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The judge's decision affects current and future asbestos victims.

The judge’s decision affects current and future asbestos victims.

A federal judge in Charlotte has delivered a startling victory for industries that are part of the country’s long-running asbestos-liability fight, cutting more than $1 billion from what a company owes to current and future victims.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges accepted the $125 million figure proposed by Garlock Sealing Technologies, a Palmyra, N.Y., subsidiary of EnPro Industries of Charlotte.

The amount covers claims for mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer of the lining of the lungs and one of a host of diseases linked to asbestos. Attorneys representing current and future mesothelioma victims had asked the court to set liability at $1.3 billion.

But in his 65-page order Friday, Hodges said the attorneys’ dollar figure did not fairly reflect Garlock’s liability. He accused asbestos lawyers and clients of withholding or manipulating evidence, as well as relying on “pseudoscience” to pump up the size of asbestos settlements and jury awards.

In regards to Garlock, Hodges said plaintiff attorneys withheld evidence about their clients’ exposure to company products, “unfairly inflating the recoveries against Garlock” for the decade leading up to the company’s bankruptcy filing.

According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, an industry advocacy group, Hodges’ ruling marked the first time in more than 80 asbestos bankruptcies stretching back for more than 30 years that a judge refused to accept the plaintiffs’ estimate for future claims.

In his ruling, Hodges said previous settlements were not an appropriate measurement because they had been inflated by what he called “the impropriety of some law firms.”

Garlock, which makes seals and gaskets for a host of industries, has been a target of asbestos related lawsuits for some 40 years. It filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2010, one of dozens of otherwise solvent businesses that turned to the courts for help in settling thousands of claims of asbestos poisoning.

Asbestos is at the center of the country’s longest running liability case. And Garlock was among the last industrial targets to seek bankruptcy protection. This summer, attorneys from across the country gathered in Hodges’ courtroom for a 17-day trial to argue Garlock’s liability.

Up until the mid-1980s, asbestos was widely used in insulation and as a fire retardant. But its tiny, jagged particles can lodge in the linings of the lungs and other organs, causing cells to mutate.

Companies have been accused of knowing the risks of asbestos for decades but concealing them from their employees. One well-known Texas anti-asbestos attorney told the Wall Street Journal last year that his clients are victims of the “worst corporate mass genocide in history.”

But in his ruling, Hodges accepted company arguments that Garlock’s liability is highly limited, concluding that the concentrations of asbestos in company products are small and mostly made up of a less dangerous form of the fibers.

Source: Charlotte Observer

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Nail polish fumes have been linked to serious health problems.

Nail polish fumes have been linked to serious health problems.

Nail salons are where women turn for pampering and polish. But under the luxurious veneer, salons aren’t always healthy places to be.

Authorities are beginning to notice the serious health risks associated with nail products and they are starting to act.

Last year, Alameda County’s Department of Environmental Health began a Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program to push its roughly 350 salons, which employ 1,000 manicurists, to adopt healthier practices. San Francisco was the first city in the nation to launch such a program in 2012, and Santa Monica followed in July.

Alameda County publicly honored Leann’s Nails and six other salons last month for becoming certified in its program. Requirements include installing proper ventilation and ensuring employees wear gloves. Salons also must significantly limit their use of products with chemicals that are health hazards.

“These people are working with these materials constantly,” said Pamela Evans, the coordinator of Alameda County’s nail salon program. “They’re being used right in very close proximity to people’s breathing zones.”

 

Losing the ‘toxic trio’

The polishes in Leann’s Nails come in every hue, from turquoise to fuchsia, but a sign makes it clear that they do not contain what health officials refer to as the “toxic trio”: dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde.

Exposure to these compounds can result in headaches, dizziness and irritations in the eyes, skin, nose and throat. It can also lead to more severe, long-term problems.

Dibutyl phthalate, which gives polishes flexibility and a moisturizing sheen, is linked to developmental problems in animals. Toluene, which is used to create a smooth look in polishes, can cause damage to the liver and kidneys and harm unborn children during pregnancy. And formaldehyde, which hardens polish, is a carcinogen.

Those are just the polishes. Businesses that join the county’s Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program also must stay away from polish removers with butyl acetate, methyl acetate and ethyl acetate, which collectively can cause drowsiness and irritate the eyes, skin and other parts of the body.

Finally, salons must not use thinners – which remove thick clumps from polish – that contain toluene or methyl ethyl ketone, which is associated with upset stomachs, headaches and loss of appetite.

Environment regulators and consumer advocates have long been trying to limit these exposures.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to evaluate workers’ exposure to dust and chemical vapors, and, if the levels are a health risk, provide workers with respiratory gear for protection.

Most work in a nail salon will not require respiratory protection if proper ventilation and safe work practices are in place, according to the agency.

 

Misleading claims

But it can be difficult to properly evaluate chemical exposures, especially because some nail products that claim to be free of the “toxic trio” in fact contain one or more of the hazardous chemicals, according to a 2012 analysis of 25 randomly selected products by the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Symptoms can also worsen when they go unreported, as is often the case among the thousands of Vietnamese women employed in salons, said Julia Liou, co-founder of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, a health advocacy group.

Of California’s estimated 300,000 licensed nail technicians, about 80 percent are of Vietnamese descent, Liou said. Many do not speak English well, feel uncomfortable complaining to management and are of child-bearing age, when reproductive poisons can be particularly harmful.

“Workers often feel very powerless to invoke their rights to have a healthy workplace,” said Liou, who is also director of program planning and development at Asian Health Services, an Oakland community health center.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

 

Remove dangerous chemicals in hair and nail salons

An well designed, industrial-strength air purifier can help remove the toxic fumes and odors that may affect the workers and clients at salons and spas.

Electrocorp offers air cleaners that were specifically designed for hair and nail salons, with a deep-bed activated carbon and HEPA filter as well as source capture attachments for the best protection.

Contact Electrocorp to ask about customizable air purifiers for nail salons and spas, such as the CleanBreeze 2 or the CleanBreeze 3.

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