Reuters reports that a Swiss billionaire has been convicted of negligence in the deaths of 2,000 people working for his company Eternit, a Swiss building material maker.  Stephen Schmidheiny was sentenced to 18 years in jail for intentionally not installing safety measures at Enternit plants in Italy, to prevent workers from becoming sick.  More than 6,000 people have filed claims against Eternit in the four towns where the company operated plants.

The lack of safety measures in Eternit plants led to the deaths of more than 2,000 people, from cancer caused by asbestos exposure, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, and thousands of other cases of chronic asbestosis and other illnesses over the past four decades.

Italian victims’ association Osservatorio Nazionale Amianto said, “This verdict encourages the battle by victims and their families for a world without asbestos and without that thirst for profits that sacrifice human lives.”

According to a report by the BBC, the Department of Education in England has released a report on mesothelioma risks for children, prepared by the Committee on Carcinogenity.  The Committee on Carcinogenity is an independent organization that advises the British government on cancer issues. 

In its final report the Committee found that “(b)ecause of differences in life expectancy, for a given dose of asbestos the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is predicted to be about 3.5 times greater for a child first exposed at age five, compared to an adult first exposed at age 25 and about five times greater when compared to an adult first exposed at age 30.”

The report explains that “(f)rom the available data, it is not possible to say that children are intrinsically more susceptible to asbestos-related injury. However, it is well recognised… that, due to the increased life expectancy of children compared to adults, there is an increased lifetime risk of mesothelioma as a result of the long latency period of the disease.”

About 75% of schools in England have some buildings containing asbestos.  The Department of Education is struggling to figure out how to handle this difficult situation and protect English school children from this asbestos hazard, and ultimately how to eliminate the risk of English children contracting mesothelioma as adults. 

According to an article in the Austin American Statesman titled “Tort Reform Not The Tonic It’s Touted To Be”, one of the claims used to pass extreme medical malpractice tort reform in Texas was totally unfounded.  The legislature in Texas passed sweeping medical malpractice reform in 2003 that took away the rights of Texans injured by medical malpractice to pursue recovery for their injuries.  Legislators claimed tort reform was necessary to prevent an exodus of doctors from Texas.

A study done by Hyman, Silver, Black and Myungho Paik titled “Does Tort Reform Affect Physician Supply? Evidence from Texas,” (http://ssrn.com/abstract=2047433) found that a possible reason for a decline in the number of doctors in Texas was not medical malpractice laws, but rather the fact that Texas has a large number of individuals with no health insurance.  Doctors are attracted to areas of the country where they can get paid for their services – not surprising.  From the article:

“In 1998, Texas had about 82 percent as many doctors per capita as the national average. In 2003, the year tort reforms took effect, it had 80 percent as many. And in 2011, it had about 79 percent as many. If tort reform had really made Texas a magnet for physicians, the gap between Texas and other states would have narrowed. In fact, the gap widened a bit.”

So now Texans have less doctors and if a Texan is seriously injured by a doctor, the State of Texas picks up the bill, rather than the responsible doctor’s insurance company.  Way to go Texas.

According to a story on the USA Today website, a jury in Las Animas County Colorado awarded the family of a high school student who suffered a severe brain injury while playing high school football.  The claims in the lawsuit are similar to claims in suits filed by former NFL players against the manufacturer.  The victim received a concussion in football practice, which led to severe brain damage and paralysis on his left side.

A panel of doctors and occupational health experts published an article in Environmental Health Perspectives, a scientific journal, calling on all governments to ban asbestos, according to CBC News Canada.  In 1983, Iceland became the first country to ban asbestos use.  Today several dozen countries ban the use of the deadly substance and worldwide consumption of the product has been cut in half.  The article points out that while use of asbestos has dropped greatly in developed countries, use has skyrocketed in developing countries.

The countries who do not ban asbestos include the US, which is shocking, considering the horrible toll asbestos has taken on our country.  The article states that the majority of the population of the world lives in countries where the substance is not banned. 

Those who advocate against the ban, mostly the asbestos mining companies, argue that if safe handling practices are used, the product is harmless.  However, those who study the substance and the diseases caused by the substance, such as mesothelioma, agree there is no safe level of exposure.  The article lists several studies of the Quebec mining industry, performed by the National Public Health Institute of Quebec, which show the mines themselves do not follow the safety measures which amount to “controlled use” of asbestos.  It is hard to imagine that third world countries can achieve controlled use of asbestos, when Canadian mines cannot do it. 

It is time to ban asbestos use worldwide.  It is a known public health threat and deserves the same level of attention that eradication of deadly diseases has received over the years.  If not, many more deaths will occur.

CNN reports that the maker of several drugs that were recently the subject of a giant recall, including Children’s Tylenol, Children’s Zyrtec, and Children’s Benadryl, is moving to correct the problems that necessitated the recall.  McNeil-PPC, a division of Johnson & Johnson corporation, has had four major recalls in the last seven months, including the latest recall. 

The latest recall was issued because tiny particles were found in the children’s versions of several popular medications.  The company has not released what kind of particles were found other than stating that they could be solidified product or manufacturing residue, like tiny metal particles.  In addition the company stated that some of the products in the recall could have a higher concentration of the active ingredient than listed on the label.

In November 2009 Tylenol Arthritis Pain medication was recalled because there were reports of mildew/mold smell coming from the bottles of product, and instances of people being sickened by the product’s smell.  In December of 2009 that recall was expanded to included Tylenol caplets.  In January the company recalled containers of Motrin and Tylenol because of an unusual smell coming from the container packaging.

Story in Newsday.com about crashes involving Crown Victorias used by police agencies.  It appears that the location of the gas tank on the cars is the culprit.  The worst crashes involve stopped police cars that are hit from behind, a disturbing problem, because police vehicles are frequently stopped on the side of interstates, where the possibility of getting hit from behind by a car traveling at a high rate of speed is high. 

The NHTSA investigated 23 fires in Crown Victorias between 2001 and 2003.  The study concluded that the vehicles performed no worse than other vehicles in their class, and thus there was no safety defect.


Critics of the Corwn Victoria say the fuel tank is located in a crush zone, that absorbs the energy of an impact and can cause the fuel tank to rupture.  Since the late 1990’s Ford has implimented shield systems to shield the tank from impact, and has offered a fire suppression system that sprays the area with foam in the event of a collision. 

The website crown victoriasafetyalert.com details cases where Crown Victoria police cars have been involved in fiery, explosive crashes.  Many have been seriously burned and even killed in these vehicles.

Article in NY Times regarding findings that some granite counter tops emit dangerous levels of radon and radiation.  Radon is a hazardous chemical element, a colorless gas, which is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking.  The article relates the story of a homeowner who had her granite counter tested and found levels over 25 times those considered safe.  Radon exposure is especially dangerous to smokers, whose lungs are already in a compromised position, as well as young children.

There are several resources on-line to help determine if you have a problem.  The EPA has a Radon website with links to information on testing your home for radon.  The AARST (American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists) website also has information on technicians qualified to test your home for radon. 

An EPA spokesman is quoted in the story as saying “there is no known safe level of radon or radiation” exposure and that “any exposure (to radon) increases your health risk”.

According to a story on Law.com, a jury in New Jersey awarded $6 million to plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Kia Motors America Inc. – because the braking system on their Kia Sephia sedans, which was produced in the late 1990s, is defective.  The lawsuit alleges that the braking system in the Sephias routinely overheated, causing the brakes to wear out quickly (pads and rotors wore down after only 10,000 miles), leading to expensive repairs for the owners of the cars. 

There were about 8,500 plaintiffs involved in the case and each plaintiff will receive about $750, the amount it costs to repair the defect.  Attorneys will receive almost $4million in fees.  Lawyers in Pennsylvania got a $5million verdict against Kia in 2005 on the same issue.  And a nationwide class action regarding the brake issue was previously settled as well, for a smaller amount.

The CPSC has announced a recall of MagnaMan Magnetic Toy Figures, a product manufactured by MEGA Brands of America.  The toys contain small magnets which can detach, then can be swallowed or aspirated by young children.  If multiple magnets are swallowed, the magnets can attach to each other in the body and cause intestinal perforations or blockages, which can be fatal.

The toys were sold at Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, K-Mart and other toy stores from January 2005 through December 2007 for around $10.   

 A second recall of MEGA Brands products, this one on Magtastik and Megnetix Jr. Preschool Magnetic toys was also issued by the CPSC.  These products pose the same risk as the action figures listed above, small magnets which can be swallowed by young children.  The toys were sold at the same stores and during the same time frame as the action figures as well. 


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