Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Asbestos Found in Crayons and Crime Scene Kits

A study commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund has found that four brands of children’s crayons and two kids’ crime scene fingerprint kits sold in the United States contain asbestos. This report follows two previous tests performed in 2000 and 2007 which found asbestos present in some crayons and finger printing kits. According to the labels, these products were made in China and imported to the U.S.

The two crime scene kits were found to contain higher concentrations of asbestos than the crayon samples. Also, the loose powders in the kits were found to pose a greater inhalation risk or airborne fibers than the crayons. None of the products warned users to avoid the dust. In fact, the instructions for the EduScience Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit instructs users to: “Put a small amount of dusting powder on the brush, use the blower to blow on the brush gently and then run the brush softly over the fingerprinted spot. Use the blower to blow off excess powder on top.”

The asbestos found in these products is present likely as a result of asbestos-contaminated talc used as a binding agent in the crayons and used as an ingredient in the powder of the crime scene kits. Asbestos has been found in many mines alongside talc deposits. Concerns about asbestos contamination of talc first surfaced in the early 1970s, but federal agencies have failed to enact rules to ensure that talc used in consumer and industrial products is asbestos-free.

Because of its widespread use in consumer products, the purity of commercial talc is a critical issue. It absorbs moisture, oils and odors and is added to many personal care products and pharmaceuticals. It is the basic ingredient in many body and food powders. It is also used as a filler for pills and is dusted on candy and used in the production of olive oil.

CNN contacted importers, distributors and retailers named in the report for comment. Representatives from Amazon, MII Inc. and Buy-Rite could not be reached. Spokes-persons for Dollar Tree, Party City, and Toys R Us have issued statement that their brands take the safety of consumers very seriously and are further investigating the findings of EWG’s report.

It is believed that children exposed to asbestos are at even greater risk of developing asbestos related diseases than persons exposed as adults. At this time, Connecticut is the only state which has imposed an outright ban of asbestos in children’s’ products.

Read the full report here.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Why Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?

Researchers out of Brazil have published findings from a new study that begins to help explain how asbestos ultimately causes mesothelioma in the human body.

Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil exposed pleural mesothelium cells in mice to crocidolite and chrysotile asbestos fibers and found that the asbestos exposed cells began over producing inflammatory cytokines, a type of protein. The healthy mesothelial cells also began experiencing apoptosis (programmed death) and necrosis (death from injury) at higher rates.

Researcher’s then neutralized the cytokines with antibodies to confirm their findings, and found that neutralizing the proteins effectively prevented further death to healthy mesothelial cells.

We know that mesothelioma occurs when asbestos fibers are ingested or inhaled, and lodge themselves in the tissue of the body. What is not known, is by what mechanisms asbestos causes the cell mutation that ultimately leads to the growth of cancerous cells. Identifying the proteins responsible for this mutation will hopefully allow researchers to develop preventative treatment for those exposed to asbestos.

Read the abstract here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bevacizumab Shows Promise in Treatment of Mesothelioma

For malignant pleural mesothelioma patients ineligible for surgery, treatment options are very limited. For the last ten years, the go to treatment has been chemotherapy utilizing pemetrexed and cisplatin, but that may be about to change due to promising new data from the French Cooperative Thoracic Intergroup (IFCT).

At the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2015 Annual Meeting, IFCT presented the results of a MAPS study in which pemetrexed and cisplatin, the current standard of care for mesothelioma were supplemented with bevacizumab and according to IFCT, showed (significantly) longer overall survival.

The MAPS study was randomized with 225 patients receiving the standard pemetrexed and cisplatin, and 223 patients receiving the triplet therapy of bevacizumab, pemetrexed, and cisplatin. Both groups in the study received six cycles of treatment, with Bevacizumab administered at a dose of 15 mg on day 1 of each cycle. At the end of the six cycles, the patients receiving the triplet continued to receive bevacizumab alone until there was a recurrence of disease. 75% of participants in the study were male with an average age of 65 years, disease histology among participants was 80% epithelioid.

Overall survival for patients receiving bevacizumab was 18.8 months compared with those only receiving pemetrexed and cisplatin at 16.1 months. Patients receiving bevacizumab also experienced longer time before disease recurrence, 9.6 months compared to 7.5 months for those on pemetrexed and cisplatin alone.

Anna Nowak, PhD, of the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, Western Australia, who partook in a discussion of the study was more circumspect. "The results of the MAPS trial were eagerly awaited," she said, but she was cautious in endorsing it as a new standard of care, because it appeared that long-term OS (overall survival) may be an issue when one looked at the "tail end" of the OS curves.

Natasha Leighl, MD, from Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto, Canada, said that this data was "practice changing" for patients with mesothelioma, but noted that the drug is expensive.

"Its uptake may vary with geography particularly when the data are considered in the context of health economics and effectiveness," Dr. Nowak said. "Demand for a new standard of care will exist irrespective of the cost."

Read the article here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mark Your Calendars! Register for PMC’s 4th Annual 5k Walk/Hike for Meso and Get Fundraising!

Worthington & Caron is pleased to announce that it will again serve as lead sponsor for the 4th Annual 5k Walk/Hike for Mesothelioma on September 27th, 2015 at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, California. The scenic walk/hike route is family and dog friendly, so bring your little ones and your pooches!

The event is hosted by The Pacific Mesothelioma Center (PMC) at the Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute (PHLBI), with 100% of proceeds supporting PMC’s much-needed research for a cure for mesothelioma.

In years past, over 300 participants have joined with PMC to tell Meso “to take a hike!” “This year, we expect more than 400 participants to walk in solidarity to honor those who have lost the fight against mesothelioma and to raise money for research.” Clare Cameron, Executive Director of PMC said. “To date, PMC has raised over $5 million in the campaign to fund new research in the fight against mesothelioma.”

Last year’s event raised over $100,000; and in 2013 over $75,000 was raised. This year, with your help, we can break the record and raise even more!

Registration is $35 per person if you register before September 25, 2015. Day of event registration is $40. Participants will receive a t-shirt, enjoy live entertainment and a lunch catered by Ottavio's Ristorante Italiano. There will also be a raffle and silent auction with GREAT prizes!

The Paramount Ranch is located at 2903 Cornell Road in Agoura Hills. Registration will open at 9 a.m., with the walk/hike beginning at 10 a.m. You can walk as an individual, or start a team.

Register today, and don’t forget to start fundraising!

For more information, sponsorship opportunities and to register please visit PMC’s DoJiggy page, or contact Clare Cameron at 310-478-4678, or via email: ccameron@phlbi.org.

Take a look at past year’s events! 2014, 2013, 2012

India Continues to Deny Dangers of Asbestos

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, India continues to deny the dangers of asbestos. India’s $2 billion asbestos industry imports over 400,000 tons of asbestos a year, making it the world’s biggest importer of the deadly mineral.

The World Health Organization reports that 107,000 people die worldwide every year from exposure to asbestos, but India’s industry officials dismiss the WHO’s “claims” as rubbish, saying the statistics are meaningless. Even India’s top official in charge of hazardous materials and chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board denies there is any credible data showing that asbestos isn’t safe. Oddly enough, India banned the mining of asbestos some 30 years ago.

India can deny all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that asbestos is indeed dangerous and deadly. Due to a lack of public awareness, poor record keeping, and poor enforcement of safety laws, it is hard to know how many of India’s citizens are getting sick. But as the country’s use of asbestos continues, the situation will only get worse.

Read more here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Putting Out the Fire: Working Toward a Strategy to Kill Mesothelioma if it Recurs

Mesothelioma can be like a campfire that won’t go out.

Even with the best surgical technique, chemotherapy and radiation, every doctor worth his or her salt will tell you that none of these therapies – alone or combined – will always put out the fire completely.

You can pour water on it, stomp on it and try to smother it, but no matter how diligent you are, the odds are if you dig deep and look hard enough you’ll find a glowing ember. Over time, that ember can eventually catch fire and spark a wildfire.

The word for that is “recurrence.”  As in, we’ll slash, poison or burn as much tumor as we can see, but after it’s all said and done there will still be micro-tumors seeding in your chest, which can eventually grow into a bigger tumor.

That’s not comforting. What is comforting is knowing that smart people are working on strategies to knock down recurring tumors before they can spark a wildfire. 

I’m pleased to continue supporting this important research initiative with another $100,000 donation to the Pacific Mesothelioma Center.  The scientists and doctors at PMC have developed a novel way of treating mesothelioma recurrences with cryoablation. The strategy involves delivery of compressed argon gas through a needle which freezes and kills the tumor cells on contact. The treatment is minimally invasive and can be done on an outpatient basis.

Cryoablation is currently being used to treat mesothelioma recurrences at the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Centers at both UCLA Medical Center and the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Medical Center
PMC is researching ways to enhance the effectiveness of cryoablation by combining it with cancer vaccines.   

At Worthington & Caron, we see every day the stress endured by mesothelioma patients. Not only do they have to worry about finding the right doctors to treat their cancer, they also have to contend with the probability that even if all goes well, they’ll still need to deal with a recurrence.

Mesothelioma patients are fortunate to have access to the Comprehensive Mesothelioma Centers at UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA. Doctors at each venue are uniquely qualified to both put out the fire, and knock it down again if it flares up down the road. 


Roger Worthington

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cracking the Code: Have We Found the Cause of “Idiopathic” Mesothelioma Among U.S. Women?

For years now the asbestos industry has denied full responsibility for mesothelioma among women in the U.S.  They have argued that for most women, mesothelioma is “idiopathic,” meaning “we don’t know what caused it” but, parenthetically, wink-wink, “we didn’t.”

They cite to all kinds of junk science to support their litigation-driven argument.  One report says that asbestos causes only 20% of mesothelioma diagnosed in U.S. women. [E.N. Pavlisko and T.A. Sporn] While another posits that 60% of mesothelioma diagnosed in U.S. women is simply “idiopathic,” a conclusion derived from the simple fact that these women did not have “occupational” exposure (as opposed to “domestic,” or “environmental” or whatever bizarre box they construct to shift liability).  [A Lacourt, C Gramond, et al, Feb. 7, 2014]

Watson and Crick
Cracking the Genetic Code
Boiled down, their argument is that: 1) only amphibole asbestos causes mesothelioma; 2) amphibole asbestos was used primarily in insulation and construction materials, 3) men (not stay at home women) primarily worked with amphibole asbestos materials; 4) ergo, asbestos primarily causes mesothelioma in men, not women.  

If you’re an asbestos company, this is a great, albeit self-serving, argument.  Most asbestos products sold in the U.S. contained mainly “chrysotile,” not “amphibole,” asbestos.

Not surprisingly, companies that made products with chrysotile asbestos routinely defend mesothelioma lawsuits based on this same argument.  Namely, they seek to prove that the patient was exposed to amphibole asbestos, which they agree causes mesothelioma, at some time in his or her lifetime.  They then try to convince the jury that it was the amphibole asbestos, not their “asbestos lite” chrysotile, that is the culprit.

Fortunately, most juries like solid evidence based on real science.

Recently, a jury in Los Angeles County considered these arguments and found them wanting.  As we have reported, the Winkel case involved claims against Colgate-Palmolive, which sold Cashmere Bouquet, a talcum powder laced with asbestos, for over five decades

It turns out that Cashmere Bouquet was impregnated with both kinds of asbestos – chrysotile and amphibole, depending on which of the three mines they sourced their talc.

As reported, this was the first case that made it to trial against Colgate-Palmolive.  For years the talcum powder industry has spent millions to crush plaintiffs and their lawyers who dared to prove their case to a jury.  As one of their lawyers warned us early on: if you continue this case, we will destroy you, your practice, your clients and your experts.

Why did they fight so ruthlessly?  Like their life depended on it?  We think we know why.

Go back to that high number of conveniently unexplained U.S. women diagnosed with mesothelioma.  Over 60%, they argued, were idiopathic.  Well, idiopathic simply means “we didn’t look hard enough.”  Truth is, they didn’t want anyone taking a hard look at their talcum powder.  You can’t blame them.  If you do look hard, the talcum powder industry is in big trouble.

No matter what box you throw it in – “occupational,” “environmental,” “domestic” or whatever - it’s the worst kind of exposure.  Millions of women used talcum powder.  They used it daily.  They liberally applied it all over their bodies.  They sprinkled it on their undergarments.  They powdered it on their babies.  The intended use of the product generated gobs of visible, fine and respirable dust.  And they never warned anyone that that fragrant fluffy white powder contained toxic and deadly asbestos.

Now questions are being asked.  What other cancers are caused by talcum powder?  For years women have been contracting ovarian cancer and we’ve never fully understood why.  Is ovarian cancer linked to talcum powder?  A jury recently answered “yes” to that question in a case against Johnson and Johnson (see http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-05-24/women-are-suing-johnson-johnson-over-talcum-powder).

Did we crack the code?  For the last 50 years how many of those U.S. women with “idiopathic” mesothelioma regularly used talcum powder after showering?  Our hunch is plenty.  And the sad part is the talcum powder industry has gotten away with it.


May 28, 2015