Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Asbestos and Lung Cancer

A naturally occurring mineral that contains fibers, asbestos has been identified as the most common industrial substance that induces lung cancer. When fibers of asbestos disintegrate, they release microscopic particles in the air. Since they are easily inhalable, they can settle down in the lungs, leading to cell damage and increased cancer risks. Smokers face an increased risk of developing asbestos-related lung cancer in comparison to non-smokers. To read a personal story of a Navy veteran diagnosed with lung cancer, click here.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Symptoms commonly associated with lung cancer include constant chest pain, persistent cough, fatigue, loss of appetite, shortness of breath or wheezing, repeated bronchitis or pneumonia and swelling in the face or neck.

Treatment of lung cancer

The type of treatment for lung cancer will depend on a variety of factors such as the tumor’s shape, size and location and the patient’s general health. Surgery, chemotherapy treatment, radiation therapy, immuno-therapy (medications that improve the performance of the immune system), and photodynamic therapy (use of lasers) are some common treatment options available to lung cancer patients. As is the case with other cancers, an early diagnosis is critical for the success of the treatment procedure.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dallas Church Undergoes Asbestos Removal

A Dallas-area church that dates back to 1897 is undergoing asbestos removal and demolition. Workers at Ponce Contractors, the firm in charge of the demolition efforts at the Oak Cliff Christian Church in suburban Dallas, reported that the asbestos removal and remediation process should last until the first week of February. After the dangerous material has safely been removed from the premises, the work on tearing down the century-old structure can begin.

The site, purchased by the Dallas Independent School District last August, is slated to house an expansion of athletic facilities for nearby Adamson High School. Local activists, seeking to keep the church structure intact as a historical landmark, expressed dismay at seeing the initial efforts at taking down the long-standing structure. According to David Klempin, a longtime Oak Cliff resident, the church’s demolition would represent “a terrible loss” to the neighborhood.

In 1897, the congregation at the newly formed church selected the site and began holding services in a remodeled home. At that time, Oak Cliff was considered a small town, far away from the crowds and noise of nearby Dallas. The current structure was finished in 1916 and expanded in 1925 to meet the needs of the growing suburban population. When the church moved to a new building in 1962, the members agreed to sell the old building to the Revival Tabernacle Association, a Dallas-area non-profit organization.

For years, the church sat in a decaying neighborhood, its windows boarded and doors locked. At the time of its construction, workers used asbestos to insulate walls and pipes, as well as for fireproofing material. With the impending demolition, workers have had to use extra precautions to protect themselves from the hazards involved in handling loose asbestos-laced materials. Workers will typically wear breathing masks to insure that they do not inhale the fibers, as well as special coveralls that would prevent the fibers from attaching themselves to their clothing.

The news of the district’s plans to demolish the church came with as much surprise as it did with dismay for those in favor of attempting to preserve the site. Reverend Nita Allen, the current pastor of Oak Cliff Christian Church, said that “it’s going to be sad” for her and her congregation to see the old site demolished, although she recognized that “progress goes on”.

The fight for preservation over demolition also extends to the school itself. The main building on the Adamson High School campus was constructed in 1916, at nearly the same time as the nearby church. A bond issue passed last year allowed the school district to build a new school, which was the reason behind the district’s purchase of the church site.

A disagreement between school board members and prominent school alumni flared when the district announced plans to tear down much of the existing structure rather than modernize and remodel. With the plans for the new school still uncertain, no move has been made to investigate the presence or concentrations of asbestos at the current school site.


Man Sentenced for Illegally Selling Asbestos Training Course Certificate

On October 19, 2009, John V. Bruce of Meriden, Connecticut pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Toxic Substance Control Act, or TSCA, in relation to asbestos.

According to U.S. Attorney Nora R. Dannehy, of the District of Connecticut, Bruce, 39 admitted he had sold a licensed asbestos remediation certificate, for $400, to an individual who never enrolled in or attended an asbestos remediation course.

The certificate was acquired in May of 2004, reportedly by an immigrant from Honduras who had arrived in the United States scarcely two weeks previously.

Not only was the certificate given for a class not attended, but Bruce’s company, Environmental Training and Consulting, Inc.(ETCI), of Vernon and Wallingford – which had been licensed in 1998 to deliver a four-day, 32-hour asbestos worker certification course – provided the certificate at a time when ECTI’s license to provide asbestos training had been expired for more than a year.

The TSCA, as administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, mandates that individuals removing asbestos from public buildings be trained and licensed under the EPA’s Model Accreditation Plan, or MAP, and that states adopt licensing requirements at least as strict as the EPA’s.

The State of Connecticut developed its asbestos accreditation program in 1995, and the program was approved by the EPA in July of that year.

Bruce’s firm, ETCI, was licensed under Connecticut’s MAP to deliver asbestos worker, asbestos supervisor, asbestos management engineer and asbestos project fabricator training, but the license was allowed to expire on January 1, 2003, or one year and four months before Bruce, 39, sold the certificate to an immigrant worker.

ETCI also operated as an asbestos removal firm under all the categories mentioned above, and the falsified certification, dated Dec. 19, 2002, resulted in an investigation by the Criminal Investigation Division of the EPA, which handed down a possible prison term of one year and a potential fine of up to $100,000.

On January 7, Bruce was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay a fine of $800, a reduced sentence that likely reflects the fact that Bruce is known to have violated only one statute of the TSCA, unlike Longley-Jones of Syracuse, New York, which in 2006 was assessed $4 million in fines for illegally removing asbestos from public buildings over a 15-year period, using untrained staff with no protective equipment.

Asbestos, a fibrous mineral widely used during most of the 20th century in insulative materials, floor and ceiling products, mastics, glues and caulks (as well as brake pads and household items like ironing board covers) is the only known cause of mesothelioma, a fairly rare but highly lethal form of cancer of mesothelial tissues that typically lies dormant for decades before producing symptoms of sufficient severity to force patients to consult a doctor.

By the time most mesothelial tumors are diagnosed and confirmed, patients are given little more than a year to live, but this situation may change now that early diagnoses – delivered by sampling pleural fluid – provide for more immediate treatment.




Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cancer In Older People

The fact is that because of many important advances in medicine, people are more aware of how to prevent many illnesses like heart disease and others. In addition, people in the world are healthier, living longer, and they are more concerned about living healthy lives. Women that are born now, are expected to live for 85 years and men are expected to live for 77 years.

The biggest risk factor for becoming sick from cancer is aging. According to research done by the National Cancer Institute, the amount of new cancer cases is 10 times as great for those who are 65 years old or older. On average, 60 percent of all cancers happen in this age group. The most common kinds of cancers in people over the age of 65 include cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, bladder, pancreas, lung, stomach and rectum.

Keep in mind that aging is a bodily process that changes healthy, young adults into older and possibly less healthy adults. As people age, the risk that they become ill, injured or die increases. The process is extremely complex and it can make a person weaker. As a result, people are not able to resist disability and diseases as well. Aging may also affect how a person feels and their independence. In addition, their self esteem may decrease as they become older.

Many people experience changes physically as they become older. If they have cancer, these changes can interfere with therapy and treatment. In addition, many older people find it difficult or they are not able to do the normal things they used to do like bathing, getting dressed and using the bathroom without help. These abilities are measured by the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) and the Activities of Daily Living (ADL). As a result, these people are expected to die sooner than other adults, and they may find managing stress difficult including the stress that results from cancer treatment.

Older adults that have chronic illnesses are more likely to die sooner and they have a harder time handling stress. Common illnesses and conditions that may occur as people become older include decreased kidney function, heart problems, memory loss, vision loss, hearing problems, poor nutrition, and weight loss, which can result when dentures are not fitted properly, teeth loss, depression and appetite loss, especially if the individual takes certain medications. Please note that people age at different rates. When estimating how long a person will live and how capable they are of handling stress, it is important to look at how they function and what illnesses or conditions they have.

Cancer in the Elderly

Cancer is common with older people. However, older people usually receive screening for cancer less often, and they may receive no treatment or milder treatment. Research shoes that cancer therapy and treatment is useful for older individuals. It is essential that older people that have cancer and their family be given information about treatment, including the benefits, risks and objectives of treatment. They will be able to make better choices if they become informed about cancer treatments.

Many older people that are sick from cancer, have concerns that other cancer patients do not have. Most older people want to be able to cook for themselves, bathe, walk or drive, but these things can be affected by cancer treatment. Sometimes they feel isolated because they do not live near their family or they have lost family or friends. They may become depressed and anxious because they feel alone. These negative feelings may interfere with their treatments. In addition, religious and spiritual concerns may affect their decisions about treatment. Some older people that have cancer have financial problems, so paying for treatment and other costs becomes a problem. Some older people that have cancer have other medical problems that may affect their ability to get around. However, older adults can change their environment in order to make it a better and safer place to live. Some older people have trouble making their appointments for treatment because they do not have transportation. Older people that do not drive or have transportation for their treatments, should seek help from social workers or nurses when they need it.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Potsdam, NY Civic Center Gets Asbestos Remediation after Cancer Deaths

In Potsdam, New York, two workers at the city’s civic center, or city hall, died this summer within three weeks of one another, raising fears of asbestos contamination in the building on Park Street in downtown Potsdam.

One, Sharon M. LaDuke, 57, died May 29 after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and often fatal cancer linked with asbestos exposure. The other, Linda M. Power, 59, a tax collector, died June 19 of ovarian cancer.

Asbestos, a fibrous mineral widely used in various building products during most of the last century, can cause irritations in the mesothelial linings of the lungs, abdomen and pelvis, leading to lesions that may develop into cancer.

The difficulty with asbestos exposure is that a single incident can trigger mesothelioma, which commonly lies dormant for several decades before producing symptoms of such intensity that doctors can diagnose it. By that time, however, the tumors have invaded so many tissues and vital organs that the prognosis is very poor, and most patients are given between a year and 18 months to live.

The illnesses in Potsdam apparently triggered an examination for asbestos, and on June 5 contractors working at the behest of the state’s Public Employee Health and Safety Bureau took a core sample through the roof into the building, and then patched the hole.

The patch, about a foot in diameter, started to leak, so officials shut the courtroom and have been holding court in the civic center board room.

During testing, the core sample demonstrated asbestos-containing mastic in tiles affixed to the courtroom ceiling, and employees were understandably upset when John Usher, an inspector from the state’s Public Employee Health and Safety Bureau, showed up on Wednesday, June 24, to address their concerns.

On May 19, Canton-based Atlantic Testing Laboratories tested 15 locations inside the civic center for asbestos, and all came back at the non-detection level, meaning there were no airborne asbestos fibers inside the building.

Two further tests have also demonstrated that the air quality in the building is safe (that is, below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Permissible Exposure Limit, or PEL, of 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter (f/cc) of air, calculated as an 8-hour, time-weighted average, or TWA). In spite of that, Usher’s meeting with employees and union representatives – and his subsequent asbestos awareness Q&A sessions – have done little to reassure, falling as they do one day after workers returned from Power’s funeral.

Usher described the condition of the building as “typical for its age”. Potsdam Deputy Mayor Ruth F. Garner, who attended the Wednesday session, has described the employee’s furor as a “fiasco”, and says that, while there may be cause for concern, the aura of fear has created a prejudice that might not be overcome even if testing shows the building safe.

Potsdam officials are still waiting for the state’s final report, and expect that they will be cited for two violations; the first from an unlabeled boiler room pipe with asbestos insulation, the second for not providing asbestos awareness training to workers and staff. Garner said both problems have since been addressed.

The four remaining asbestos abatement projects will come from Potsdam general funds, and be completed within three months. Trustees voted not to approve $500 per day for an air monitoring system, because all the testing so far has shown the civic center’s air is safe.




Asbestos Fraud Case Goes to Trial

CSX Transportation, a leader in the rail freight industry, presented their suit against a West Virginia-based doctor, a Pittsburgh-based law firm and one of the firm’s employees for filing false claims of asbestos exposure against the company. The suit, originally filed in 2005, claims that Robert Gilkison and his employers, the law firm of Peirce, Raimond and Coulter, conspired to make false insurance claims against CSX. The suit also says that two CSX workers originated the idea of scamming the rail company by switching x-ray photos. CSX filed the suit after company officials received an anonymous call that mentioned two former workers, Ricky May and Daniel Jayne, had participated in the fraud.

According to the suit, CSX claims a former employee who was previously diagnosed with asbestosis came in to have x-ray images taken, then reported to the doctor that he was another employee who had earlier shown no symptoms of the disease. After the report, CSX reached a settlement for $8,000. The suit also says that Gilkison, who once worked for the railroad company before joining the law firm, had knowledge of the x-ray swap and did not disclose the switch. CSX also stated in the suit that Gilkison actively attempted to enroll railroad workers to file other fraudulent suits against the railroad.

Dr. Ray Harron, a radiologist based in Bridgeport, West Virginia, was also named in the suit. The allegations against Dr. Harron include misinterpreting x-ray images in order to give merit to the false claims. CSX also claims that Mr. Jayne, who had been diagnosed with the disease, visited Dr. Harron’s office and used Mr. May’s personal information when filling in the personal information form. This deception enabled Mr. May to receive the $8,000 settlement from CSX. Mr. May and Mr. Jayne have agreed to testify for CSX in the civil action. In return, CSX did not pursue charges against Mr. Jayne. Mr. May agreed to return the settlement money.

Marc Williams, one of the CSX attorneys pursuing the case, mentioned that the burden of proof in civil cases is much lower than that in criminal prosecutions. In a criminal case, prosecutors must show guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”. In civil actions, plaintiffs such as CSX can win a judgment if they can establish guilt through a “preponderance of the evidence”. Mr. Williams also told jurors that Mr. Gilkison was participating in the fraud in order to keep the powerful CSX employee’s union as clients of his employer’s firm. Mr. Williams also alleged that Mr. Gilkison was afraid that, if he did alert either CSX or the media to the attempted fraud, the union would drop the law firm as their counsel and that he would lose his job.

Walter DeForest, the attorney for the Peirce law firm, claimed that Mr. Gilkison was in the dark as to the fraud. He stated that the scam started with Mr. May as an attempt to extract both money and revenge from CSX. Although the firm is widely acknowledged for holding regular asbestos screenings for union employees, Mr. DeForest said that Mr. May brought the idea to Mr. Gilkison but that he did not take it seriously and did not participate in an active fraud scheme.



Monday, November 16, 2009

Idaho Firm Tagged for Improper Asbestos Removal

In October of 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, conducted an asbestos-removal compliance inspection on a property where Precision Demolition and Abatement, LLC. of Boise, Idaho had completed work.

The property, located at 4806 Emerald Street and currently known as the Orient Market, was an abandoned building slated for renovation from which asbestos first needed to be removed.

The inspection found several violations of the EPA’s NESHAP (National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants) regulations, including: failure to inform the EPA in advance when the asbestos remediation would take place; failure to keep removed asbestos adequately wet, to prevent particles entering the air; failure to carefully lower asbestos to the floor; failure to confine visible emissions; failure to mark the bin as an asbestos disposal site; and failure to prove that a trained and certified on-site inspector was present during asbestos removal.

NESHAP regulations, enforced under Section 112 of the 1990 Clean Air Act are very precise, and aimed at protecting workers and the general public from the hazards of asbestos fibers released into the air, according to Edward Kowalski, who works out of the EPA’s Seattle (Region 10) office as Director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral widely used during most of the last century in many construction materials as an insulative agent. It was also widely used in the manufacture of floor tiles, and some acoustical ceiling tiles and acoustical ceiling sprays. In 1989, the EPA limited its use to one percent by volume (or weight) in domestic products, but imported products can still contain significant amounts of asbestos.

Asbestos is the leading cause of asbestosis, a respiratory disease that is commonly acquired only after long exposure. Asbestos is also the only known cause of pleural mesothelioma, the form of mesothelioma that affects the lungs.

Pleural mesothelioma typically has a long dormancy period, up to five decades, during which symptoms are indistinguishable from allergies or a weakened immune system. When the symptoms finally become severe enough to aid diagnosis, typically via a chest X-ray, the prognosis is usually poor, and most sufferers are given between a year and 18 months to live because the cancer has invaded so many vital tissues.

Federal NESHAP regulations require asbestos remediation firms to inform the EPA (and/or all local relevant agencies acting on its behalf) 10 days in advance of a remediation or removal project, and conduct a thorough inspection of said property for all possible instances of asbestos.

If asbestos levels exceed a certain threshold, workers must wear protective equipment to remove it, seal the area if it connects to public areas, keep the asbestos-containing materials wet at all times to prevent particles becoming airborne, and dispose of the material in proper NESHAP fashion, which includes the use of approved plastic bags and a designated, labeled container. Finally, asbestos-containing materials must be disposed of in permitted landfills that accept hazardous waste.

Precision Demolition and Abatement LLC agreed to pay, and paid, the $36,000 fine associated with its improper removal of asbestos. The air inside Orient Market has presumably been tested and deemed free of asbestos particles. Unfortunately, the improper removal of this clearly hazardous substance may have put a number of individuals in the vicinity at risk and, unlike asbestosis, mesothelioma requires only a single exposure – that is, a single inhaled or ingested asbestos fiber – to occur.



Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is a needle like mineral fiber that was widely used in the manufacturing of home and industrial products such as insulation, floor tiles, paint, heating ducts and pipes, and automotive parts until the 1980’s. Asbestos is easily aerosolized into microscopic particles that can be inhaled and lodge within the lungs.

Asbestos has been shown to be highly carcinogenic, contributing to the development of malignant pleural mesothelioma, small cell lung cancer and other asbestos related cancers. Asbestos exposure also contributes to the development of non cancerous medical conditions including asbestosis and the development of non malignant pleural thickening, plaques and effusions. Though asbestos is no longer used as widely as it once was, many cases of chronic asbestos exposure are just now emerging as the disease may take years to develop. In addition, some post 9-11 rescue workers are now showing signs of developing asbestos lung diseases due to an acute exposure following the disaster.

Chronic Exposure Risks

Miners - Asbestos was widely mined in virtually every state in the country to provide the product for manufacturing. During this time, little safety gear was worn as health risks were unknown. Miners of vermiculite, talc and dolomite are also often exposed to asbestos dust as these mineral products contain a high percentage of asbestos.

Construction workers – Nearly all homes and commercial buildings constructed prior to the late 1970’s contain asbestos products. Asbestos was used for to its insulating properties and is virtually fireproof so it was considered quite safe. It was thought to be useful on virtually every surface including wall, ceiling and floor coverings, all types of insulation and in the construction of a number of household appliances. Some exterior construction materials are still being manufactured with asbestos. These may include cement board products, siding, shingles and flashing. Sand and crushed rock may also contain asbestos if the rock was obtained from an asbestos laden site.

Pipe fitters - During the 1940’s to 1980’s in the construction of power plants, oil refineries and other heat related processing plants may have exposed workers to asbestos. Pipefitters were required to not only cut and fit pipes, but also to insulate the pipes with asbestos insulation which required the cutting, sanding and installation of asbestos insulation blocks and gaskets. Protective gear was generally not worn as health risks were not recognized.

High heat industry workers - Steel, aluminum, iron and other metal workers, along with boiler makers, oil refinery workers, metal workers, power plant workers, railroad workers were exposed to asbestos as industry made large use of the insulating and fire retardant properties of asbestos.
Shipbuilders - During World War II and the Korean War, shipbuilding exposed a large number of workers to asbestos as it was used for its ability to resist corrosion and heat disruption. It was used to manufacture such parts as steam boilers, pipes and incinerators. In addition, because most of these areas are poorly ventilated, many ship crew members may have suffered from asbestos exposure due to dust that collected around such parts. Longshoremen loading the ships in the shipyards may also have had significant asbestos exposure.

Factory workers – As the chemical was widely used in manufacturing and required the inclusion of asbestos powder into hundreds of products, anyone involved in the making of products containing asbestos may have had significant chronic exposure.

Auto workers – Manufacturers and mechanics in the auto industry may have had significant asbestos exposure as it was used to manufacture gaskets for engines and in brake parts due to its ability to resist heat production from friction.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Katrina Legacy Upsets Residents

Hurricane Katrina, which swept the southern coast of the U.S. from Florida to Texas in 2005, was the sixth strongest hurricane ever recorded and left in its wake a swath of damage from the Southern Louisiana parish of Plaquemines to as far north as Clarksville, Tennessee.

The cost, in dollars, was $110 billion, making it the most expensive hurricane to hit the U.S. The cost in lives – a reported 373 deaths and 6,381 injuries – may never be known, because of events surrounding the storm, which left rescue workers stranded and the elderly unprotected in nursing homes. Some bodies may also have been washed out to sea.

Now, three and one-half years later, in East New Orleans, the La Provence Apartments near the Crowder Boulevard exit along I-10 stand as a blighted reminder to all that went wrong that August day in 2005.

The smell alone was catastrophic, residents say, and huge rats were observed running in and out of the building. Then, in May, crews finally showed up to take the building down, but celebration proved premature. No sooner had workers started bringing the building down that the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ – acting on a tip about the company hired to deconstruct the building – pulled workers out and shut the operation down.

It seems the crew couldn’t produce the appropriate documents showing whether the building had been inspected for asbestos, even though the contractor and sub-contractor both insisted they had the necessary certification to perform the demolition in the event of asbestos being present. Unfortunately for both, work was started before either had clearance from the DEQ, or a certificate of asbestos inspection – an error ascribed to confusion over the actual age of the complex.

In the interim, the building stands partially gutted, the grass long and shaggy, every ambient breeze raising the prospect of asbestos contamination for those who live nearby. In addition to that hazard, the prospect of fire, vandalism or neighborhood violence, as the homeless and gangs use the building for shelter, has some residents threatening to move.

KBR Enterprises from Pearl River is representing the contractor, Professional Construction and Restoration, and the subcontractor, who has not been named. This is the same KBR which was spun off from Halliburton in 2006. Currently, companies are being sued by American service personnel for open-pit burning in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both are also being sued by Detroit's Police and Fire pension fund for misappropriation, and by company shareholders who charge that the two created a “pervasive environment of misdeed and corruption, resulting in enforcement actions and substantial government penalties that have severely damaged investors' holdings”.

KBR says it is hiring an environmental firm to inspect for asbestos at the La Provence complex. Department of Environmental Quality officials have threatened to enforce stiff penalties if they find the company acted in blatant violation of asbestos regulations established under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.




Monday, October 19, 2009

Fresno, California Police Department Employees Exposed to Asbestos

On September 21, a Fresno, California-area newspaper reported the exposure of about 90 city employees to asbestos as a result of construction crews installing fire suppression equipment in two computer rooms next to the police department’s communications, or dispatch, center.

Asbestos exposure can lead to a number of diseases. The first is asbestosis, a respiratory disease similar to asthma commonly acquired after long exposure to asbestos, either in mining, manufacturing (of asbestos-containing products), or installation of said products, as with automobile brake mechanics.

Fortunately, in 1989 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, limited the use of asbestos in domestic products to one percent or less by a volume. The limit does not imply to imported products, which can contain unregulated levels.

Another asbestos-induced disease is pleural mesothelioma. One of three types of cancer of the mesothelial lining, pleural mesothelioma is by far the most common, closely followed by peritoneal mesothelioma (abdominal) and pericardial mesothelioma (heart).

Not only is pleural mesothelioma common, and caused primarily by asbestos, but – unlike asbestosis – it requires only a single exposure to trigger the disease. Once exposed, victims are not likely to exhibit many symptoms for several decades, or up to 50 years in some cases, and what few symptoms they do exhibit can easily be mistaken for allergic reactions, compromised immune systems, or persistent pneumonias.

At the end of this long dormancy period, symptoms can become quite pronounced, and diagnosis is usually made by a simple X-ray. Unfortunately, by that time, the tumor has invaded so many tissues, and even vital organs, that little can be done to halt the cancer. Many patients diagnosed with long-standing pleural mesothelioma are given about a year to live, though some cases, caught early enough, respond moderately well to aggressive therapies involving surgery and/or multiple regimens of chemotherapy.

Only recently have tests become available that can diagnose pleural mesothelioma early, and the most technologically sophisticated of these relies on testing the soluble mesothelin-related protein content of pleural effusions, or fluid accumulations in the pleural cavity.

The 90 workers in Fresno’s police department, all of whom were in the area at various times, have been notified via voice mail and other means that their exposure may have left them open to developing mesothelioma in the future. Fortunately, the risk was mitigated due to the fact that the rooms in which the work was conducted have their own separate air system, so only those entering the rooms have been directly exposed, though these individuals might have carried asbestos fibers into other rooms on clothing.

In the interim, the dispatch center has been relocated elsewhere, and city officials have ordered air-quality sampling of the dispatch center and equipment rooms to determine if asbestos particles became airborne.

Asbestos, when sealed, sequestered or undisturbed, is not dangerous. When it becomes airborne, it can be inhaled or ingested, leading to lesions in the lungs and/or digestive tract that can develop into various forms of mesothelioma.

City officials knew the area contained asbestos, but did not consider it a danger because it had been sealed off. The fire suppression installation had been going on for over a week before someone noticed that asbestos-containing materials had been disturbed. Employees who may have been exposed have been informed that they can see their own medical provider and file a claim with the city against the future development of asbestos-related diseases.

The legacy costs of mesothelioma can’t even be calculated, but in the U.S. alone, $40 billion sits in various trusts to pay those costs. Unfortunately, only about 30 percent of that actually makes it way to those suffering from mesothelioma, according to non-profit global think tank RAND Corporation.

Asbestos was widely used in hundreds of construction, automotive and household products during most of the last century, leading to the aforementioned legacy costs. According to a Yale School of Organization and Management study conducted in 1992, this widespread use of asbestos will lead to 200,000 asbestos-related deaths over the next 25 years, at a cost to manufacturers and their insurers of at least $50 billion dollars.