any New Jersey court would countenance claims remaining in New Jersey that have nothing to do with New Jersey, with plaintiffs who have never even set foot in New Jersey,” Garde said.

Mitchell S. Cohen, lawyer for the plaintiffs, believes the original judge should have understood that New Jersey is the only place the case can be tried.

“Spanish law will not allow, under the facts of these cases, to file a claim in Spain,” Cohen said. That’s because the injuries took place on sovereign U.S. territory — the Navy warships, he said.

According to the article, the Spanish tradesmen said they were employed by private contractors or the Navy, and worked at the jointly owned U.S.-Spanish military installation in Rota, Spain, or at neighboring private shipyards in Cadiz, Spain. The suit was originally filed in 2004.

Jury Awards $9.7 Million to Navy Machinist

A jury in Los Angeles awarded compensation in the amount of $9.7 million to a Georgia man who said he developed malignant mesothelioma decades after he was exposed to asbestos while serving as a Navy machinist’s mate aboard the USS Preble in Long Beach.

According to an article in the San Jose Mercury News, Chief Y.R. Brewer, age 66, served aboard the ship from 1961 to 1965 and blames his disease on exposure to asbestos-packed gaskets he handled regularly while on the job.

“He was exposed to something he didn’t know was dangerous. If he had, he would have protected himself,” his wife, Gale Brewer, told the Los Angeles Daily Journal last week from Georgia.

“He feels good about it,” his wife said of the ruling. “But his health is so bad. He can’t eat, when he eats it doesn’t stay down.” Mrs. Brewer also indicated that her husband has less than a year to live.
The Brewers will not see the full amount of the award because the suit had named 12 parts manufacturers, but 11 settled before trial. Jurors found the remaining defendant, gasket maker Crane Co. of Stamford, Conn., to be 2 percent liable in the case, meaning it will be responsible for only that percentage of the award. Jurors found the Navy 50 percent liable for Brewer’s cancer, although it was not named in the suit because the U.S. government cannot be held responsible for asbestos damages.
“Crane Co. feels tremendous sympathy for the Brewer family but does not believe it caused his injury,” said Terry Budd, the company’s attorney. He indicated that Crane may appeal the verdict.

Department of Defense Targeted for Cancer Funds

The Hill, a newspaper for Capitol Hill workers, notes that “the 2009 defense appropriations bill has become a battleground for cancer research,” with more than a dozen senators rallying for funds to more closely examine asbestos-related cancer.

Those supporting the push for funding argue that about one-third of all mesothelioma victims are either Navy veterans or worked as a civilian employee at naval shipyards across the country during a time when the widespread use of toxic asbestos was commonplace.

“Without a steady funding stream for mesothelioma research, scientists who may have considered work in such a field have been turned off,” says Chris Hahn, the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation).

“Mesothelioma starts out somewhat as an orphan disease,” Hahn said in an interview with The Hill. “It’s hard to motivate [researchers] unless there are consistent funds.”

Hahn said the main goal of the Meso Foundation is to see mesothelioma listed as a priority part of the Pentagon’s peer-reviewed medical research program. Researchers would then compete for grants from the Department of Defense.

Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have been at the forefront of the effort to secure additional funds for research and treatment of malignant mesothelioma, which kills quickly but can lay dormant in the system for up to 50 years.

“The town of Bremerton in Washington state, near the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, has one of the highest incidences of asbestos-related cancer. And hundreds of people have been sickened or killed because of asbestos exposure from a now-defunct vermiculite mine in Libby, Mont.,” notes the article, explaining Baucus’ and Murray’s involvement in the issue.

“Advancements in the early detection and treatment of this deadly cancer are greatly needed and the mesothelioma medical and research community is well-positioned to achieve this goal,” the senators wrote to the panel’s leaders. “Funding through the Department of Defense appropriations bill is an important demonstration of our nation’s commitment to addressing the tragedy of mesothelioma and its disproportionate impact on those who serve our country.”

Tom Cruise to Be Tested for Asbestos

After the discovery of an abundance of blue asbestos onboard a Church of Scientology cruise ship, Tom Cruise and other celebrity followers of the religion have been urged to undergo immediate medical examinations to test for their exposure to the toxic mineral.

According to an article in an Indian newspaper, Kerala News, Cruise and many other regular passengers aboard the ship have been alerted to potential exposure. Other celebrity visitors aboard the Freewinds passenger ship include Lisa Marie Presley, Natural Born Killers actress Juliette Lewis, jazz great Chick Corea and JAG and Army Wives TV star Catherine Bell.

Currently, the Freewinds is “under seal” in the Caribbean port of Curacao after it was discovered that dangerous blue asbestos was released during the refurbishment of the ship. The asbestos dust may have wound up in the ventilation system and circulated throughout the ship.

The Church of Scientology uses the Freewinds as “an education center” for devotees of the religion. It has also hosted myriad VIP parties. The ship is 40 years old and was built before asbestos guidelines were issued by the U.S. government in the 1970s.

“Anyone who believes they may have been exposed to asbestos should consult a doctor immediately,” said a Scientology spokesperson, noting that those exposed could be at risk for developing the deadly asbestos cancer known as mesothelioma.

Landfill Fined Over $1 Million for Accepting Asbestos

A landfill owner in Carlsbad, New Mexico is being fined more than $1 million for illegally accepting asbestos waste and other hazardous substances at his site, which is licensed only for non-hazardous industrial waste.

According to an article in the New Mexico Business Weekly, the New Mexico Environment Department has issued a compliance order with a $1.3 million penalty to Lea Land Inc. for solid waste violations at its landfill. Purportedly, the company allowed 137 truckloads of hazardous waste, including coated metal siding containing lead and 144 truckloads of regulated asbestos waste, to be dumped at the landfill.
The Environmental Department was tipped off by a concerned citizen who observed the presence of asbestos waste at the landfill. The department found that both regulated and hazardous asbestos waste was generated during the demolition of several facilities belonging to a company known as Intrepid Potash – New Mexico LLC. The waste was transported to the landfill by Tripod Inc.
“The Solid Waste Bureau of the department found that the landfill denied department staff entry to the facility to inspect, failed to properly cover and compact solid waste and failed, on numerous occasions, to conduct required groundwater monitoring,” the article notes.
The owners of the landfill have 30 days to respond to the allegations.

Wife Caused Husband’s Asbestos Disease, Suit Says

In a scenario not often staged in the courtroom, the family of a deceased man is suing 73 corporations, alleging that he died of an asbestos-related disease after being exposed to the mineral dust from the clothes of his wife, who worked in the asbestos industry. Similar secondhand asbestos cases generally center on the wife as plaintiff, usually sickened from exposure to her husband’s asbestos-covered clothes.

According to the complaint, Paul Bowen of Ohio, was employed from 1951 to 2004 as a laborer, truck driver, kiln operator, miner and mechanic at various locations. However, Bowen’s wife was employed as a machine operator, maintenance worker, finisher and striper at various locations, including in jobs that involved direct exposure to asbestos.

”Dust created by working with and around asbestos and asbestos-containing products would permeate the person and clothing of the decedent’s wife,” the complaint states.

Bowen was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma last October and died a little more than two months later. According to an article in the Madison-St. Clair Record, the suit names 73 defendants that include Bondex International, CBS, ConocoPhillips, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Goodyear, John Crane, Owens-Illinois, Pharmacia, Shell Chemical and Yarway Corp.

The estate claims “the defendants knew or should have known that the asbestos fibers contained in their products had a toxic, poisonous and highly deleterious effect upon the health of people.”

Bowen’s estate also alleges that “the defendants included asbestos in their products even when adequate substitutes were available and failed to provide any or adequate instructions concerning the safe methods of working with and around asbestos.”

Asbestos Found at Controlled Burn Site

When firefighters set an old commercial building on fire at a controlled burn site in Westbrook, Maine last week, they found a huge surprise when the smoke had cleared – asbestos.

According to a story aired on WCSH – TV6, volunteer firefighters who were practicing firefighting techniques and participating in other training exercises at the old building were shocked to find asbestos in the basement of the structure. The discovery indicated not only a danger to the firefighters but also the need to clean up the site after the fire had been put out.

City officials said the clean up would require the services of a professional environmental company licensed in asbestos abatement. They contacted the owner of local Biosafe Company, who agreed to foot the $4000 to $5000 bill for the cleanup.

“Being in Westbrook and being a business in Westbrook, I’ve never really never done anything for the city in the past, but being here I thought it would be a gesture of goodwill being a business owner in a local community, helping a local community out,” said Mark Coleman from Biosafe.

A similar problem occurred at a training site in Massachusetts earlier this year. During that exercise, firefighters were not wearing respirators and may have inhaled dangerous asbestos fibers, which can cause mesothelioma cancer and other similar lung diseases.

Man Gets Jail Time for Asbestos Violations

A Jefferson, Wisconsin man was sentenced to 20 days in jail last week for failing to remove asbestos from several buildings he owned before he had them demolished.

According to an article in the Watertown Daily Times, Brian S. Johnson was sentenced to 20 days in jail after Judge Jackie Rohloff Erwin accepted a plea agreement in a Jefferson County Circuit Court.

The article notes that Johnson purchased the old Jefferson County farm and nursing home from the county in March 2005. He hired contractors to renovate, demolish, and burn buildings on the site. However, several agricultural buildings were demolished without first removing asbestos from the structures. Johnson then burned the buildings, a move that was also in violation of Wisconsin’s asbestos and burning regulations.

The violations were detected by the Watertown Health inspector performing asbestos inspections for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

After the violations occurred, Johnson lost the property to foreclosure. The new buyer is now responsible for the clean-up and is currently tending to that task.

The violations were detected by the Watertown Health inspector performing asbestos inspections for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the article notes.

EPA Report Prompts Clear Creek Closing

Yesterday, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) abruptly closed the Clear Creek Management Area in San Benito County, Calif. after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report stating that the area contains extremely high levels of toxic asbestos.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the EPA labeled Clear Creek “a virtual death zone” where five visits a year over three decades could lead to lung cancer and other serious pulmonary diseases.

The 48-square-mile patch of land in the Diablo Mountains will be closed for the foreseeable future, said a spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management, the organization that oversees the Clear Creek area.

The EPA report notes that participation in any sort of recreational activity at Clear Creek presents a hazard, but the data was especially aimed at those who enjoy off-roading in the area. The EPA found that dangerous levels of asbestos dust were being stirred up by motorcycles and other off-road vehicles.

The report also added that other activities, such as hiking and camping, could be hazardous as well, especially to children, who tend to inhale toxic asbestos quicker and more easily. Previous studies over several decades found high levels of asbestos in the area, but the results were “not as conclusive” as in the new 160-page assessment, EPA officials said Thursday.

For the last three years, the BLM has closed the area from June to October, which are the driest and dustiest months in central California. Closing the site year-round was “an extremely tough decision,” said bureau Field Manager Rick Cooper. “But my first priority must be protecting the health of visitors and employees.”