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Libby residents included in bill
Associated Press

HELENA - April 13, 2005 - Federal legislation intended to compensate victims of asbestos exposure will include coverage for Libby residents poisoned by asbestos from a defunct vermiculite mine there, an aide to Sen. Max Baucus said Tuesday.

Barrett Kaiser said Baucus, D-Mont., got word Tuesday that his provision to cover Libby residents will be included in the version of the asbestos reform bill when it goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee for review.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., chairman of the judiciary committee, ensures that Libby residents who have suffered health problems caused by tremolite asbestos will get at least $400,000 in compensation, Kaiser said.

"The reason this is a victory is that we got that stipulation in the bill in the initial stages," Kaiser said. "It means we don't have to fight to include it down the road through an amendment."

Baucus, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has said he would withhold support for the bill unless Libby residents were covered. Specter's bill would end asbestos liability lawsuits in exchange for a multibillion-dollar compensation fund.

Specter has said the goal is to put a stop to the stream of asbestos-related lawsuits that drives companies out of business and leaves victims with little help to pay medical bills.

In a written statement, Baucus said including Libby residents in the legislation was vital because the previous owner of the vermiculite mine, W.R. Grace and Co., has filed for bankruptcy.

News reports six years ago brought to light a link between the vermiculite mine, which closed in 1990, and the health problems among townspeople. Vermiculite ore from the Libby mine was used in a number of household products, including a popular type of insulation. Grace also made the vermiculite available around Libby for use as mulch in home gardens and a running surface on school tracks.

But the ore contained naturally occurring tremolite asbestos, an especially dangerous form of the mineral. The long, needlelike asbestos fibers can easily become embedded in the lungs and cause such illnesses as asbestosis, which is often fatal, and mesothelioma, a rare, fast-moving cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs.

In addition to ensuring asbestos victims in Libby receive compensation, the measure exempts them from strict qualifying criteria.

It also extends compensation to family members and Libby residents, not just former mine workers

Government failed to take action despite info on asbestos death in '86

TOKYO — August 1, 2005 - A group of researchers, including experts from the government-affiliated National Institute of Industrial Health, found out at least 19 years ago that a woman who lived near an asbestos factory had died of cancer following exposure to the carcinogenic substance, according to academic papers presented in 1986.

The Osaka woman, 69, developed mesothelioma, a form of cancer whose only known cause is asbestos, and the researchers found asbestos in the lungs of the woman, the records showed.

Health hazards to residents near asbestos plants were reported in the 1960s overseas. The former Labor Ministry and the Environment Agency were also made aware of the potential risks already in the late 1970s.

The latest disclosure suggests the ministry and the agency may have failed to make use of significant information made available by the institute, which was affiliated with the then Labor Ministry, and consequently failed to take prompt action for those residents who lived near those factories.

An official of the Environment Ministry, successor to the Environment Agency, said, "We want to make a through examination of what administrative actions have been taken by listening to what officials then in charge have to say."

An official at the Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry said they will examine relevant documents.

According to published papers made at a meeting of the Japan Society of Occupational Health held in Hiroshima city in 1986, the researchers analyzed lung tissues from 16 mesothelioma patients to see if there were any links with their history of asbestos exposure.

Of these, asbestos was found in the Osaka woman and 14 of the 16 patients.

The woman lived near an asbestos factory for around nine years from age 30. It is "believed to be an example of neighborhood exposure," the paper said.

The paper did not provide information on where the woman lived.

Besides this woman, a 70-year-old male surgeon was cited in the paper as a case of "possible environmental exposure" to asbestos, though specific circumstances were not known.

The case of the Osaka woman was also presented in an academic study publication issued in 1987 overseen by the Environment Agency's Air Quality Bureau. "A housewife who lived near a factory for nine years died of mesothelioma at the age of 69 and asbestos was found in her lungs," the study says. (KYODO)

Blood Test Possibly Helpful in Early Detection of Lung Cancer

According to an article recently published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, a blood test identifying specific proteins appears highly accurate in the detection of early lung cancer. However, further testing is necessary to confirm these findings.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths throughout the world. In the United States, lung cancer is responsible for more deaths every year than colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer combined. Non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer; “non–small cell” refers to the type of cell within the lung where the cancer originated.

One of the main reasons for the high death rate associated with lung cancer is that the majority of people are diagnosed once the cancer has already spread from the lung to distant sites in the body. In response, researchers continue to evaluate ways to detect lung cancer early (prior to spread from site of origin) so that cure rates may be improved.

Researchers recently conducted a clinical study to try to identify specific proteins found in circulating blood that were associated with the presence of early NSCLC. The researchers evaluated 46 samples of blood; 23 from patients with Stage I NSCLC (the earliest stage of this disease) and 23 from patients without NSCLC.

Proteins were identified that appeared to be unique to the patients with NSCLC; the researchers evaluated these proteins’ effectiveness in identifying patients with NSCLC in 102 blood samples from participants in the Mayo Clinic CT Screening Trial. This trial evaluated the effectiveness of computed tomography (CT) screens in detecting lung cancer among people considered to be at a high risk of developing the disease.

The proteins correctly identified over 91% of lung cancers.
Thirty-two of the 40 cancers were identified from blood that was drawn one to five years prior to detection of the lung cancer through CT scans.
The researchers concluded that a panel of proteins that can be found in circulating blood may provide an effective screening tool for NSCLC among individuals who are at high risk for developing the disease. However, these findings need to be validated in future clinical trials.

Individuals who are at a high risk of developing lung cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial screening for early lung cancer. Two sources of ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute ( and

Reference: Zhong L, Coe S, Stromberg A, et al. Profiling Tumor-Associated Antibodies for Early Detection of Non-small Cell Lung Cancer. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. 2006;1: 513-519

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