Toxic Substance Champion Senator Frank Lautenberg Dies at 89

lautenbergAsbestos safety champion Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, (D-NJ), died Monday morning at the age of 89, according to The Bergen Record. He served in Congress from 1982 to 2001, and again from 2003 to the time of his death. One of his notable achievements was his unwavering effort to reform the dated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the authority to protect Americans from harmful chemicals, including mesothelioma-causing asbestos, since 2005.

Senator Lautenberg took the lead on reforming the dated TSCA to rapidly reduce exposure to toxic chemicals like asbestos, which is still used in some building and automotive materials. Asbestos fibers can be released into the air during demolition of buildings constructed with asbestos products, along highways from disintegration of brake pads, and near facilities where asbestos products are manufactured.

On April 10, 2013, the late Senator Lautenberg reintroduced the Safe Chemicals Act which was cosponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The Safe Chemicals Act would require chemical companies to demonstrate the safety of industrial chemicals and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to evaluate safety based on the best available science.

In May, Senator Lautenberg had a breakthrough when a bipartisan compromise bill, the Chemical Safety Act, was jointly unveiled with David Vitter (D-LA) was unveiled. The Chemical Safety Act would give the EPA the necessary authority to take action on unsafe chemicals, like asbestos. This can range from labeling requirements to the full phase-out or ban of a chemical. While not as stringent as the Safe Chemicals Act introduced in April, the Chemical Safety Act has support from select Republicans.

The mesothelioma community applauds Senator Lautenberg’s unfailing dedication to stand up for mesothelioma patients and champion the reform of the TSCA; and hopes that Congress will honor his legacy by passing legislation to reform the dated TSCA.

To learn more about the Safe Chemicals Act search Thomas.gov for S. 696

To learn more about the Chemical Safety Act, search Thomas.gov for S. 1009

Connecting the Dots

By Laurie Kazan-Alleexportprod-chartn

I am not one for graphs or bar charts but today I saw a diagram that really made sense. It plotted the levels of Canadian asbestos production from 1948 until 2002 alongside the incidence of asbestos-related deaths.[1] What was as clear as the nose on your face was the deadly impact that Canada’s asbestos industry has had on its citizens. Thirty years after asbestos production had peaked, asbestos-related mortality had reached an all-time high. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the cause and effect relationship between exposure to asbestos and disease. Wherever asbestos has been mined, processed or used, disease and death follows.

Mesothelioma mortality in Canada has been rising since the 1960s with 400+ deaths now being registered every year. Predictably mesothelioma hotspots include areas where asbestos exposure was rife including asbestos mining regions, shipyard towns and sites where asbestos was manufactured or processed. People in these locations have paid and will continue to pay with their lives for the profits of asbestos companies. In Ontario, the number of new mesothelioma diagnoses rose by 260% between 1982 (20) and 2002 (72). While the incidence of asbestosis seems to be in decline, there is no end in sight for Canada’s mesothelioma epidemic. Although Canadian epidemiologists believe that the incidence of this deadly cancer could decline after 2019, the presence of huge amounts of asbestos contained within the built and natural environment, leads one to question this optimistic forecast.

Commenting on this situation Mary Hesdorffer, the Director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, said:

“Despite the fact that Canadian asbestos production has now ceased, the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases means that we will, unfortunately, see many more cases of mesothelioma in the years to come. Each patient diagnosed has a family and friends, a community which will be devastated by this diagnosis. With all that is known about the effects asbestos has on human beings, it is beyond belief that neither Canada nor the U.S. has banned asbestos. Just what are they waiting for?”

Mary is right. The only way to bring the global asbestos catastrophe to an end is for the mining, sale and use of asbestos to be banned the world over. If not now, when?

Senator Chuck Schumer Thanks the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation for its Work

At this year’s Meso Foundation Symposium, Senator Chuck Schumer, along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Congressman Peter T. King, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez, Congressman Michael G. Grimm and Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, was this year’s recipient of the Bruce Vento Hope Builder Award.

The award, presented annually at the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s Symposium and named for the late Minnesota Congressman who died from mesothelioma in 2000, acknowledges the support and initiatives of advocates whose work helps to eradicate mesothelioma and eliminate the suffering caused by it.

During the presentation of awards, Sen. Schumer spoke to the Meso Foundation constituents and thanked them for their important work in eradicating mesothelioma and ending the suffering caused by it.

Watch the Senator’s remarks here:

This bipartisan, bicameral group of New York legislators sponsored the original James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (HR 847) to amend the Public Health Service Act to extend and improve protections and services to individuals directly impacted by the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001, and for other purposes. This amendment added mesothelioma as a disease covered by the act.

Taking the Air

beach-walkby Laurie Kazan-Allen  

The American humorist Bill Bryson once remarked that Britain was the only country which recognized breathing as a leisure time activity. The idea of a seaside stroll to “take the air” persists to this day. It basically consists of walking up and down the promenade by the seaside breathing gusts of ozone-laden air. Nothing wrong with that, I say, especially if you manage to do so on a sunny summer’s day.

The very opposite of this health-inducing regime, however took place in the Italian town of Casale Monferrato. The dire consequences of living in an environment contaminated by the fallout from the local asbestos-cement factory was corroborated yet again in a paper published earlier this year entitled: Pleural mesothelioma: forecasts of the death toll in the area of Casale Monferrato, Italy. Over nearly eighty years, production at the Eternit plant spewed asbestos fibers into the atmosphere as a result of which thousands of people have contracted the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Scientists predict that a further 500+ inhabitants from this Piemonte town of 36,000 people will contract mesothelioma as a result of past exposures. Evidence documenting the tragic scale of environmentally-caused cases of mesothelioma is plentiful. From Ambler, Pennsylvania to Casale Monferrato from Kuruman, South Africa to Armley, England local people have paid with their lives for the asbestos industry’s profits.

Consider, if you will, the almost hysterical global reaction to the outbreak of swine flu in 2009. The World Health Organization reacted quickly, sending out a pandemic alert for the H1N1 virus and newspapers were full of dire warnings with governments stockpiling supplies of drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza; the UK had enough medication for 33 million people! It has been estimated that 18,000 deaths occurred during the pandemic. And yet, there are no front-page articles about the tsunami of asbestos-related deaths which is causing more than 100,000 deaths every year. I don’t understand this; do you?

About Laurie Kazan-Allen

Ms. Laurie Kazan-Allen has been researching, writing and campaigning on asbestos issues for more than twenty years. The British Asbestos Newsletter, the quarterly publication she founded in 1990, is widely regarded as one of the most authoritative contemporary sources of information by the UK community of asbestos activists. In collaboration with international colleagues, in 1999 she established The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS). As the IBAS Coordinator she has organized and/or participated in asbestos events on six continents, amongst the most recent of which was an asbestos hearing at the European Parliament. 

As an adviser to the UK All Party Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group, Ms. Kazan-Allen helps organize the annual Parliamentary asbestos seminar. Kazan-Allen has written prolifically about asbestos issues in 85+ issues of the British Asbestos Newsletter and in IBAS publications such as Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial, Report on the Asian Asbestos Conference 2009, India’s Asbestos Time Bomb and Killing the Future – Asbestos Use in Asia. These and other texts can be accessed on the websites: www.britishasbestosnewsletter.org and www.ibasecretariat.org

Recap of the Rally For Medical Research

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Dana Purcell, Robena Reid, Marlyn Landin, Eric Linthicum, Ivana Mihajlovic, and Jessica Barker raise awareness in their bright yellow Cure Meso t-shirts.

Last week, Meso Foundation staff and supporters represented the mesothelioma community in the Rally for Medical Research.  Nearly 200 organizations participated to raise awareness about the critical need for a sustained investment in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve health, spur more progress, inspire more hope, and save more lives.  The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is proud to have been a partner in this historic event.  The estimated 10,000 advocates included Meso Warriors, bereaved family members and Foundation staff.

Released the very same week following the Rally, President Obama’s budget request included an increase in the NIH’s budget.   Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted “The significant new investments this budget contains for the NIH reflect our commitment to furthering the biomedical research that will help create good new jobs and advance the cause of medical science.”

Read more about the historic event here:

USA Today - Thousands rally to support medical research funding
Medpage Today - Rally Urges More Federal Research Dollars
About.com - The 2013 Rally for Medical Research in Washington D.C.
Medscape - Thousands Rally for Medical Research in Washington, DC
Nature News Blog - Medical researchers rally for funds in Washington DC
The Hill - Advocates, Lawmakers Rally For Medical Research Funding
GEN News - Today’s Rally for Medical Research