How Will the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2018 Impact Workers Facing Toxic Exposure?

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring mineral substance that is highly toxic. Asbestos was once mixed with other materials such as cement, cloth, and plastic during construction to make materials stronger. Officially, The U.S. government recognizes six types of Asbestos including Chrysotile (white asbestos), which is the most common and can be found in roofs, ceilings, walls, and floors; Amosite (brown asbestos), which was used for cement and pipe insulation and can be found in ceiling tiles and other thermal insulation products; and Crocidolite, which was also used as an insulator in steam engines and other plastic, cement, and spray on products.

Asbestos Exposure Consequences

There are a number of diseases that are linked to the exposure to asbestos. Those diseases include lung cancer, mesothelioma cancer, ovarian cancer, and laryngeal cancer.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer was first connected to asbestos in 1942 by the National Cancer Institute. It takes between 15 and 35 years for symptoms of asbestos-related lung cancer to develop. About four percent of all lung cancer cases in the United States are linked to asbestos.

Mesothelioma Cancer

The first connection made between asbestos and Mesothelioma was made in 1964. It is believed that Mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos. Symptoms, which include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and abdominal pain, normally take between 20 to 50 years to develop. The average lifespan of a patient with this form of cancer is 62 years. Mesothelioma has the second highest diagnosis rate among cancers that are connected to asbestos.

Ovarian Cancer

A study in 1982 has found a link between Talcum powder and a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Talcum powders have been known to contain asbestos. Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women.

Laryngeal Cancer

The International Agency of Research on Cancer confirmed a connection between asbestos and laryngeal cancer in March of 2009. There is a relationship between asbestos and this form of cancer because asbestos fibers are inhaled and interact with the larynx.

Other Cancers

Other cancers that have a relationship with exposure to asbestos include Gastrointestinal cancer, Colorectal cancer, Esophageal Cancer, and Kidney cancer.

What is the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2018?

The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2018 is a bill that will amend the Toxic Substance Control Act to require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to take action to eliminate human exposure to asbestos. This piece of legislation is an update on the current program that would include more health conditions caused by exposure to various toxins at the job site.

What is the Toxic Substance Control Act?

The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) was put into law in 1976. The TSCA gave the EPA authority to take specific measures to assess chemical substances admixtures and protect against unreasonable risks to human health and the environment from existing chemicals. There are over 70,000 existing chemicals on the inventory list of the Toxic Substance Control Act.

When was this Bill introduced and what stage is it in?

The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2018 was introduced on February 27, 2018. Since induction, the bill is still in the first stage of the legislative process. During this stage, the bill is being debated by the committee of Energy and Commerce and will then choose to pass it onto Senate or the House as a whole.

Who is Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2018 Impacting?

The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2018 will affect blue-collar factory workers particularly those working in chemical plants. For example, this bill will make it easier for Hanford nuclear reservation workers to qualify for workers’ compensation. The Hanford Site was established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project. The Complex housed the first full-scale plutonium production reactor, creating the radioactive chemical agent for weaponry. Hanford was added to the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priority list in 1988 and had been involved with ongoing cleaning efforts. The current proposal would cover anyone who worked on the site for at least a single eight-hour shift, including the workers involved in the cleanup. A highlight for those that support the bill is the possibility of contracting Mesothelioma from one brief exposure to asbestos while on the complex grounds.

What Might Prevent a Successful Claim?

Though a worker only needs to have worked a single eight-hour shift at the Hanford Site, there are still a few factors that can prevent a claim from being accepted. Those factors include a history of smoking, physical fitness, family medical history, and other potential toxic exposures at other job sites/locations. If this update is rejected, workers from the Hanford Site and other workers in a similar situation will face difficulties in receiving workers’ compensation benefits. If you need help with claims get in touch with a mesothelioma lawyer.

Why Are Chemical Plants So Dangerous?

From the 1940s through the 1970s, tens of thousands of American workers stepped foot in a chemical plant at some time or another. During this time-period, asbestos was considered one of the best insulators available. It was used to line high-temperature equipment such as ovens, tanks, pipes, boilers, and pumps. Asbestos was so prevalent in chemical plants, it even lined the employee’s protective gear. Even though doctors began to warn the public about the health risks connected to asbestos as early as the 1930s, owners of the chemical plants continued to use it in almost every facet of their operation. They chose to use asbestos because it was cheaper than the safer material.

Documentation of Exposure

Through the years, doctors of the companies observed and documented the pulmonary distress workers were experiencing. These employees began to seek financial restitution through a number of lawsuits and asbestos trust claims. Some of the notable chemical plants that were included in lawsuits were Dow, DuPont, Georgia Pacific, and Chevron Phillips. In a recent lawsuit against Dow, the family of a deceased worker was awarded $9 million when they verified the worker died from exposure to asbestos while working for the company.

Understanding and Coping with Mesothelioma

Understanding Mesothelioma

What is Mesothelioma? Mesothelioma at a quick glance is a rare, asbestos-related cancer that forms on the thin protective tissues that cover the lungs and abdomen. There are three forms of this type of cancer and they include Pleural Mesothelioma, Peritoneal Mesothelioma, and Pericardial Mesothelioma. Notable occupations at risk include veterans, construction workers, shipyard workers, and chemical plant workers. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, pain in chest and abdomen, and fatigue. Possible treatments for this disease include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and palliative care. According to a 2017 report, there are still roughly 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma in the United States each year. Nearly 75% of people diagnosed with this disease are men, at least 40% of which served in 45the military.

Ways to Cope with the Symptoms of Mesothelioma

There are numerous ways to handle and cope with the symptoms that mesothelioma brings with it. One beneficial way to cope is with a healthy diet. The following are dietary tips to better cope with the disease and treatment:

 

Dehydration Consume food with high water content, avoid alcohol and caffeine. Increase fluid intake.
Nausea Bland foods such as rice and toast can help absorb stomach acid. Avoid strong smelling foods.
Fatigue Increase caloric intake to supply the body with more energy
Vomiting Avoid fried or sugary foods, as well as spicy food
Diarrhea Avoid greasy, fatty or fried foods, raw vegetables, strong spices, alcohol and caffeine

 

Finding Support

There are multiple outlets to seek support for living with a challenge. There are people just like you that have fought the same battles you will be fighting. Being part of a Mesothelioma support group will allow you to vent to people who know what you are going through, ask questions to professionals and patients, and receive advice you do not even know you need yet.

Organizations offering help

There are nonprofit organizations that were solely founded to help with things like finances and travel. On the financial side of things, organizations like the Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition (www.cancerfac.org) and the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (www.pparx.org) assist families that cannot afford the cost of their medications. An additional resource is CancerCare’s A Helping Hand (www.cancercare.org/helpinghand). CancerCare’s has a searchable database that will provide resources for financial and practical assistance. There are also organizations, such as, Hope Lodge of the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses (www.nahhh.org), that provide temporary lodging for families and patients that have to travel far from their homes to receive proper treatment. The organization that specializes in Mesothelioma resources is the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.

Quick Tips from Mesothelioma Survivors

Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma have found many ways to cope and treat the disease that changed their life. Some survivors have turned to herbal remedies like drinking tea made from Moringa leaves, which are known to contain anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Others have turned to a simple change in diet and regular exercise routine to complement their treatments.

Surgical Palliative Care for Mesothelioma

What Is Palliative care?

Palliative care is support for a patient that is aimed to treat and relieve symptoms and improve the overall quality of life for the patient. This differs from hospice care because hospice care concentrates on pain management at the end of the patient’s life. Though palliative care was thought to only benefit late stage mesothelioma patients, recent studies have shown positive results starting care as early as post-surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. In 2016, the most common issues addressed in this type of care include pain, weakness, difficulty breathing, reduced appetite, and poor well-being.

Surgical Options

For patients that are diagnosed with Pleural mesothelioma, there are two different palliative procedure options available. Those two options include a pleurodesis and a thoracentesis. Both operations remove fluid through a tube and relieve pressure on the lungs. Along with fluid removal, a pleurodesis eliminates the available space in the lungs where fluid can build up by using a talc-like substance to fill up space. This is a more permanent fix to the problem. Pleurodesis differs from thoracentesis because thoracentesis only involves the removal of the fluid and is normally used for patients in the later stages of mesothelioma. As a result of both surgeries, coughing should become less frequent and breathing should become easier.

Who Qualifies for Pleurodesis?

All patients do not qualify for the same treatments. This is why it is so important to be diagnosed early on instead of when symptoms arise. Patients do not qualify for a pleurodesis if their mesothelioma is in the later stages. If the patient has a trapped lung, not allowing the surgeon to get in between the two layers of pleural lining, this procedure will not be effective. Normally, the patient must be in overall good health with mesothelioma that has not yet spread to other areas of the chest or abdomen. Patients with a relatively shorter life expectancy will not be recommended for this surgery due to the hospital stay and discomfort involved in the post-surgery recovery.

Types of Pleurodesis

There are two different types of pleurodesis procedures. Those types are chemical pleurodesis and mechanical pleurodesis. The chemical procedure uses talc powder which is a medical grade, sterile, asbestos-free clay mineral. The talc is inserted into the pleura using thoracoscopy tools. The mechanical procedure is the process of fusing the two layers of the pleura together by irritating them with a rough pad or gauze. The mechanical procedure is more invasive but has been reported by a study in 2015 to be greater in symptom relief.

Risks and Complications

Though complications are rare when addressing surgical palliative care, there are still a few risks. The most common complication is a collapsed lung, occurring only when the surgeon mistakenly punctures a lung or disturbs an accumulation of air in the pleural cavity. Other complications may include bleeding, pain, infection, Diaphragm injury, laceration of spleen or liver, or tumor seeding. Tumor seeding is an invasion of cancer cells along the needle track.

Diagnosing Mesothelioma: How Can You Identify its Stages?

Diagnosing Mesothelioma Early On

Though there is no one clear path to a mesothelioma diagnosis for each patient, it is very important that this rare disease is caught in its early stages of development. After possible exposure to asbestos, seeing your primary care physician for possible testing is the best chance to confirm or deny the contraction of the disease.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Symptoms of the disease are late arrivals, only becoming noticeable when the cancer is in the later stages of development. This is why testing after possible exposure to asbestos is critical. Symptoms include a dry cough or wheezing, dyspnea or shortness of breath, complications breathing, fever or night sweats, fatigue, muscles weakness, pain in the chest and/or abdomen, and pleural effusion or fluid around the lungs. Preliminary symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath appear in the third or fourth stage of the disease’s development when tumors begin to press against the chest wall and abdominal cavity. Secondary symptoms include increased pain, anemia, weight loss, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing, swallowing, and bowel movements.

Testing from Primary Care Physician

Testing for this disease is a long, complex process that involves multiple stages of tests from numerous physicians and specialists. The battery of tests for Mesothelioma is completed in an average of 89 days. Being that the preliminary symptoms of this disease are similar to a number of other illnesses, there is a long list of tests that must be completed before confirmation of diagnosis. Your primary care physician will order an X-ray to determine the amount of fluid in your lungs then prescribe an antibiotic for pneumonia and/or drain fluid in lungs, however, no cancer cells will be detected in the fluid. After a follow-up X-ray has shown more fluid the doctor will most likely order a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan, and a Computed Tomography (CT) scan. If scans show underlying cause, the patient is referred to a specialist.

Testing from a Specialist/Surgeon

Once referred to a specialist it may take 10-15 days to make an appointment and schedule a biopsy. The biopsy is done via Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) and usually requires a minimum of three days in the hospital. VATS is a minimally invasive surgical technique that uses a tiny camera called a thoracoscope and other surgical tools. These tools are inserted into your chest cavity via a tiny incision in your chest wall. Results of the biopsy and lab work ordered by a specialist may take up to 10 days to diagnose. Even though in some cases mesothelioma can be diagnosed by any one of the scans ordered by the physician or specialist, the most accurate and definitive form of testing is a biopsy.

Signs Mesothelioma has Spread

Mesothelioma usually does not spread distantly throughout the body, normally spreading throughout the chest or abdominal cavity. Common signs that cancer has spread include Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), Laryngeal nerve palsy (hoarseness), Horner’s syndrome (nerve damage to face), Nerve damage to the arm, and Superior vena cava syndrome (obstruction in superior vena cava).

Asbestos Cleanups

Safe Asbestos Cleanups – What You Need to Know

Asbestos, which is present in millions of homes, schools and other public building across the United States, is notoriously toxic. It is the only definitively known cause of mesothelioma, a virulent cancer that causes thousands of death annually. Experts on public health and safety have determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. Even the slightest exposure can result in serious illnesses, including lung cancer, asbestosis, and a number of other cancers. However, the mere presences of asbestos isn’t a hazard. Rather, it only becomes dangerous when it is friable – a word that means easily crumbled – or when it is disturbed or broken, such as often happens during renovations in older homes and buildings. Asbestos “dust” contains tiny fibers, far finer than the finest human hair. When it is inhaled, these fibers can become trapped in the lungs, bronchia and other cells in your body. Once there, they may stay for decades, causing scarring of the surrounding tissues, and in some cases, mesothelioma, one of the most deadly types of cancer. Because of this, the EPA and OSHA have specific regulations about how to handle asbestos in the environment to prevent it from becoming a health hazard, either to workers or to the community. Here is what you need to know about asbestos cleanups in order to keep yourself and your family safe.

Asbestos Is Only Dangerous When the Fibers Become Airborne

Because of that, most experts recommend covering or “encapsulating” asbestos rather than attempting to remove it. When a surface is encapsulated, it’s far less likely to be damaged in a way that can release asbestos fibers into the air, and accidental exposures are far less likely.

Asbestos May Be Present in Any Building Constructed Before 1980 in the U.S.

Asbestos-containing products were ubiquitous in construction in the early parts of the 20th century. If you live or work in an older building, there’s a good chance that there is asbestos present in the floors, the walls, the insulation or other parts of the building. Because of that, renovations and repairs to older homes and buildings carry a higher than normal likelihood of exposing people to airborne asbestos fibers. Property owners of older buildings should have their properties examined by a certified expert to determine if asbestos is present, whether it presents a danger, and the best course of action to prevent accidental exposure. This is especially important before beginning any renovations to older homes and buildings.

Asbestos Cleanups, Removal & Abatement Should Be Done By Trained Experts

Because of the dangers of releasing asbestos fibers into the air, property owners should not attempt to remove asbestos on their own. All asbestos removal should be done by trained, certified contractors who are legally required to follow specific procedures to ensure that any fibers released during demolition  or removal are contained to a small area.

Older Schools Must Have an Asbestos Abatement Plan on File and Publicly Accessible

Every older school in the U.S. must have a record of their most recent asbestos evaluation, as well as an abatement plan explaining how asbestos contamination is being dealt with in their building. That plan must be available for viewing by the general public upon request.

Accidental Exposures Are More Likely to Happen During Renovations or When a Building Is Damaged

Something as simple as a minor plumbing emergency can become far more dire if it damages materials containing asbestos. In older school buildings, for example, a roof leak or burst pipe can damage pipe insulation or wall boards that contain asbestos. When that happens, there are specific rules and procedures that must be followed during and after the cleanup to ensure that there is little to no exposure risk to children, teachers and others who use the building. In addition, owners of public buildings may be required to notify people who live and work in the building if there is or was a risk of asbestos exposure during an asbestos cleanup.

Tips for Preventing Asbestos Exposure During Abatement

To keep yourself and your family safe during renovations or asbestos abatement, always follow the procedures prescribed by the EPA or by the contractors working on the removal. In general, that means:

  • Seal the area around the work area with plastic sheeting to prevent the spill of asbestos fibers to the surrounding rooms.
  • Always wear HEPA-approved filter masks when working in the affected area.
  • If possible, leave the home while the work is being done, and only return after the work has been completed.
  • Always consult a certified contractor before beginning any renovation in an older home.
  • Ask to see the asbestos abatement plan at your children’s school, and be aware of construction, demolition or renovation work happening in your neighborhood. In many states, contractors must post prominent signs warning the public that there is a danger of exposure to asbestos.

There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, but by being aware of its presence and following basic safety procedures, you can greatly reduce the risk of exposure for yourself and your family during asbestos cleanups.