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Halliburton asbestos chapter closed

January 4, 2005 - Halliburton's $US4.17 billion ($A5.4 billion) settlement of thousands of asbestos claims has been finalised, the company says.

The Houston-based oil services conglomerate's construction and engineering subsidiary, KBR, and other subsidiaries that filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2003 as part of the settlement have emerged from Chapter 11.

The reorganisation plan, which included a $US2.775 billion ($A3.6 billion) cash payment with the rest in stock to settle 400,000 asbestos and 21,000 silica claims, received court approval in July and went into effect on Friday. Halliburton said the company anticipates funding trusts to pay the claims by the end of this month.

"The asbestos chapter in Halliburton's history is closed," said Dave Lesar, chairman and chief executive of Halliburton.

Halliburton inherited the claims when the company acquired Dresser Industries, Inc for $US7.7 billion in 1998, during Vice-President Dick Cheney's 1995-2000 tenure as chief executive. Most of the asbestos claims were filed against a former Dresser subsidiary, Pittsburgh-based Harbison-Walker Refractories Co.

AdvertisementHalliburton announced in September that KBR, formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root, may be sold or spun off if its stock performance fails to improve after the conclusion of the asbestos litigation. The unit's efforts to cut $80 million in costs include eliminating positions and re-examining project costs.

Halliburton and KBR have been criticised for multibillion-dollar contracts in Iraq and Kuwait to serve food, deliver fuel, handle mail and provide other services for US troops. Several federal agencies are investigating allegations of overbilling and favouritism stemming from Cheney's past tenure as company head. Halliburton has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Laborer's asbestos trial set for March 7

By Steve Gonzalez - Edwardsville Bureau

March 01, 2005 - Howard May Sr., an Illinois laborer who's been diagnosed with mesothelioma, and his wife, Jean, are preparing for trial March 7 against 64 defendants in an asbestos case filed last year in Madison County.

The Mays, who are represented by Edwardsville attorney Randy Gori of Goldenberg, Miller, Heller, & Antognoli, seek at least a half million dollars in compensation--$450,000 plus punitive damages for Howard May and at least $50,000 for Jean May, who claims loss of consortium, companionship, society and services of her husband.

According to the complaint, May was diagnosed with mesothelioma on Dec. 18, 2003, and became aware that his illness was wrongfully caused. He claims he was exposed to large amounts of asbestos fibers from products he worked with as a laborer throughout the state.

The Mays allege that the defendants did not properly care for Howard's safety. Some defendants also are accused of breaching their duty to preserve material evidence by destroying documents and information that could be used in potential civil litigation.

May claims he has had to undergo costly medical treatment and that he suffers great physical pain and mental anguish as a result of his asbestos exposure.

The complaint states that May has been hindered and prevented from pursuing his normal course of employment, thereby losing large sums of money which he otherwise would have earned.

If the case goes to trial, asbestos chief, Circuit Judge Daniel Stack will preside over the case.

Asbestos disease

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer

8 February, 2003 - Asbestos diseases are caused by inhaling asbestos dust, a mineral commonly used in the construction industry until the 1970s. The main diseases caused by asbestos inhalation are asbestosis - the scarring of lung tissue, lung cancer, mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the chest and lungs) and pleural disease. Pleural disease includes calcification of the lungs and pleural effusion (fluid on the lungs).

Over 3,000 people a year die of the disease in the UK and numbers are predicted to rise to 10,000 a year by 2020. Those infected are mainly builders, plumbers and shipyard workers, but teachers, children and nurses are believed to have been put at risk since asbestos was used in the construction of several schools and hospitals.

Families of those who work with asbestos can also be infected if asbestos particles are brought into the home on clothes. It can take up to 40 years for symptoms to show.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms include shortness of breath on exertion, a persistent cough, chest pain or tightening of the chest, nail abnormalities (such as ridges developing on the nails or white streaks on the nails) and thickening of the fingers and toes.

What is the treatment?

There is no cure for asbestos diseases, but, as severity depends on the length of exposure and amount of asbestos dust inhaled, early identification through chest x-ray can prevent further exposure and worsening of conditions.

People who develop mesothelioma have a particularly bad prognosis. Around 75% die within one year of diagnosis. Mesothelioma can take between 20 and 40 years to develop after exposure to asbestos dust.

Other cancers related to asbestos include lung cancer (worsened by cigarette smoking) and cancers of the oesophagus, stomach, colon and rectum.

People with pleural diseases can have their lungs drained at intervals to relieve the build-up of fluid.

Some people with asbestos diseases may need oxygen masks to help them breathe. Asbestosis, for example, leads to a thickening of the lower part of the lungs, making them less elastic and causing breathing problems.

Action to prevent infection

The UK Health and Safety Commission announced in August that white asbestos could be banned by next year except in circumstances where no alternative material can be found. Discussions are taking place between September and the end of the year. Brown and blue asbestos have already been banned.

Trade unions have brought several successful cases against companies whose workers have developed asbestos diseases.


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