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MARF Letter To Sen. Dianne Feinstein: Expand List Of Asbestos Hot Spots To Include Counties With Highest Asbestos Related Mortal


Board of Directors
M. Ann Abbe
Arlington, Texas

Mathew Bergman, Esq.
Seattle, Washington

Robert B. Cameron, M.D.
UCLA Medical School

Michael Harbut, M.D., M.P.H.
Wayne State University

Ulf Jungnelius, M.D.
Pfizer, Inc.

Susan Vento
St. Paul, Minnesota

Nicholas J. Vogelzang, M.D.
Nevada Cancer Institute

Roger G. Worthington, Esq.
Dana Point, CA

In Memoriam
Congressman Bruce F. Vento

Science Advisory Board

Harvey Pass, M.D., Chairman
Karmanos Cancer Institute

Steven Albelda, M.D.
University of Pennsylvania

Raphael Bueno, M.D.
Harvard/Brigham and Women's

Steve Hahn, M.D.
University of Pennsylvania

Hedy Lee Kindler, M.D.
University of Chicago

Dan Miller, M.D.
Emory University

Lary A. Robinson, M.D.
H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center

Victor Roggli, M.D.
Duke University

W. Roy Smythe, M.D.
Texas A&M

Robert N. Taub, M.D.
Columbia University

Joseph R. Testa, Ph.D.
Fox Chase Cancer Center

Eric Vallieres, M.D.
Swedish Cancer Institute

Claire Verschraegen, M.D.
University of New Mexico

Executive Director

Christopher E. Hahn
Santa Barbara, CA

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Our Mission is to eradicate mesothelioma as a life-ending disease.

May 10, 2005

VIA TELECOPY (202) 228-3954
and (415) 393-0710

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Re: SB 852; Expanding List of 'Hot Spots' and Treating the Already Sick

Dear Senator Feinstein:

We commend you for your efforts in preventing premature asbestos-related deaths by including a $40 million federal program in S. 852 that will identify and remediate naturally occurring asbestos "hotspots" in El Dorado, California. At the same time, we urge you not to forget those Americans for whom prevention is too late. We estimate that today more than 5,800 Americans with malignant mesothelioma are struggling to survive from this aggressive, painful, costly and life-shortening cancer. [1]

Although we've known about mesothelioma since at least the 1950s, the federal government's current investment in research into treatments for asbestos-cancer is virtually nonexistent. The National Cancer Institute spent less than 1/10 of 1% of its budget on mesothelioma between 2000 and 2003. The lack of funding is particularly troubling for veterans of the U.S. Navy who contracted mesothelioma by virtue of their service. Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Veterans Affairs have a medical research and treatment program for asbestos-afflicted veterans, although quality medical programs are offered for prostate, ovarian and breast cancer patients, among others.

We salute your leadership in focusing attention on the need for cancer prevention. The program you have proposed recognizes that asbestos, in whatever form, poses a serious health risk without regard to an exposed person's age, job, title, sex, wealth or rank. The people in El Dorado County deserve any protections that the government can provide.

However, there are literally hundreds of asbestos "hot spots" throughout the country. Most of these surround former asbestos product manufacturing plants. In California, for example, there are dozens of neighborhoods surrounding former asbestos plants once operated by now defunct asbestos companies such as Owens-Corning Fiberglass, Johns-Manville, Zonolite/W.R. Grace and United States Gypsum. For decades W.R. Grace shipped thousands of tons of asbestos-laced vermiculate to over 35 locations in California. The children growing up around these plants face at least the same risks as the children in El Dorado County.

Asbestos fibers are toxic whether they come from the ground or from a joint compound, a disc brake or a fireproofed school ceiling. We would urge you to expand your program to inventory all hot spots throughout the nation, whether the source is "naturally occurring" or from an abandoned mine, factory, steel mill, refinery or vermiculite expansion plant. Priority should be given to those counties which already have unacceptably high mortality from mesothelioma, such as Los Angeles County, Cook County, Illinois, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, King County, Washington, and Somerset, New Jersey. Three of the top 12 counties with the highest asbestos-related mortality are in California.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF) has been working closely with Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) who shares our concerns for the patient community and believes investing in biomedical research now will pave the way for effective treatments and cures.

MARF is a consortium of patients, doctors, trial lawyers and manufacturers who believe that a cure is within reach if we commit the resources. Since 2000, MARF has funded more research grants aimed at treating mesothelioma than the U.S. Government and industry combined. We have proposed a comprehensive mesothelioma research and treatment program which finally begins to address the long overdue and exigent needs of present and future mesothelioma patients.


Christopher E. Hahn
Executive Director

cc: Jennifer Duck
Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein


[1] We estimate that at present in the U.S. at least 5,800 patients are suffering with mesothelioma (pleural, peritoneal, pericardial and testicular) with the caveat that the actual population may be substantially greater. Several factors confound our estimate, including 1) the lack of mesothelioma registry or clinical database in the U.S. (unlike many European countries), 2) many patients who believe treatments are hopeless remain within their community without referral to experts, and 3) the degree of difficulty in rendering a proper diagnosis raise the risk of misdiagnosis. Mesothelioma is often simply and wrongly lumped in with "lung cancer."