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Detoxifying Asbestos Brakes in California and Washington

More often than not, when I say that I represent people who suffer from asbestos-related cancer, the response that I get is: How can people still be getting cancer from asbestos? Hasn’t asbestos been outlawed for decades now?

There are two reasons why about 3,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with mesothelioma, or asbestos-caused cancer, each year. The primary reason is that it typically takes between 20 and 50 years from the time a person is first exposed to asbestos until that person is diagnosed with cancer.

asbestos brake lawsThe other reason may surprise you: Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission began banning certain asbestos-containing products in 1973, asbestos in many industrial and consumer products has never been completely prohibited in the United States. Click here to see a list of asbestos-containing products not banned.

For example, asbestos is still used in the manufacture of automatic transmission components, clutch facings, disk brake pads, drum brakes linings, brake blocks, and automotive gaskets. While most auto manufactures have not used asbestos in brakes for some time now, a percentage of the brake products sold as replacement parts in the aftermarket still contain asbestos. Routine vehicle maintenance can expose even “shade tree” mechanics to asbestos in amounts that can cause mesothelioma, if proper precautions are not taken to avoid inhaling dust during such work.

In 2010, with the intent to reduce the release of harmful substances into groundwater and other parts of the environment, Washington and California became the first states in the nation to enact laws that phase out the use of asbestos and other toxic materials in automotive friction products.

Under the Washington’s Better Brakes Law and California’s Motor Vehicle Brake Friction Materials Law, Cal Health & Safety Code Section 25250.60(c), manufacturers may not sell motor vehicle brake friction materials that contain more than the following trace amounts of the following materials:

  • Cadmium exceeding 0.01% by weight
  • Chromium (VI) salts exceeding 0.1% by weight
  • Lead exceeding 0.1% by weight
  • Mercury exceeding 0.1% by weight
  • Asbestos exceeding 0.1% by weight

They must also certify and mark their products as meeting these restrictions. Companies found to be in violation will be fined $10,000 per violation. A violation also would be a crime under existing hazardous waste control laws.

These requirements became enforceable in California on January 1, 2014, and in Washington on January 1, 2015. California has not yet adopted regulations clarifying the accepted method for testing the products, the certification process, nor the contents of the mark, but California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control has been engaged in the process since early last year and hopes to issue formal regulations later this year. Meanwhile, manufacturers must comply with Washington’s regulations, and DTSC intends to model California’s standards after Washington’s to make compliance easier for industry.

What Asbestos Brake Laws Mean for You

The good news for consumers is that the impact of these laws has already spread beyond the borders of these two west coast states. At the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo in November, the auto industry announced that it would be entering into an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) to adhere to standards nationwide that are modeled on those established in the Washington and California laws. (Presumably, this agreement will not contain a $10,000-per-violation penalty.)

Copper is highly toxic to fish and has been found to cause gastrointestinal and liver problems for humans. So it’s great that strides are being made to reduce the amount of this heavy metal in the environment.

But for my clients and me, there is a certain irony in the fact that industry is calling the nationwide measure the “Copper-Free Brake Initiative.” This title does nothing to educate the public that as long as asbestos-containing products are still in use, asbestos continues to pose a threat to national health.

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Holiday Storage in Attics and Asbestos Exposure: What to Know

It’s that time of year – people are heading upstairs to the attic or other storage space to fumble through their holiday décor and wrapping essentials. They’re pulling out boxes, shifting large items and possibly disturbing asbestos. This is especially probable if your home was built before 1990, when asbestos insulation was common.

From 1919 to 1990, a mine near Libby, Montana, was the source of over 70 percent of all vermiculite sold in the United States. The insulation, which was often used in attic floors and walls, was usually sold under the brand name Zonolite. In older attics today, you may still come across asbestos insulation, and disturbing it can put you at risk for mesothelioma.

So, what can you do to avoid releasing asbestos particles into the air and putting yourself in danger? Take a look at the attics and asbestos exposure infobyte below:

attics and asbestos exposure

Keep yourself safe this holiday season by being knowledgeable about attics and asbestos exposure and preventing its devastating result, mesothelioma. No level of asbestos exposure is safe.

Read about other asbestos-containing products.

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Famous Mesothelioma Deaths: Paul Gleason

Paul Gleason’s iconic lines “Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns” solidified him as the cantankerous antagonist in The Breakfast Club. While his role as the principal guarding rebellious 80s teens is his most famous, his death from pleural mesothelioma is less well known. Aside from being a casualty of asbestos exposure, Gleason was an actor with a full career on top of his dedicated family life and enthusiasm for sports.

Acting was not always his dream, though. Raised in New Jersey, the free-spirited Gleason ran away at the age of 16 and hitchhiked across the east coast playing baseball as he traveled. He settled down in Florida and attended Florida State University as a college football player.

After his time as a football player, Gleason joined the minor leagues in baseball and played two seasons professionally with the Cleveland Indians. Though he did not stay in professional sports, Gleason often participated in celebrity golf outings where he was known to meet with fans, conversing and signing autographs.

Gleason’s Acting Career and Mesothelioma Battle

Despite his reputation of friendliness to fans, many of his roles were that of the hard headed antagonist. He appeared in over 60 films. Some of the famous films and television shows you can find Gleason in include Trading Places, The Breakfast Club, Friends, Seinfeld and Die Hard.

paul gleason

In fact, it was during a standstill in his baseball career Gleason began to consider the idea of an acting career. This idea became reality when he was inspired to pursue his dream by his friend, and famous writer, Jack Kerouac. He developed his skills with Lee Strasberg, the acclaimed father of method acting. Gleason published a book of poetry shortly before his death, establishing yet another area of talent for the athlete and actor.

Sadly, Gleason met his untimely end at the age of 67 in May 2006.

Shannon Gleason-Grossman, his daughter, said of his death to mesothelioma;  “He was an athlete, an actor and a poet. He gave me and my sister a love that is beyond description that will be with us and keep us strong for the rest of our lives.”

He died abruptly in Burbank, California just three weeks after his pleural mesothelioma diagnosis. It is believed that Gleason was exposed to asbestos as a teenager working on building sites with his father.

Read more famous deaths from asbestos exposure and mesothelioma to learn about other actors, singers, and athletes who have suffered from mesothelioma.

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Renovating Your Home? Keep These Asbestos Tips in Mind

Thanks to its low cost and fire resistant capabilities, asbestos was often used in house construction. Homes built anywhere from the early 1900s until as late as the 1980s likely had some asbestos materials in them. The United States began implementing bans on the substance in the 1970s, and it is luckily no longer used in home construction. But, asbestos could still be lingering in older homes.

asbestos tipsAsbestos is most dangerous when disturbed. Although the thought of asbestos lying dormant in your home might be unsettling, if it is untouched it’s likely not a concern.

When asbestos fibers are disturbed, though, they release harmful dust into the air, increasing the risk for inhalation. Both prolonged exposure and inhalation of asbestos dust can lead to mesothelioma later in life.

If you live in an older home and are planning to renovate, you risk releasing asbestos fibers. Additionally, if your home is damaged and the building materials are exposed, you may face the same risk.

It is not safe to remove asbestos without a trained professional. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests to contact an accredited asbestos professional if you suspect a risk of asbestos exposure in your home.

Many older building materials contain asbestos. When trying to decide whether you could be at risk of asbestos exposure in your home, look over this list of asbestos products.

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Famous Mesothelioma Deaths: Warren Zevon

Born in January 1947, rock singer Warren Zevon was best known for his sardonic wit and dark humored songs. This famously outlandish star died from mesothelioma, a lung cancer from asbestos exposure. Some of his best known songs include “Werewolves of London”, “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” and “Johnny Strikes Up the Band.”

mesothelioma deathsSon of a Russian-Jewish gangster and a frail Mormon mother, Zevon’s love of music began with studying classical piano as a child. Although classical music served as a starting point, by the time Zevon was performing in Los Angeles, his music had taken on its characteristically eccentric twist.

His first album, released in 1969, went unnoticed. But, he is now heralded by legends such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen. His 1978 album “Excitable Boy” was his first big success and continues to be the best-selling album of his career.

Warren Zevon’s Battle with Mesothelioma

With the influences of Celtic, rock, and country music, Zevon’s career began and ended on David Letterman’s night time talk TV shows. He frequented the shows throughout his life and made one of his last public appearances on the Letterman Show, where he spoke candidly of his then-recent mesothelioma diagnosis.

“I keep asking myself how I suddenly was thrust into the position of travel agent for death,” he said, reflecting on his music, which so often dealt with death. “But then, of course, the whole point of why it’s so strange is that I had already assigned myself that role so many years of writing ago.”

He admitted on the Letterman Show that he had not been to a doctor in 20 years and only choose to go after chest pains that turned out to be symptoms of mesothelioma. At this point, the cancer was too advanced for anything but palliative treatment. Unfortunately, his trial with mesothelioma was often referred to as lung cancer and assumed to be a result of his life-long smoking habit.

Although this misinformation muddled reports of his mesothelioma death at the time, it is now clear that asbestos exposure was the true culprit. There is no consensus on how he was exposed to asbestos, but his song “The Factory” laments a worker’s life in a factory filled with asbestos.

He chose to focus his energy on producing one last album, entitled “The Wind”, which was released two weeks before his death. Despite the tragedy, he expressed that dealing with mesothelioma lent him new creativity. Indeed, his album “The Wind” won him a Grammy award and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Collectively, Zevon received five posthumous Grammy nominations. Having passed away in September 2003 at age 56, he is survived by his two children and two grandchildren. His son Jordan Zevon is both a musician and an advocate for asbestos awareness. Jordan recently performed at the Alton Miles for Meso 5K race, which raised over $27,000 for the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, of which Jordan is the national spokesperson.

Learn more about famous mesothelioma deaths from our asbestos attorneys.

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