The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 24, 2010

Insulators add breath of life to asbestos research

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

DETROIT – Finding a cure or better treatment for asbestos-related diseases is close to the hearts of thousands of construction workers, many of whom themselves may be afflicted or have lost family and friends to the dreaded maladies.

The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers and their contractors are actively looking to help find a cure – and they’re putting up big money to help make it happen.

On Dec. 10, union and contractors representatives met at the Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit to present a $75,000 check to support their National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos Related Cancers program. That check follows an initial $70,000 check the group gave to Karmanos in May. Both contributions were made in conjunction with golf outings supporting the Breath of Life Association.

Dr. Michael Harbut, head of Karmanos’ National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers, told the group, “No other local union or regional union is doing what you guys are doing. What’s happening here is due in large part to your contributions.”

Harbut is the co-author of the world’s largest study of respiratory health in asbestos-exposed iron workers. The Breath of Life contributions will be used to fund research and operations at the center’s program, which the union and contractor group chose as a magnet treatment center for the International Union’s Central States region, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. The next Breath of Life Golf Outing will be in Michigan: on Sept. 12 at the Grosse Ile Country Club.

“We really thank the insulators, contractors and the building trades for what you’re doing here,” said Dr. Ann Schwartz, deputy director of the Karmanos Cancer Center. “Grant money is extremely difficult to obtain, so when groups like yours get together to help us, it’s phenomenal.”

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.

“This disease doesn’t just affect the insulators, it affects all the crafts,” said Heat and Frost Insulators International Vice President Greg Revard. “So we’re going to be looking at ways to expand our base of contributions. The research is important, but people who have worked in the trades have to know the importance of getting checked out, and for early detection and treatment.”

Added Heat and Frost Insulators Local 25 Business Manager Tim O’Connell: “Considering the family and friends that people in this industry have lost, donating to this center is really well worth it.”

Present at the big check presentation to Karmanos Cancer Center are (l-r) Cancer Institute Professor Lance Heilbrun; Dr. Ann Schwartz, deputy director of the Center; Dr. Michael Harbut, head of Karmanos' National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers; West Virginia Insulators Local 80 secretary Tina Jordan; International Union of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Rep. Greg Revard; Local 47 Business Manager Craig “Skip” Grigonis; Local 25 Business Manager Tim O’Connell; Rand Environmental owner Tom Dyl; Tom Burcham, president of Master Mechanical Insulation; Abatement Workers Local 207 Business Manager Dan Somenauer; Local 80 Business Manager Steve Keller, and Prime Inc. President Bud Turner. Central States Insulation contractors Burcham, Turner and West Virginia Master Insulators Association President John Martin were instrumental in organizing the golf outing fundraiser this year in West Virginia.