Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Asbestos Free India campaign of BANI is inspired by trade union movement and right to health campaign. BANI has been working since 2000. It works with peoples movements, doctors, researchers and activists besides trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Doubts over asbestos cancer chemotherapy

Chemotherapy treatments which aim to prolong patients' lives and reduce suffering from asbestos-related cancer do not work, UK researchers suggest.

Mesothelioma, caused by asbestos exposure, is usually incurable, but some specialists hope chemo could delay death and improve quality of life.

The study in the Lancet found hundreds of patients saw no benefit.

However, a US expert said other combinations of chemotherapy drugs could work better.

Despite legislation controlling the use of asbestos, there are approximately 2,000 deaths from mesothelioma in the UK every year.

Any treatment can have serious side effects for patients and these findings highlight that people should not have treatment that is not of proven benefit
Kate Law Cancer Research UK

The decades-long delay between exposure and the onset of the disease, means numbers are expected to keep rising for at least half a decade.

Treatment for mesothelioma is aimed principally at reducing its symptoms, and hopefully slowing down the progression of the illness.

It is generally recommended that patients are given steroid drugs and radiotherapy sessions.

No proof

The latest study looked at 409 patients, mainly from the UK, who were all given these standard treatments.

Some were additionally given doses of chemotherapy, and the effect on their disease compared.

While the chemotherapy patients did live slightly longer on average than those given just standard treatment, the researchers said the finding did not represent statistical proof, and could be misleading.

There was no improvement in quality of life among the chemotherapy patients.

One of the authors of the study, Dr Richard Stephens from the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit, said: "While thousands are and will be affected by this deadly disease, our trial, which is one of the few large trials ever conducted in this disease, emphasises how difficult mesothelioma is to treat.

"This is mainly because mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lung. This makes it hard to target."

Kate Law, Cancer Research UK's director of clinical trials, added: "These results showed no real benefit from adding these chemotherapy drugs compared with just treating the symptoms of the disease.

"Any treatment can have serious side effects for patients and these findings highlight that people should not have treatment that is not of proven benefit."

However, one US-based expert said that results from other trials into chemotherapy had been more positive.

Dr Nicholas Vogelzang, from the Nevada Cancer Institute, also writing in The Lancet, said that different combinations of drugs had, in one study, meant that half the patients involved survived a year or more.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Asbestos hotzone

Petrochemical heartland home to vigilant MDs

The Sarnia area is home to several large industrial plants. According to a report by Ecojustice, evidence suggests the local environment— and the health of its residents—has been severely compromised.

In Sarnia, Ontario, caregivers are constantly on guard for workplace-related health problems, while advocating for a cleaner community

SARNIA, ONTARIO. | It isn’t very often that a small medical clinic gets credit in a high-profile report by an influential environmental group.

But then few clinics are as focused on the health impact of a specific area’s environmental and workplace pollutants as the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) office in Sarnia, Canada’s petrochemical heartland.

Sarnia’s roughly 75,000 residents contend with arguably the worst air pollution in the country, according to the report published in October by Toronto-based Ecojustice (formerly the Sierra Legal Defence Fund).

To whit: According to industry data compiled by Environment Canada and cited by Ecojustice, there are 46 large effluence-emitting industrial plants in Ontario within 25 km of Sarnia. On the U.S. side of the St. Clair River, the body of water on which Sarnia sits, there are 16 similar facilities. In 2005, the Canadian smokestacks alone emitted more than 5 million kg of pollutants deemed to be toxic, Ecojustice said.

“The toll these emissions are taking is dramatic and there is growing evidence that the health of the residents of Sarnia and the Aamjiwnaang First Nation (a Sarnia-area reserve), and the local environment has been severely compromised,” said Ecojustice.

Yet while that report focused on the air pollution, all elements of Sarnia’s natural surroundings are affected by the region’s concentration of heavy industry. As a result, the OHCOW clinicians “see no distinction between the ambient environment and the workplace,” when they contemplate the health of the region’s population, said Dr. James Brophy, (PhD), executive director of the Sarnia office.

It is because of that lack of distinction that Dr. Brophy, who is also an occupational and environmental cancer researcher, and his physician colleagues decided to work with Ecojustice, he explained in an interview.

“We believe Ecojustice has performed an important public health role in alerting the community about the extent of environmental exposures emanating from the petrochemical industry,” said Dr. Brophy.

OHCOW is a six-city clinic, born of the provincial labour movement in the late 1980s, and specializes in handling workplace-related health problems. Its physician services and office overhead are largely funded by the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

While OCHOW’s core patient population is current and past workers of the major industries, its Sarnia health professionals worry about the risks the wider Sarnia population faces, including outdoor workers such as construction crews, landscapers and home remodellers, people “who are out there in this environment every day,” said Dr. Brophy.

Despite clear and ample evidence that much of Sarnia’s population faces a frightening day-to-day reality as a result of the pollution, the doctors must nevertheless keep their medical objectivity.

Dr. Abe Reinhartz, a general practitioner here, explained “patients often come to us with undifferentiated health complaints, and they are interested in exploring whether or not there is a workplace connection.”

A worker memorial stands guard in Sarnia.
He continued, “Often, we can make a diagnosis here of some other ailment that is not work-related, and get patients to communicate with their primary-care physician or initiate a referral ourselves to get a problem sorted out.”

Dr. Reinhartz noted that despite their concerns about Sarnia’s pollution, for physicians such as himself, “it is not so easy to clinically tease out the environmental exposures in terms of health effects in an individual.”

He said wider, epidemiological studies are better suited to revealing those negative health implications of pollution than individual patient investigations.

Dr. Reinhartz, for one, doesn’t see himself and his colleagues as environmental activists as the term is popularly understood, despite their involvement with Ecojustice and an Aamjiwnaang environmental committee, but more as “patient advocates for their medical-legal rights.”

The OHCOW doctors said their public profile has led to occasional negative feedback from other doctors, ones who to Dr. Reinhartz “are paid by corporate entities to provide medical services and are very willing to toe the party line.”

“We should be aiming for zero emissions or zero releases, and supporting industry in that way.”
—Dr. John Howard
Real-world laboratory
For Dr. John Howard, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Western Ontario Schulich School of Medicine in London, Ont., Sarnia, in Ontario’s extreme southwest, offers an unintentionally perfect real-world laboratory for bringing home the lessons of the ecosystem health courses he teaches to his school’s medical students.

Dr. Howard, who has been to Sarnia many times and works closely with Sarnia’s OHCOW clinic, recalled grimly an image that to him typifies the plight of the area. On the Aamjiwnaang reserve, “right by the river . . . there is this sign that says, ‘Doing anything in this water is toxic.’ ”

Ecosystem health is geared toward training doctors to “think of (a patient’s) health in a very broad sense . . . to try to think of the sickness in the human as a symptom of the environment.”

In February, the governing federal Conservatives, a party critics say is not given to especially sensitive views on the environment, called the St. Clair River “severely contaminated,” especially immediately downstream of Sarnia, and would spend up to $3.3 million to clean it up.

Dr. Howard said he believed the river clean up would have a benefit for Sarnia, but “we should be aiming for zero emissions or zero releases, and supporting industry in that way.”

The Sarnia OCHOW clinic spends a lot of time dealing with what Dr. Brophy called the largest documented cohort of asbestos diseases—patients with pleural plaques, asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma—in Canada. Asbestos, a high-profile pollutant in the 1970s and 1980s, remains a major environment-related killer in Sarnia. “There is barely a blue-collar family that hasn’t been directly affected or doesn’t know somebody who has.”

Asbestos is so prevalent in some parts of the city that the soil is toxic. Dr. Reinhartz’s colleague, Dr. James Mackenzie, recounted how several years ago the province proposed a new offramp of Highway 402 in an asbestos hotzone. The clinic’s doctors took part in a community (and government) awareness-raising campaign about the soil’s toxicity.

The offramp was eventually built, but the ground was treated like the toxic waste site it was: The area needed to be decontaminated by construction crews who had to don hazmat gear, while their equipment—even their trucks and tractors—needed to be constantly scrubbed down, recalled the doctors.

They physicians have also taken other high-visibility roles, such as after a news release in 2000 in Sarnia, “publicly indicating what the risks of benzene exposure are,” among other things.

Matthew Sylvain
May 06, 2008

Canadian PM's residence needs $10 million to remove Asbestos

Note: The official residence of the Canadian Prime Minister is riddled with asbestos. Some people think it should be removed, I think he should be locked in there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until he agrees to ban the use of asbestos in Canada and the export of asbestos from Canada!

---------------------------------------------------------------Laurie Kazan-Allen

PM's residence needs $10 million in repairs

Updated Wed. May. 7 2008 News

The prime minister and his family may have to pack up and find a new temporary home if they heed the advice of Canada's auditor general.

A report released by Sheila Fraser on Tuesday states that "24 Sussex Drive (is) showing signs of fatigue and wear, and (requires) extensive repair work."

The repairs are estimated to cost about $10 million, and the report notes that "prolonged access to 24 Sussex Drive will be required for rehabilitation of the residence." That would require the prime minister and his family to move out for up to 15 months.

On CTV's Mike Duffy Live, Fraser listed off a number of repairs that need to be made. She said:
The windows are extremely old
There is a lot of asbestos in the house
The residence does not have a sprinkler system

"The list goes on and on," Fraser said.

"We note in the report that there have been no repairs to 24 Sussex in 50 years. I think we can all appreciate in our own homes that you have to do this regular upgrading and maintenance on a very frequent basis," she said.

John Williamson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says he doesn't believe most people will have a problem with making the repairs. But he said what politicians should be concerned about is going over budget, as has been the case with similar public projects in the past. He also said the $10 million price tag for repairs may baffle some taxpayers.

"You see this cost and Canadians think, 'What on Earth will they be putting in to 24 Sussex that it would cost so much,'" Williams said on Mike Duffy Live.

Fraser said that 24 Sussex and Rideau Hall -- which Fraser's report said needs some repairs to its exterior -- are not like regular homes.

"They also have official functions and so require very particular facilities ... There are systems that go in there that would not go into an ordinary home," Fraser said.

Harper has said he thinks 24 Sussex is in adequate condition for now and that he has no plans to move out before the next election.

Some facts on 24 Sussex:

Built in 1866 by a private owner who was also a member of parliament
Called "Gorffwysta" or "place of rest" by its original owner
Purchased by the government in 1943
Situated on 4 acres of property along the Ottawa River
The building has 34 rooms
Pierre Trudeau added a swimming pool
Kim Campbell has been the only prime minister not to live in the residence since Ottawa purchased the home

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stop exporting asbestos

While Canadians take great care to ensure its own safety against dangerous asbestos, Canada remains a leading exporter of this killer substance to places like India and Pakistan.

I humbly request you solidity with workers in India and the global south. I appeal to you to stop exporting asbestos; 95 per cent of Canada's asbestos is exported to India and other countries where it is handled by desperately poor workers under dangerous conditions. It is creating a public health tragedy of diseases and death.

More than 100,000 workers are exposed to asbestos daily in India and are falling sick and dying from Canadian chrysotile asbestos. It is not just the workers who suffer, their families bear the burden of disease, too, by losing their sole breadwinner and are left destitute.

Mr. Prime Minister, I appeal to you to listen to their plea and support the health and lives of workers in India and the global south. They have few protections and they need your help. On Feb. 5, all the major trade unions of India and labour support groups called for a ban on asbestos. Please listen to the voices of those workers in India.

The government of South Africa, which was a major supplier of the chrysotile asbestos, has just stopped doing so. If the government of South Africa can put the lives of people ahead of the interest of the asbestos industry why cannot the Canadian government do the same?

On Feb. 20, despite pressure from Canadians, the Canadian Labour Congress put a hold on banning asbestos mining. Roughly 700 people work in Quebec's asbestos industry. Canada is the only developed nation still producing the mineral chrysolite which is unacceptable. A call for a total ban is long overdue.

Dr. T. M. Abraham
Welland Tribune

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