The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 06, 2012

Another big check for asbestos research

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

DETROIT – The Heat and Frost Insulators and their contractors are showing that when it comes to finding a cure or improved treatments for asbestos-related diseases, they’re in the effort for the long haul.

On Dec. 16, the Central States Conference of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers and their contractors gave a $75,000 check to the Karmanos Cancer Center’s National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos Related Cancers program. Over the past 18 months, the Central States Region has donated a total of $220,000 to help fund the research effort to treat and cure the lung diseases.

“This disease has affected so many workers and their family members in our trade over the years,” said Heat and Frost Insulators International Vice President Greg Revard. “But we’re not just doing this for the insulators, we’re helping to fund this effort on behalf of all the trades.”

The contributions have been raised at charity golf outings sponsored each year by the Central States Region unions and their contractors through the Breath of Life Foundation. This year’s event was held Sept. 12 at the Grosse Ile Country Club.

Nick Karmanos, senior vice president, Institutional Relations, Karmanos Cancer Institute, told the union reps and contractors that it is “sobering” to hear about the trades workers and family members whose death or debilitation have been brought on by asbestos-related diseases.

“We thank you for your support, we couldn’t do what we’re doing without these donations,” Karmanos said.  “In essence, we use it as seed money to try to get larger grants. We will continue to work hard to bring these diseases under control.”

Wayne State University School of Medicine Dr. Naimei Tang also addressed the group, and said she is working at Karmanos on a “bio-marker” study to help evaluate and treat patients who have been exposed to asbestos. Her study includes identifying genes and auto-antibodies in the effort to find early diagnosis markers for mesothelioma, an asbestos-related lung disease.

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center, located in Detroit’s Medical Center, has been designated by the National Cancer Institute as one of 40 comprehensive cancer centers in the U.S. Within its Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine is the National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers, which provides focused care for people like afflicted construction workers.

The Karmanos Center is the preferred treatment magnet for Heat and Frost Insulator workers in the International Union’s Central States region, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. Karmanos says that asbestos exposures from 20 to 50 years ago are killing up to 10,000 Americans each year. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that even today, an estimated 1.3 million construction workers and general industry workers are exposed to asbestos.

Revard and other union reps said for a long time they have wanted the medical community to do what Karmanos is now starting to do: establish procedures, standards and tests for workers who were exposed to asbestos to obtain medical treatment.

The Karmanos Cancer Center can be reached at 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266), or at for more information or about scheduling a health screening.

“In establishing and developing biomarkers, we want to understand how biology affects mesothelioma,” said Dr. Ann Schwartz, deputy director of the Karmanos Cancer Center. “Down the road we want to establish the important initial steps to develop a process and target a treatment.”