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Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new medication in the treatment of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and melanoma. The drug, called Keytruda and manufactured by Merck, has shown positive results in the treatment of patients with mesothelioma. This is important, as the treatment options for mesothelioma are currently severely limited.

Mesothelioma

An individual may develop mesothelioma after prolonged exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, this was common for much of the twentieth century, as up until the 1980s asbestos was used extensively in numerous products. Asbestos becomes dangerous when microscopic fibers are disturbed and released into the air. When breathed in, these fibers may remain in the lungs for many years before serious issues become apparent. Construction workers, carpenters, and shipyard workers are just some of the individuals who were placed at risk due to their occupations.

New Drug May Help Mesothelioma Victims

Keytruda attacks and kills cancer cells by targeting a protein called Programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1). The drug will treat patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer in which the disease has progressed despite the use of alternative treatments. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, in 2015, it is estimated that there will be 1,658,370 new cases of cancer diagnosed in the United States. Additionally, an estimated 589,430 people will die due to the disease.

Adhesives are used to help bond numerous types of materials. Beginning early in the 1900s, it was common for asbestos use in adhesives . Unfortunately, microscopic asbestos fibers are dangerous when inhaled into the lungs. By the 1980s, the dangers were so widely known that asbestos use was largely discontinued.

Asbestos Use in Adhesives

Adhesives are used in flooring, wallpaper, HVAC systems, and many other construction materials. Additionally, they were used to patch seal joints on boilers and pipes on United States Naval ships because, when these adhesives contained asbestos, they were capable of withstanding extreme heat and fire. Fortunately, asbestos-containing adhesives have low toxicity levels and are not friable. As a result of this, the only adhesives banned by the Environmental Protection Agency are sprayed-on asbestos adhesives that contain more than one percent asbestos and flooring felt adhesive.

The majority of liquid, non-roofing adhesives that contained asbestos were created through the use of bagged asbestos. The asbestos was placed into a fluffing machine in order to separate the fibers. Next, resins or solvents were added in a batch-mixing tank, along with pigments or fillers. Once complete, the material was packaged in metal pails, smaller containers, or tubes. By 1985, about 9.6 million gallons of asbestos non-roofing adhesives, sealants, and coatings were being produced. However, throughout the 1980s, the use of asbestos began to decline due to awareness of the danger, coupled with the filing of lawsuits, which increased insurance costs.

An interesting company that continues to be liable for asbestos exposure is Crown Cork and Seal, which is now known as Crown Holdings, Inc. (Crown). Founded in 1892 and headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Crown never actually manufactured a product that contained asbestos. Rather, the acquisition of another company in the 1960s exposed Crown to the risk of potential lawsuits for asbestos-related issues that remain today.

About Crown

Crown has never filed for bankruptcy and, as a result, does not have an asbestos trust fund. Today, the company is the largest metal packaging company in the United States and one of the largest in the world. Crown is involved in numerous markets, including packaging for drinks, foods, health and beauty items, and household and industrial products.

Crown’s liability in relation to products that contained asbestos came about after it acquired the New York-based Mundet Cork Company (Mundet) in 1963. Mundet manufactured cork-lined bottle caps, which was what attracted Crown to purchase the company. But, Mundet also made insulation products and cement, both of which contained significant amounts of asbestos. While Crown sold off all but the bottle-cap division, the company still remains liable for the exposure to asbestos that Mundet was responsible for.

Vinyl was first produced in the 1920s and continues to be used today. Made up of plastic resin, vinyl is used in many building and housing applications due to it being simultaneously flexible, sturdy, and durable. Unfortunately, some vinyl products may be dangerous because they contain asbestos.

Asbestos in Vinyl Products

The use of asbestos was common in vinyl because it made the product stronger and better insulated, while also being relatively inexpensive. Vinyl was used in all different kinds of structures such as residences, schools, and commercial buildings. Some of the common products asbestos was used in include:

  • Vinyl sheet flooring;
  • Vinyl wallpaper; and
  • Vinyl Asbestos Tile (VAT).

There were numerous companies that manufactured vinyl products that contained asbestos, including:

The Mobil Oil Corporation, now known as ExxonMobil and headquartered in Irving, Texas, was founded as part of the breakup of the Standard Oil Company. Due to the nature of its industry, the company made extensive use of products that contained asbestos. As a result, many former employees have developed health issues arising out of their exposure to asbestos fibers.

History of the Company

Mobil Oil began as a result of the order for Standard Oil to break apart into smaller companies after the U.S. Supreme Court found that the company violated federal antitrust laws. In 1931, two of the companies that were spawned out of the breakup, Vacuum Oil and Standard Oil of NY (Socony), merged into Socony Vacuum and sold a product called Mobilgas. In 1955, the company changed its name to Socony Mobil Oil, before becoming Mobil Oil in 1966.

Mobil merged with the Exxon Corporation in 1999, becoming ExxonMobil. Today, it is the largest publicly traded international oil and gas company in the world. ExxonMobil operates 38 oil refineries in 21 countries, capable of a combined daily refining capacity of 6.3 million barrels. The company produces and sells crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas.

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