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Teacher death fuels schools' dust fears
Elizabeth Allen, education reporter
26 March 2005 - A NORTH Queensland teacher died from the deadly asbestos disease mesothelioma after dust fell from the roof cavity on her desk on a windy day.
The teacher, employed by Education Queensland, made a successful claim against Workcover Queensland, which did not contest her claim, before dying in 2003.
Leading Queensland lung specialist Dr Maurice Heiner said yesterday the north Queensland teacher's asbestos situation was "almost a template of what we are seeing at Moggill (State School)".
"In the case of the teacher who has now died, there was evidence that when wind blew, (asbestos) dust would fall from the ceiling on to classroom desks and that's how the contamination occurred," Dr Heiner said.
A total of 1171 of Queensland's 1300 state schools are on the Government's asbestos register because they contain asbestos materials.
Dr Heiner yesterday delivered a report to the State Government on the asbestos conditions at Moggill State School in Brisbane's west.
In the report, he called for the school's asbestos roof to be replaced immediately, saying that deadly asbestos fibres from the roof could be inhaled by students on a windy day.
He said a report by independent company Parsons Brinckerhoff, ordered by Education Minister Anna Bligh, stated that the roof was friable, meaning easily crumbled, that deadly asbestos fibres were found in the ceiling space and along the gutter, and that there was "the potential for the asbestos to become airborne".
"Asbestos may be washed from gutters during a rain storm and fall to the ground and contaminate the surrounding area," Dr Heiner wrote.
"Furthermore it has been shown that asbestos in ceiling crawl spaces may penetrate ceiling linings and result in asbestos-related disease occurring in those teaching and working below the ceiling."
Commenting on his report, Dr Heiner said yesterday: "One doesn't know if one is going to inhale an asbestos fibre today, tomorrow or next week but my professional opinion is that the risk shouldn't be there."
However, another independent report on the Moggill State School roof, commissioned by Works Minister Robert Schwarten, has found that the roof, in its current state, does not present a health hazard to students or staff.
Occupational health specialist Dr Keith Adam wrote that on March 9 he inspected the corrugated fibrocement roof "which was showing the effects of weathering" but was not able to detect any loose dust on the roof, only a small amount of debris in the gutter.
Dr Adam said the remainder of the gutters appeared "quite clean".
Ms Bligh said yesterday Education Queensland had no immediate plans to replace the 37-year-old Moggill roof.
The Liberal Member for Moggill, Dr Bruce Flegg, said the State Government was conducting a cover-up on the asbestos issue because it did not want to fund the replacement or sealing of dangerous school roofs.
Oakland official voices opposition to asbestos legislation
By Guy Ashley
CONTRA COSTA TIMES - OAKLAND - Apr. 05, 2005 - City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel took to the steps of City Hall on Monday to denounce legislation pending in Washington that would prohibit lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers and instead set up a trust fund to compensate those whose lungs have been damaged by the industrial product.
Nadel urged her constituents to telephone Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who sits on the panel now working on a bill aimed at dealing with a large number of asbestos-related lawsuits.
The trust fund concept now being discussed by the Senate Judiciary Committee would protect manufacturers at the expense of industrial workers injured by asbestos exposure, Nadel said.
"We want protection for innocent victims who worked hard for little pay and suffered terrible disease as a result," Nadel said.
A spokesman for Feinstein said the California Democrat has yet to see a detailed version of a proposal authored by the committee chair, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., but says legislation is necessary to ensure that asbestos victims can get some compensation.
"The problem today is a huge number of claims," said Howard Gantman, a spokesman in Feinstein's office in Washington, D.C. "When companies go bankrupt, that often means victims get no settlement at all."
Nadel said the asbestos issue is especially relevant to Oakland, which was found to have among the state's highest rates of mesothelioma, an often fatal lung disease linked to asbestos exposure.
The senate committee is hoping to produce a bill this week, during what victims' advocates have declared Asbestos Disease Awareness Week. Lung problems linked to asbestos exposure are estimated to cause an estimated 10,000 deaths each year.
RP residents sue U.S. businesses in asbestos case
By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News
Two residents of the Philippines have sued several U. S. businesses in the U.S. District Court of Guam, accusing the companies of exposing them to asbestos -- an exposure they claim is killing them.
The men, Cess Navarro Olmo and Ronnie Pascual Ferreras, allegedly were exposed to asbestos while working for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific region between 1966 and 1992.
"Among the duties assigned to plaintiffs was the removal and replacement of certain piping and/or insulation in the ships," their lawsuit states. "The piping and/or insulation material contained asbestos or was an asbestos product supplied to the Navy by some or all of the defendants."
Because of their work, Olmo and Ferreras were regularly exposed to "great quantities" of asbestos dust and fibers, which they inhaled, the lawsuit states. They claim that they developed cancer and other asbestos-related diseases as a result -- illnesses which were not discovered until this year.
The companies allegedly ignored or failed to react to medical and scientific information available since 1929, which indicates that asbestos is hazardous, the lawsuit states.
The men are represented by former U.S. District Court Judge John Unpingco, who now is an attorney with the law firm of Lujan, Unpingco, Aguigui and Perez.
The case was filed in Guam because a substantial part of the events happened on Guam, the lawsuit states.
The companies named in the lawsuit are some of the country's largest manufacturers, including Dow Chemical Co., Georgia-Pacific Corp., and Honeywell International.