Steve McQueen’s widow fights for asbestos victims as star said it killed him

According to the United Kingdom Newspaper the Mirror, Steve McQueen was the King of Cool, a screen icon… and a victim of a killer disease.

I wanted to revisit this 2009 article. It is just as relevant today as it was 7 years ago…

It has been 35 years since Hollywood legend Steve McQueen died, at the age of 50, from asbestos-induced mesothelioma. The incurable cancer led him to a drawn out death as he desperately sought alternative remedies at a clinic in Mexico.

His wife Barbara nursed him throughout the last six months, watching a virile man shrink away before her eyes. It is a fate many have shared. Barbara McQueen was 27 when her husband died. She has been reluctant to speak about it, despite a simmering anger that so little has been done since then to prevent, treat and cure this “industrial” disease.

Barbara, a former model who remarried 11 years after Steve died, now lives in the high plains of Montana. It is an area of mountainous beauty marred by a single fact. An hour’s drive from her home is Libby, a town the US Government has described as “the worst case of industrial poisoning of a whole community in American history”. That poisoning centers on an asbestos mine on Libby’s outskirts. It also centers on a current trial involving WR Grace, which owned the old mine, and which is accused of knowingly allowing their workers and the entire town to breathe asbestos dust. Deadly fibers laced the air near the pit and processing plant, and lay in the slag WR Grace gave to four schools for athletic tracks, an ice rink and baseball pitches. In Libby’s population of 2,600, at least 200 people have died of asbestos exposure, more than 1,000 are ill – the youngest is 13 – and a case is diagnosed every week.

“I cringe when I hear the word asbestos, “Barbara said. “It’s everywhere – in our schools, homes, buildings. When I bought this house, I made double sure there was no asbestos in it. Then I find I’m near Libby.”

Steve, star of Bullitt, The Great Escape and Papillon, began to feel unwell while shooting the Western Tom Horn. Barbara recalls him getting tired and short of breath. Soon afterwards, while making The Hunter, he began having night sweats. Finally his breathing became so bad he saw a doctor, who found “some spots” on his chest. Medics at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles – “wanting to look under the hood”, as Steve put it – found tumours in his right lung. They mentioned mesothelioma and said it was incurable and not treatable. Steve was told he had only months to live.

He told the doctors he wore asbestos-lined racing suits to ride motorbikes. He remembered joining the Marines at 16, getting drunk and being made to clean asbestos-lined pipes as punishment. He also recalled blowing up a can of beans and being made to strip asbestos lagging from yet more pipes. In a tape recording in which he was asked just before he died what caused his mesothelioma. He said: ‘Asbestos’.

Steve considered chemotherapy, until a nurse said the medicine was so toxic it would burn his skin if it got on him. “That scared the daylights out of him,” said Barbara. “We were both optimistic. Steve’s body was breaking, but his heart and his hope were strong. From the outside you wouldn’t even know his insides were breaking. “Reports appeared saying the actor had lung cancer. People assumed it had been caused by smoking. He never said a word.

Instead, he flew to a remote clinic in Mexico where a Dr William Kelly claimed he had cured cancer by detoxing the body. The treatment was useless and the tumors grew. By now the cancer had spread to his liver, pelvis, stomach and neck, but surgeons in LA thought he was too weak to operate on. The McQueens finally found a willing surgeon in Juarez, Mexico. On November 7, 1980, a day after the op, Steve died of a heart attack.

“Disgusting” is how Barbara describes the firms who knew decades ago that asbestos could cause cancer, yet continued to produce it in vast quantities. And “outrageous” is her term for the Government’s lackluster attitude. We should all listen when she says: “It is time to right a wrong that should have been rectified decades ago. Steve’s death was a long, painful ordeal and I cringe when I hear the word asbestos”.

Each year, approximately 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma. Over 100,000 sufferers have died since Steve passed away and the disease is not predicted to peak until 2025. Asbestos exposure causes many diseases in the USA including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Lung cancer is the top cancer killer in the U.S. It’s diagnosed in more than 220,000 people a year and it killed nearly 160,000 people last year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Asbestos exposure can lead to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you, a family member or a friend were diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, we may be able to help. We have been assisting our clients with their asbestos cases since 1975. Please contact our office at 1-800-995-6991, for a free consultation. For more information about the Mirror Newspaper’s “Asbestos Time Bomb” effort, please click on the above link.

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USFS having difficulty hiring firefighters to suppress wildfires in area contaminated with asbestos

According to the site Wild Fires Today, the United States Forestry Service is having difficulty hiring firefighters to suppress wildfires in area contaminated with asbestos.

The U.S. Forest Service is trying to fill positions on a very specialized 10-person wildland firefighting crew. The mission of the crew would be to suppress wildfires that occur near a mining site at Libby, Montana where vermiculite contaminated with asbestos was extracted by the Zonolite Corporation and later by W.R. Grace from 1919 until the mine closed in 1990. The asbestos became airborne and deposited in the adjacent forest and other areas. Wastes from the mine were used throughout Libby in many public places such as school tracks, public parks, baseball fields, as insulation in public buildings and schools.

The area is now designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund Site. The first public health emergency ever declared by the EPA was the Libby asbestos site in 2009. Hundreds of asbestos-related disease cases have been documented in the small community, which covers the towns of Libby and Troy.

Below are excerpts from an article at The Western News:

As part of a previous agreement, the Forest Service is responsible for fire containment and cleanup in the mine area. Libby District Ranger Nate Gassmann said having a team located in the area is critical to containing the threat of airborne asbestos if that case were to happen. “Both agencies understand that importance if the community of Libby and the surrounding area is affected by fire in someway,” Gassmann said. “We do not take this as a light consideration for the Forest Service.

Christina Progess, remedial project manager for Operable Unit 3, known also as the former W.R. Grace mine site, said that the EPA worked hand-in-hand with the Forest Service to develop the action plan, while state agencies like the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation took support roles, providing input while the plan was under development. Progess said the plan released on Tuesday has been in the works since spring of 2016.

The team would be composed of Forest Service firefighters, according to the plan, but filling that roster has already proven difficult. According to the memo, Forest Service Fire Managers have discussed firefighting within OU3 with Forest Service firefighters and “most have indicated that they would refuse to work in OU3 due to the presence of (Libby Amphibole asbestos) in forest duff and tree bark.”

Gassmann said, while efforts to build the team has been met with hurdles, some support positions have already been filled and the Forest Service may begin looking to outside sources to compose the 10-person squad. Gassman also said, the Forest Service has provided forest fire containment in the mining area before, including two incidences in 2015, although those fires totaled a .75-acre area. “On average, we receive four fires a year” in the former mine area, Gassman said. “Sometimes you get more, sometimes you don’t.”

Progess said, the EPA and Forest Service conducted a test burn earlier this year to determine the exposure levels found in the smoke and ash of a fire in the former mine area. The test burn was a small fire, she said, but the exposure levels were great. “We had the test burn and had firefighters do some mop up in the area. We found that their exposures were well above the risk target set by the EPA,” she said. “Exposures were significant and of concern.”

Progess said, that if a large forest fire were to tear through the former mine site, the EPA is currently unable to quantify how far or how concentrated the mobilized asbestos would travel through smoke and ash. “There’s so many variables that would factor into it, from wind to topography to the relative humidity,” she said. “We don’t have any way of understanding what the concentrations would be to residents in Libby but the best way to minimize exposure is to prepare to stop a fire.”

Gassmann said, while the primary objective is to keep area residents safe from such asbestos exposure levels, there’s plenty of concern for the safety of the firefighting team, once that crew is assembled. “We have a requirement to provide health and safety for our fire fighters. That’s above and beyond what you would consider a normal fire fighting activity,” he said.

Asbestos abatement performed under strict conditions by a skilled contractor can be quite effective; thereby removing the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. The asbestos conditions at the mine appear to be a very difficult situation. If you or a friend have been diagnosed with asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma, please call us at 1(800) 995-6991 for a free consultation. Please click the above link to learn more about the asbestos contamination at the mine and the difficulties involved with fighting fires there.

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Asbestos Concerns in Rental Properties

A New York Times reader asked a question that is similar to many inquires we often receive at the Law Offices of Michael B. Serling.

The question from the NY Times article is, “I am a rent-stabilized tenant living in an apartment building that is being converted from rentals to condos. Asbestos is being removed from several units. (Warning signs have been posted on the doors.) Fumes leak into the hall outside my unit. Am I safe”?

Peter E. Varsalona, a principal of RAND Engineering and Architecture answered that question this way, “Asbestos fibers are odorless, tasteless and generally invisible to the naked eye. Asbestos is also a well-known carcinogen and a federally regulated hazardous substance. Areas where asbestos is being removed are supposed to be maintained under negative pressure to keep dust and asbestos fibers from being released into other spaces”.

The fumes you are noticing could contain harmful substances, including asbestos, but without having the area professionally inspected, one cannot be certain. “Whatever the tenant is discerning, it’s a product of the ongoing demolition work in the area.” Mr. Varsalona said, adding that the fumes might or might not contain asbestos fibers.

An independent firm is supposed to monitor the air inside and outside the work area. If you are concerned about your safety or suspect the work is being done improperly, report the situation to your landlord. Also, (in New York) call 311 to report the condition to the Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees asbestos abatement and can send out an inspector to assess the situation. Please click the above link to read further.

Asbestos abatement is performed commonly in older homes and historic structures. Asbestos abatement performed under strict conditions by a skilled contractor can be quite effective; thereby removing the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. If you or a friend have been diagnosed with asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma, please call us at 1(800) 995-6991 for a free consultation.

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New South Wales Australia Asbestos disease compensation claim processing times have more than ‘halved’

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, New South Wales Australia Asbestos disease compensation claim processing times have more than ‘halved’.

The NSW government has reported the average processing time for people with insurance claims for dust diseases has fallen from 136 to 66 days since it made changes to the scheme last year.

Minister for Finance, Services and Property Dominic Perrottet said the reforms to Dust Diseases Care, which is part of Insurance & Care NSW, was saving time for victims and their families. Mr Perrottet said the workers compensation scheme had also met the government’s new two-day target for considering and approving processed claims.

“If you are diagnosed with a dust disease, you need certainty, and you need fast, efficient access to care and assistance – there is no excuse for bureaucratic delays at such a difficult time,” Mr Perrottet said. Some of the workers are from the former James Hardie asbestos factory in Sydney, Australia. Australia had a vast asbestos mining industry in the 20th century.

Karen Banton, widow of asbestos disease advocate Bernie Banton who died in 2007, said in a government media statement that people who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease have their lives turned upside down. She said timely determination of compensation applications made a huge difference to people’s lives. Click on the above link to read more.

Asbestos exposure causes many diseases in the USA and around the world including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Lung cancer is the top cancer killer in the U.S. It’s diagnosed in more than 220,000 people a year and it killed nearly 160,000 people last year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Asbestos exposure can lead to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you, a family member or a friend were diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, we may be able to help. We have been assisting our clients with their asbestos cases since 1975. Please contact our office at 1-800-995-6991, for a free consultation.

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Asbestos Killed Musician Warren Zevon — Now His Son Is Fighting to Ban It Once and for All

According to news source, LA Weekly, when we think of rockers from any era who left us before their time, we tend to follow the same well-worn script. Died young-ish? Clearly drugs, drink and Keith Richards–level hard living were to blame. Exactly like your parents warned you about.

In the case of acerbic singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, those kinds of fallacies still follow his legacy. Zevon’s son Jordan, an award-winning musician and spokesman for the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), regularly corrects misconceptions about his dad’s 2003 death from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Granted, the elder Zevon had his hard-drinking and heavy smoking days, but his untimely demise at age 56 came long after he’d gone sober and smoke-free. It had nothing to do with the rock & roll lifestyle and everything to do with a misunderstood disease you only hear about on late-night infomercials from ambulance chasers.

Jordan Zevon said, “there’s just so much misinformation out there about mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases. People see the late-night commercials and they equate it with sailors and factory workers, and Dad basically never worked a nonmusical day in his life. And since then, we’ve found out that the whole thing about asbestos is that when it’s dry, a single asbestos fiber can get in your lungs and sit there, and 20 years later you’ve got mesothelioma. We found out about certain brands of duct tape that have it. It’s not banned; people think it is, but it’s not, and that’s what we’re trying to do”.

Zevon’s son went on to say, “It’s still out there. I hate to be a scaremonger, but when you’re a musician and you’re playing in some club in Wisconsin and your drummer is banging on the ceiling pipes, you could be getting exposed. So that was the main thing. We’re not trying to scare anybody; we’re just trying to get it banned. It takes so long to gestate and it’s so hard to fight. Yeah, well there’s this myth that Dad was a lifelong smoker. And it’s so irritating. He had quit years and years before. There’s not much of a connection between smoking and mesothelioma. And I get that all of the time, things like, “Lifelong smoker Warren Zevon …” For more on the story in LA Weekly, click on the above link.

Asbestos exposure causes many diseases in the USA including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Lung cancer is the top cancer killer in the U.S. It’s diagnosed in more than 220,000 people a year and it killed nearly 160,000 people last year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Asbestos exposure can lead to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you, a family member or a friend were diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, we may be able to help. We have been assisting our clients with their asbestos cases since 1975. Please contact our office at 1-800-995-6991, for a free consultation.

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Asbestos requires careful demolition of old Sylva, North Carolina auto shop

According to ABC News Channel 13 in Western Carolina, what used to be an old automotive shop in Sylva is now a vacant lot.

The building that used to stand along West Main Street housed the empty P&M Automotive business. It also used to be a Chevrolet dealership. Dating back to the 1940s, it contained cancer-causing asbestos.

The building had to be torn down carefully.

“They had a North Carolina certified asbestos abatement contractor,” Jackson County Permitting and Code Enforcement Director Tony Elders said. “It will be on site and supervise demolition and make sure everything is disposed of in accordance with state law.”

The site won’t be empty for long. Flowers Foods plans on building a distribution center.

Asbestos abatement is performed commonly in older homes and historic structures. Asbestos abatement performed under strict conditions by a skilled contractor can be quite effective; thereby removing the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. If you or a friend have been diagnosed with asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma, please call us at 1(800) 995-6991 for a free consultation.

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Orange County California districts should be more aware of asbestos in schools, grand jury says

According to the Orange County Register News, local education leaders should make sure their staffers and contractors are aware of how to deal with hazardous materials and improve communication with the community regarding school construction projects, an Orange County Grand Jury recommended Thursday in a report focused on asbestos on campuses. In the wake of an asbestos controversy in the Ocean View School District that resulted in a public outcry and millions in extra spending, members of the Orange County grand jury decided to take a larger look at how asbestos concerns are handled in neighboring districts.

The watchdog agency found that while the sizes and ages of school facilities may vary wildly across the county, all but one of the 28 O.C. school districts have asbestos present in at least one campus or administrative building. “Over two-thirds of Orange County’s nearly 600 K-12 public schools have encapsulated asbestos present in one or more buildings on their school campuses,” the grand jury notes in its report. The grand jury was quick to caution that the mere presence of asbestos is not an immediate danger to students or staff. However, the asbestos needs to be continually monitored, the grand jury wrote, and extreme care must be taken when it is disturbed – for instance during repairs or upgrades of school buildings.

“Districts must know how to inspect for, contract for, schedule and manage removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials prior to and during construction work,” the grand jury says, noting that 21 local districts are “embarking on modernization and repair construction efforts aimed at existing facilities, which are at greatest risk of asbestos exposure.” In preparing its report, the grand jury members indicated that they looked at the lessons learned by districts that have already dealt with asbestos issues.

Among the recommendations backed by the grand jury is a suggestion by the Orange County Department of Education for a staffer to hold discussions of how to deal with hazardous materials during meetings attended by representatives of the county’s school districts. The grand jury also recommended that each district should come up with a “communications plan for parents and other stakeholders,” and that each district should have a computerized database listing all buildings and their characteristics online.

By the end of the summer, the district plans to have completed training for its maintenance, custodial and administrative staffers in regards to asbestos awareness. District officials also plan to have a digital copy of their asbestos report available on the district’s website by the beginning of the upcoming school year.

Asbestos abatement is performed commonly in older homes and historic structures. Asbestos abatement performed under strict conditions by a skilled contractor can be quite effective; thereby removing the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. If you or a friend have been diagnosed with asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma, please call us at 1(800) 995-6991 for a free consultation.

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Asbestos-related cancer costs Canadians billions

According to Canada’s Globe and Mail Newspaper, a first-ever estimate of the toll of asbestos-related cancers on society pegs the cost of new cases at $1.7-billion per year in Canada, and notes that is likely an under-estimate.

The economic burden of lung cancer and mesothelioma from work-related asbestos exposure in Canada amounts to an average of $818,000 per case, according to a team led by health economist and senior scientist Dr. Emile Tompa at the Institute for Work & Health, a research organization, whose calculation includes costs related to health care and lost productivity and quality of life.

This is the first time a tally of these costs has been made public. Asbestos remains the top cause of occupational deaths in Canada: Workers’ compensation boards have accepted more than 5,700 claims since 1996. About 150,000 Canadian workers are exposed to asbestos in their workplaces, the research project Carex Canada estimates, among them construction workers and contractors, mechanics, shipbuilders and engineers. This country continues to allow exports and imports of asbestos, which rose to a six-year high last year. Dozens of other countries, including Australia and Britain, have banned it. Click on the above link to read more about Canada’s asbestos issues.

Asbestos exposure causes many diseases in the USA including lung cancer. Lung cancer is the top cancer killer in the U.S. It’s diagnosed in more than 220,000 people a year and it killed nearly 160,000 people last year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Asbestos exposure can lead to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you, a family member or a friend were diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, we may be able to help. We have been assisting our clients with their asbestos cases since 1975. Please contact our office at 1-800-995-6991, for a free consultation.

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MSU Researcher Says, Common Additive May Be Why You Have Food Allergies

According to Science Magazine, a Michigan State University researcher has found that a common food additive may be linked to a rise in food allergies.

Cheryl Rockwell, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the College of Human Medicine, began studying the possible link between the synthetic food additive tert-butylhydroquinone, or tBHQ, nine years ago.

Now she has received an award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to continue her work. The Outstanding New Environmental Scientist, or ONES, award comes with a $1.5 million, five-year grant to support her research.

Rockwell has dreamed of winning the award since she was a postgraduate student. She recently was notified that she was among only five researchers this year to be selected.

Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1972, tBHQ is a preservative in many foods, such as cooking oil, nuts, crackers, waffles and breads. Often tBHQ is not listed on the label, Rockwell said.

Her research has shown that tBHQ causes T cells, a critical part of the body’s immune system, to release a set of proteins that can trigger allergies to such foods as nuts, milk, eggs, wheat and shell fish.

“I think of the immune system as a military force,” Rockwell said. “Its job is to protect the body from pathogens, such as viruses. The T cells are the generals.”

Normally, the T cells release proteins, known as cytokines, that help fight the invaders, she said, but when tBHQ was introduced in laboratory models, the T cells released a different set of cytokines that are known to trigger allergies to some foods.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences created the ONES program to support researchers early in their careers and conduct innovative research to study how the environment influences human health.

Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.

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Montreal Asbestos Activist

According to the Montreal Gazette, Helping to acknowledge and turn the tide on asbestos exposure, Kathleen Ruff will receive a medal of honor in Quebec’s National Assembly for her decade of work to stop Canada’s asbestos trade, work that some argue will save tens of thousands of people from contracting deadly asbestos-related diseases in Canada and abroad.

A longtime human rights activist based in Smithers, B.C., Ruff has toiled, for the most part, behind the scenes. But without Ruff’s dogged determination to rally health experts, victims and politicians to speak out and take action, Quebec might still be mining and selling the deadly fibre to developing countries for decades to come, with the active support and blessing of the federal government.

Instead, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced May 10 that his government will “move to ban asbestos”. For the first time, a Canadian prime minister publicly acknowledged that the damage asbestos causes to human health far outweighs any benefit the mineral, once hailed as a miracle fibre, can provide.

That marks the culmination of a decades-long battle that has often pitted Quebec’s public health community and human rights activists on one side, against union leaders, industrialists and politicians on the other.

According to the World Health Organization, the asbestos-related death toll worldwide is estimated at 107,000 annually, including about 2,000 per year in Canada. In Quebec it is the No. 1 workplace killer: 118 of the 196 work-related deaths in the province in 2015 were officially deemed to be caused by asbestos. That may be the tip of the iceberg, since fatal asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, and asbestosis, take decades after exposure to develop. Asbestos is present in homes and buildings across Canada, and Canada still imports asbestos-containing materials.

In the USA and around the world, asbestos exposure has been shown to cause malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and a variety of other cancers. If you, a family member or a friend has been diagnosed with asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma, please call us at 1(800)995-6991 for a free consultation.

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