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Former mill workers sue asbestos makers, suppliers

AUBURN — March 12, 2006 - Two former paper mill workers diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease have filed separate lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers and suppliers. James Crowley, who worked at the former Oxford Paper Mill in Rumford for three years in the 1960s, and Emile Richard, who worked at International Paper in Jay from 1952 to 1987, filed the suits in Androscoggin County Superior Court. Their wives also are named as plaintiffs.

They name about two dozen businesses as defendants, including plumbing suppliers and an insurer, but are not holding the mills where they worked responsible for their injuries.

The lawsuits say that Crowley and Richard inhaled asbestos fibers when they worked at the mills. The men suffer from mesothelioma, which is thought to be caused usually by inhaling asbestos materials, according to the complaints.

The disease causes people's lungs to thicken with mucous, making it difficult to breathe until they can no longer draw a breath, said Suzanne Johnson, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

"It's a pretty awful disease," Johnson said. "It's a very painful process of dying."

The lawsuits ask that two Pennsylvania lawyers be allowed to serve as co-counsel because they are familiar with many of the defendants that are based out-of-state, Johnson said.

The lawsuits were filed at a time when Congress is considering legislation to create a $140 billion trust fund for asbestos victims. If passed, it would void all present and future asbestos lawsuits, unless a verdict has been reached.

The measure last month fell two votes short in the U.S. Senate of the 60 votes required to overcome a hurdle erected by the bill's opponents, forcing its sponsors to shelve it.

Sought by many manufacturers and their insurers, the bill would end decades of lawsuits that have bankrupted more than 70 businesses. According to supporters, tens of thousands of people sickened by asbestos and related diseases haven't been compensated.

Opponents said the fund would be drained by claims against it, leave taxpayers liable and violate federal budget rules.

Sheet Metal Workers Tested For Asbestos Exposure

By Steve Jankowski
Illinois Bureau Chief

3/29/2006 - KSDK-More than 100 veteran local sheet metal workers could learn this week if they suffer the effects of exposure to asbestos.

Local 268 of the Sheet Metal Workers Union in Caseyville is participating in a nationwide screening program.

The Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute says it takes about twenty years of exposure to asbestos before scarring of the lungs or other manifestations can be detected. So the screenings are being offered, at no charge, to retired union members and workers with 20 or more years experience in the trade.

Previous screenings have demonstrated that one of every three sheet metal workers to participate was diagnosed with asbestosis.

The effort is designed to detect the problems early, make medical recommendations to sheet metal workers impacted, and offer suggestions on how to make the workplace safer.

The screenings are not exclusive to sheet metal workers. The Central Occupational Health Organization works with a variety of trades and occupations, including members of the National Guard. The screenings, which are free to the employees, are jointly fianced by the union and employers.

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center study shows lung cancer susceptibility genetically linked

World Disease Weekly - May. 02, 2006

Studying thousands of people, researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have documented a 25% increased risk of developing one of a number of cancers in first-degree relatives of lung cancer patients who have never smoked compared to families of people who neither smoke nor have lung cancer.

Researchers say their study, one of the largest ever done and the only one to include both men and women, strongly suggests that these lung cancer patients and their affected relatives share an inherited genetic susceptibility to cancer development.

"This study demonstrates the importance of familial factors in the general development of cancer," said the study's first author, Olga Gorlova, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology. "These susceptibility factors can be environmental, but are more likely to be influenced by genetic factors, because genes control pathways common to a number of cancers."

Such marked cancer susceptibility also likely explains why patients in this study, who never smoked but might have been exposed to secondhand smoke, developed lung cancer in the first place, she said.

The research team, headed by Margaret Spitz, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology, looked at whether 2,465 first-degree relatives of 316 lung cancer patients who never smoked developed cancer. They also established a matched comparison group of 2,442 first-degree relatives of 318 "controls," individuals who also never smoked but did not have lung cancer.

The median age of both cases (patients) and controls was about 61 years, and the median number of first-degree relatives was eight for both groups.

The researchers compared cancer incidence between the two groups adjusting their findings to eliminate the influence of age, gender, ethnicity and smoking status.

This article was prepared by World Disease Weekly editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2006, World Disease Weekly via

`The Breakfast Club' actor Paul Gleason dies at 67
Associated Press

BURBANK, Calif. - Paul Gleason, who played the go-to bad guy in "Trading Places" and the angry high school principal in "The Breakfast Club," has died. He was 67.

Gleason died at a local hospital Saturday of mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer linked to asbestos, said his wife, Susan Gleason.

"Whenever you were with Paul, there was never a dull moment," his wife said. "He was awesome."

A native of Miami, Gleason was an avid athlete. Before becoming an actor, he played Triple-A minor league baseball for a handful of clubs in the late 1950s.

Gleason honed his acting skills with his mentor Lee Strasberg, whom he studied with at the Actors Studio beginning in the mid-1960s, family members said.

Though his career, Gleason appeared in over 60 movies that included "Die Hard," "Johnny Be Good," and "National Lampoon's Van Wilder." Most recently, Gleason made a handful of television appearances in hit shows such as "Friends" and "Seinfeld."

Gleason's passions went beyond acting. He had recently published a book of poetry.

"He was an athlete, an actor and a poet," said his daughter, Shannon Gleason-Grossman. "He gave me and my sister a love that is beyond description that will be with us and keep us strong for the rest of our lives."

Actor Jimmy Hawkins, a friend of Gleason's since the 1960s, said he remembered Gleason for a sharp sense of humor.

"He just always had great stories to tell," Hawkins said.

Gleason was survived by his wife, two daughters and a granddaughter. Funeral plans were pending.

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