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Nightline Focuses on Cities at Risk for Asbestos Shipments

Many in Danger of Asbestos Epidemic as Members of Congress Work to Shield Corporations at Fault

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Last week (Nov. 3 & Nov. 4), ABC Nightline news aired a very important story about the asbestos epidemic in Libby, Montana, site of the W.R. Grace mine, and the ways in which the poisonous mineral affects not only this grief-stricken mountain town, but also many other cities throughout the United States.

The story focused on asbestos victims in Libby and how officials at the W.R. Grace company, who now face criminal charges, knowingly exposed millions of people to dangerous tremolite asbestos particles and were involved in a massive cover up. Hundreds have perished in Libby from asbestos-caused diseases including asbestosis and mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by asbestos. Thousands more die each year in areas across the country from this very SAME asbestos. Thousands of tons of asbestos were shipped from Libby to multiple cities in almost every state across the country.

Susan Vento, Chair of the Committee to Protect Mesothelioma Victims, among the hundreds of asbestos victims in the organization, is concerned that some members of Congress are trying to pass legislation, expected to come up in early 2006, that would provide special treatment for victims in Libby, Montana, while thousands of others face the possibility of little to no compensation if the legislation is passed.

"While those living in Libby, Montana have faced extreme tragedy, they have stuck together in their time of grief to fight for fair treatment for asbestos victims. However, under the asbestos trust fund bill Congress has chosen to exempt only those victims living in Libby, Montana, while leaving victims exposed to the same asbestos in other cities out in the cold."

Vento knows well the story of those living in Libby, Montana and others across the country afflicted by mesothelioma. Her husband, the late Minnesota Congressman, Bruce Vento, died of mesothelioma in 2000.

"The asbestos trust fund bill, S. 852, would take away victims' rights to fair treatment while providing a windfall for the very companies, like W.R. Grace, who have knowingly poisoned thousands of workers and their families, taking their lives and livelihood. By making a special exception for asbestos victims in Libby, Montana, Congress has made clear that this bill is unfair to ALL other victims," says Vento.

The asbestos trust fund bill is expected to come up in Congress as one of the first pieces of legislation in 2006. Despite the many problems with the bill, asbestos manufacturers and their insurers continue to push for this unfair legislation.

To see the Nightline story visit http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/. To find out more about the asbestos hot spots across the U.S. visit http://ewg.org/issues/asbestos/20050426/hotspots.php. For more information about asbestos and the trust fund bill visit http://www.asbestostruth.org.

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Committee to Protect Mesothelioma Victims

The Committee to Protect Mesothelioma Victims (CPMV) is an organization founded by asbestos victims and their families and friends. CPMV works to raise awareness on national asbestos issues and ensure that victims' rights are properly represented and protected on both a local and national level. For more information visit http://www.asbestostruth.org.

Contact: Mollie Turner for the Committee to Protect Mesothelioma Victims, 202-448-3147 or mturner@directoutreach.com; Web: http://www.asbestostruth.org


State suing Windham company over asbestos

December 26, 2005 - CONCORD, N.H. --The state has sued a Windham construction company it says may have contaminated the site of the former Benson's Wild Animal Farm in Hudson with asbestos.

According to court records, George R. Cairns and Sons was hired to restore the wetlands at the former theme park. But state officials say the company either used contaminated soil from elsewhere, or failed to inspect the existing soil before doing the work.

Glenn Cairns, the company's vice president, denies the company is responsible. He says the contamination was only discovered about a year after his company completed the restoration work.

"We don't believe we brought any asbestos onto the site," Cairns said.

According to court records, the company says state workers oversaw the restoration project and had the same opportunities to notice problems, but did not. It also says inspecting the soil for contaminants wasn't part of its contract.

The company has argued that the soil likely was contaminated before it began work at the site.

The state wants the company to remove the asbestos, then restore the wetlands.

"As a result of the defendant's negligence, approximately four acres of the Benson's site ... are contaminated with asbestos, which now must be removed, disposed and reconstructed," the lawsuit says.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Carol Murray, whose agency brought the lawsuit, said the contamination isn't a public health risk at the moment. The legal wrangling, however, has delayed the town's plans to convert the land into a recreational area.


Botched asbestos job revives call for new law

County legislators seek worker-training measure

By MATTHEW SPINA
News Staff Reporter
3/25/2006 - The first asbestos-removal project in the Rath County Office Building went from bad to worse in short order.
After only days on the job, the contractor's asbestos handlers on March 2 allowed water to pour from the building's 14th floor to the 13th, so the Parks Department below had to relocate for a day.

Two weeks later, agents for the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services found seven of the 11 workers on the asbestos job were undocumented aliens. The contractor, Superior Abatement of Fairfield, N.J., had been a defendant in federal and state courts and cited in the past, including for work performed in Buffalo.

Some county lawmakers attribute the episode to a zeal to pick the lowest bidder no matter its history. And a few lawmakers say it justifies the need for a worker-training law like the one business officials railed against just weeks ago and which County Executive Joel A. Giambra vetoed.

Its main proponent in the Legislature, Buffalo Democrat Timothy M. Kennedy, will convene a session of his Economic Development Committee at 10 a.m. Tuesday to start drafting a new version. He said he has invited the Associated Builders and Contractors, which campaigned against the requirement, saying it was poorly written, unfairly favored union contractors and excluded many firms from bidding on county government projects.

If the workers on the asbestos-removal project had been asked to show proof they had completed a state apprentice program, as his law would have required, Kennedy said, then county officials could have excluded them from the job as unqualified.

At the same time, however, county officials are no longer sure the workers - the undocumented aliens anyway - were certified as asbestos handlers because they were not U.S. citizens. Those workers could have been thrown off the job if unable to prove they had asbestos training, regardless of whether Kennedy's apprentice-training law was in effect.

A Superior Abatement principal, Nicholas Petrovski, said he believes the workers completed their training as asbestos handlers but was not sure how they did so if not cleared to work in the United States.

"That's a question I have, too," Petrovski told The Buffalo News, also saying he's now talking with public works officials about how to complete the project.

Giambra halted all work March 15, saying he would not tolerate a contractor hiring illegal aliens. His public works officials are devising a way to finish the project by September.

Superior Abatement offered to do the job for $361,000, with the next lowest bidder coming in at $398,000. The project immediately was scrutinized by organized labor because Superior was not using unionized workers and because the few certified asbestos handlers remaining on the county payroll after the layoffs of 2005 would not be used.

Superior Abatement had been a defendant in federal and state courts after some of its other projects. In 1996, one of its workers on a job at Buffalo's Roswell Park Cancer Institute reported to state authorities that some asbestos had not been removed before new insulation was installed and that asbestos had been left atop a basement storage tank.

The worker, Mark J. McNaughton, was soon fired by Superior Abatement, but the National Labor Relations Board ordered him reinstated.

In the Rath Building, hoses started to leak overnight March 2 and by morning puddles had formed on the floor below, said Gerard Sentz, a public works official. Superior Abatement was told to clean all surfaces, dry out carpeting and take air samples. Two of the five samples showed the presence of asbestos fibers but were well below maximum-allowed levels, Sentz said.

Petrovski said he is talking with county officials and Local 210 of the Laborers International Union of North America because he's willing to use the union's workers in finishing the county contract. Local 210 explained to county lawmakers this week how it believes the job had been botched, turning up the heat on Superior Abatement.

"That's the only way I am going to be able to go back on the job and satisfy the owner," Petrovski said.


Winship gets $7.5 million to do lung cancer research

By: Diana Zelikovich
3/28/06 - Emory's Winship Cancer Institute now has another $7.5 million to help eradicate lung cancer. Winship representatives announced the National Cancer Institute grant on March 7.

Fadlo Khuri, associate director of cancer and translations research and co-principal investigator of the grant, said research will be directed towards improving current lung cancer therapies and the understanding of biological mechanisms that allow cancer cells to replicate.

"We are looking to take conventional therapies and develop them in a targeted, individualized way," Khuri said.

Vincent Dollard, director of communications at the institute, said the team will also research methods for lung cancer detection, enabling physicians to diagnose and treat patients earlier.

Khuri said he wants to make sure researchers for the various components of the project interact well so their findings can be effectively integrated.

Research is set to begin when the first check for $1.5 million arrives on June 1. The project is expected to last through May 31, 2011.

Khuri said he was optimistic about the endeavor.

"I am sure that we will make important discoveries and that we will significantly advance the biological understanding of lung cancer," he said. "We will make progress through research, but we also need luck."

The research project is based on the principle that the receptors enabling cells to communicate with each other mutate when a cell turns cancerous.

Many cancers share similar mutations in these receptors, which are found on the cells' surfaces. The research team wants to examine these similarities to determine specific pathways to kill cancerous cells, Khuri said.

In addition to the $7.5 million NCI grant, the Cancer Institute will look to a variety of other sources for funding, including the Georgia Cancer Coalition and Emory itself.

Dollard said federal funding for lung cancer research has increased in recent years but still falls short of what is needed.

"We are always looking for additional funding," he said.


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