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Government and State Asbestos, Mesothelioma, and Cancer Research Funding or Legislation

Overview: Mesothelioma is a serious cancer that occurs in individuals exposed to airborne asbestos fibers. Even small amounts of asbestos and infrequent exposure can create a risk for contracting mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. Mesothelioma is highly aggressive and is resistant to many cancer treatments. Currently there is no known cure for the disease.

Research and clinical trials are being conducted in the hopes that doctors and pharmaceutical companies can find ways to improve a patient’s health and cancer care. Research requires significant funding, and support from government agencies. Often additional legislation is required to maintain progress.

Asbestos focus groups continue to work with the government to target asbestos-laden sites for cleanup and removal of asbestos, lead-based paints, and other harmful chemicals, while focusing on educating the public on the hazards of asbestos. The year 2009 has seen activity among federal agencies and state governments, with renewed attention to medical research as well as asbestos education and cleanup.

Federal

Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc, DIH, the Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, testified before Senate on April 26, 2005 to discuss asbestos and mesothelioma legislation that have been proposed for dealing with the epidemic.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has been allocated approximately $1.3 billion for projects funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. A total of $59 billion from ARRA has been allocated for health care.

NCI will provide grant opportunities for enhancing and augmenting research through administrative and competitive supplements. The NIH has identified “Challenge Areas” that itemize knowledge gaps, scientific opportunities or research methods that would benefit from an influx of funds.

One such area is in genomics. The grants will be provided for “studies that examine the physician utilization and/or patient acceptability of new cellular, molecular and genomics technologies in clinical and public health settings and the potential impact of these technologies on cancer outcomes such as incidence, progression, mortality, survival, and quality of life.”

Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced the 21st Century Cancer Access to Life-Saving Early Detection, Research and Treatment (ALERT) Act at the end of March.

ALERT establishes a National Cancer Program that will focus on an “expanded, intensified, and coordinated cancer research program.” The bill also allows for an increased focus on the prevention of cancer caused by occupational or environmental exposure to carcinogens.

By a unanimous vote on March 5, 2009, resolution S.RES.57, which declared the first week of April as “National Asbestos Awareness Week,” passed in the Senate.

Linda Reinstein, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), the leading organization for support of asbestos victims, said ADAO “will continue to work with Congress to educate Americans until we finally ban the deadly fibers once and for all.”

State

Washington : Washington state will allocate approximately $4 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to the Tacoma Housing Authority for the renovation and removal of asbestos in seven public housing units. In addition, the project will redevelop another 140 units. The project is expected to employ over 150 people and will aid in the training for additional asbestos abatement professionals.

Texas : In April, the Texas Senate passed the mesothelioma Senate Bill 1123. The bill will allow those people that have been exposed to asbestos to more easily seek damages. The bill stipulates that the claimants must be diagnosed with mesothelioma, and must produce technical evidence regarding the level of asbestos exposure. The bill lowers standard of proof that asbestos injury attorneys must meet to establish that their clients developed cancer due to asbestos.

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