Former Blue Mountains City Council member, Morris Pugh, lost his life to mesothelioma in January of 2020. The Blue Mountains Gazette reported the story on February 19, 2020. This news report comes out of Springwood, New South Wales (NSW) in Australia. Australia, as of 2018, has one of the highest incidence rates mesothelioma in the world. Around two people are diagnosed with the deadly disease in Australia each day. Mesothelioma is a lethal cancer that invades the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. Mesothelioma causes include exposure to asbestos, a toxic microscopic fiber.
It is a vicious terminal cancer. Mesothelioma does not only impact the United States. Instead, mesothelioma is a global concern. If mesothelioma is detected early, the odds for survival time increase which is why it is important to know about mesothelioma causes and prevention.
Morris Pugh’s Employment with Blue Mountains City Council
Morris Pugh worked for the Blue Mountains City Council from 1980 until he retired in 2015. He worked diligently outdoors as a plant operator. Pugh also cared about others. He did not want others to suffer from mesothelioma like he did and he wanted them to be aware of mesothelioma causes. The Blue Mountains Gazette obtained a statement from Mark Greenhill, the Blue Mountains mayor. The mayor stated that “Morris’ first concern after receiving his diagnosis was that men who had left the council before and after him should be contacted and arrangements made for them to be screened regularly.” Mayor Greenhill assured Mr. Pugh that he would address the problem after his passing.
Morris Pugh’s Dying Wish
Morris Pugh disclosed his dying wish to Nancy Marlor, Pugh’s longtime partner. He asked that the council reach out to former council workers and offer health screenings for mesothelioma causes or any other asbestos-related disease. The council heard her plea and plans to honor Pugh’s memory by granting his last wish.
The council announced that this is a great opportunity to honor his dying wish of contacting previous employees over the last decade as a way to honor Mr. Pugh. The services and health screenings are also to be extended to retired employees. Nancy Marlor, Pugh’s partner, expressed her gratitude towards Blue Mountains City Council and their support and willingness to proceed with the proposed policy change.
The Blue Mountains City Council Proposed Policy Change
Blue Mountains City Council has proposed to contact all of its previous employees over the last ten years. The councilors have cast their votes on the policy change on February 25, 2020. The council plans to not only contact the council’s ex-employees but to inform them of Pugh’s death and provide how the council is prepared to offer free health assignments and health screenings to anyone exposed to mesothelioma causes. If required under the policy change, the ex-employees may also be offered access to counseling and support services.
Dr. Rosemary Dillon, Blue Mountains Council’s chief executive officer, told the Blue Mountains Gazette that, “We are extremely saddened by the news of the passing of Mr. Pugh and have offered council’s sincere condolences to his family. While it is impossible to pinpoint where, when, and exactly how Mr. Pugh contracted the disease, the fact is he was a former employee, and we care for him.”
Morris Pugh’s family aspires to urge Pugh’s former co-workers to also contact Blue Mountains City Council prior to 2010. They would like Pugh’s former workmates to contact Australia’s Insurance and Care NSW (icare) Dust Disease Service.
It was not until 2004 when Australia banned the use of all forms of asbestos. However, according to a source, “…before this, it was used in more than 3,000 products in the construction industry, in industrial plants and equipment, and in ships, trains and cars. Its legacy means a large amount of asbestos still remains in buildings and other infrastructure, and thousands of different products containing asbestos are still in use today.”
Further, a 2019 report issued by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH) and the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) described, “Australia’s consumption of asbestos peaked at around 700,000 metric tons during the period 1970–1979 (Soeberg 2016; Leigh et al. 2002). Australia both mined and imported asbestos, which was used in the construction industry due to its durability and fire and chemical resistance.”
Moreover, “…Asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were used in over 3,000 products in the construction industry (ASEA 2018), including insulation and flooring materials, wall and roof sheeting and brake linings (Forster 1997), as well as in ships, trains and cars (ASEA 2018).”
Insurance and Care in New South Wales (NSW)
Insurance and Care NSW also referred to as icare, is a newly organized work health and safety regulatory body. Prior to icare, WorkCover was the leading provider. It was established as a result of the induction of the State Insurance and Care Governance Act of 2015.
In New South Wales, there are three regulatory bodies in place: Insurance and Care NSW (icare), SafeWork NSW, and State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA). icare provides long-term care for individuals with severe road or workplace injuries. Its goal is to help individuals return to work and improve their quality of life.
icare Dust Disease Care
icare provides a plethora of resources to individuals diagnosed and living with dust-related diseases. The program also offers support to family members. One support system offered is peer-to-peer support. It is a group of people who are also suffering from a dust disease.
A diagnosis of mesothelioma, exposure to mesothelioma causes or other asbestos-related condition can bring on a rollercoaster of emotions. Peer-to-peer support provides an opportunity to share your own experience and listen to the issues other patients face. Peer-to-peer support is for families as well. It gives families the opportunity to ask questions about the process, gather information about mesothelioma causes, and what to expect in the future.
Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI)
Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) is a non-profit, charitable foundation devoted to “…translating new research insights into support services provided by experienced Mesothelioma Support Coordinators.” The Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) customized assistance to patients and their families. They act as liaisons connecting patients and their families to Mesothelioma Support Coordinators and professional agencies. They also offer programs and support groups for survivors and their caretakers.
Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA)
Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA) is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to providing support to patients, families, friends, and caretakers. According to a source, “[t]he foundation was founded by members of trade unions, people with asbestos-related disease and their families, and other concerned community members. Support is provided by counsellors and ADFA members who either have an asbestos-related disease, or are relatives of people who have been affected by an asbestos-related disease.”
Bernie Banton Foundation (BBF)
Bernie Banton Foundation (BBF) is another non-profit organization that offers peer-based support and more information regarding mesothelioma causes. It also provides essential information and referral services. According to the Asbestos Diseases Research program under icare, “[t]he Foundation’s primary goal is to assist you with information about living with a dust disease and the choices and options available to you when it comes to accessing specialist advice.” Additionally, the Bernie Banton Foundation (BBF) also acts as a liaison connecting patients and their families with care centers, hospitals, and palliative care networks for those suffering from an asbestos-related illness.
Exposure to asbestos, one of the leading mesothelioma causes, can happen in several settings. It is most likely to occur in occupational hazards such as construction or firefighting, as the asbestos exposure is constant. However, mesothelioma does not discriminate and can claim victims in other settings. It can also come in the form of secondhand exposure, also referred to as “take-home exposure.”
Rod Stewart is an Awareness and Support Co-Coordinator at the Bernie Banton Foundation (BBF). He told the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) that, “[m]y late wife Julie had no known work, or adult life history exposure to asbestos fibers/dust.” He added, “…her only traceable or known exposure was when, during her secondary school years, her father, a refrigeration mechanic, took a job in Burnie Tasmania, and brought home asbestos dust on his work overalls. Julie was an only child and loved her father dearly—and would always greet him as he arrived home. Fifty years on Julie was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma at the age of 64 years and died 3 years later.”
The Bernie Banton Foundation provides assistance in other areas for mesothelioma patients. For example, they can provide assistance in finding legal help to determine if you may have a case and whether your mesothelioma causes were due to the negligence of a third-party. It is important to contact an attorney to evaluate your potential claim. An attorney can discuss your options and review any type of compensation you or your family may be entitled to.
Icare Grief Support
Icare offers a grief support program for caretakers, family members, and friends who have lost a loved one to an asbestos-related disease. Icare explains, “[s]ome people will find that the support of family, friends, workmates and community is enough. For others though, when grief feels relentlessly overwhelming, getting professional help might be appropriate.” The organization has composed an information pack for those grieving the loss of a loved one. The packet provides the contact information and services available to help them through such a tough time.
The Statistics of Mesothelioma in the United States and Australia
In the United States, roughly 3,000 new cases of asbestos-related conditions are diagnosed each year. The American Cancer Society provides that pleural mesothelioma (mesothelioma of the lining of the lungs) makes up for 75% of the mesothelioma cases. The average age of diagnosis ranges between 65 and 72.
The American Cancer Society reveals statistics that the average life expectancy after a mesothelioma diagnosis is around 12-22 months. Further, the five-year survival rate for mesothelioma in the United States is about 10%.
According to the Cancer Council of Australia, in 2015, 727 individuals were diagnosed with mesothelioma. The following year in 2016, mesothelioma claimed the lives of 672 deaths. Lastly, the five-year survival rate for mesothelioma in Australia is approximately 6%.
In 2018, statistics showed that between 700 and 800 people in Australia are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), an agency of the Australian Government provided that the median time between diagnosis and death is around 11 months.
The Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) provided that, “…the ‘average’ Australian with malignant mesothelioma was:
- was male
- was diagnosed at around 75 years of age
- mesothelioma causes included exposure to asbestos in both occupational and non-occupational settings
- lived for around 11 months after diagnosis.
The median age of a malignant mesothelioma diagnosis in Australia is 75 years old. Interestingly, the Australian Mesothelioma Registry reported that “[t]he age of people in the AMR diagnosed in 2018 ranged from 22 to 101 years. People aged 70–79 (45%) were more likely to be diagnosed than any other age group A greater number of males than females were diagnosed with mesothelioma across most age groups.”
The Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR)
The Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) gathers information on new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in the country from July 1, 2010. The registry aims to understand the relationship between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma causes. The country’s state and territory cancer registries report the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) when a new case of mesothelioma has been diagnosed, along with specific demographic and diagnosis information, while protecting the data in compliance with the Privacy Act of 1988.
The Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR), with the express consent of the patient, collects information from patients related to their possible exposure to asbestos and other mesothelioma causes. This includes information on both possible occupational and non-occupational exposure and any work or other circumstances that led to the exposure to the carcinogen.
Malignant Mesothelioma Gender Study in New South Wales (NSW) Australia
A 2007 research project evaluated trends in gender differences of malignant mesothelioma in New South Wales (NSW) in Australia. The objective of the study was to determine the difference between men and women in hazardous occupations with asbestos exposure, median survival, and histological subtype. It compared malignant mesothelioma between both genders in New South Wales (NSW) in Australia.
The study found that “Of the 3090 cases of malignant mesothelioma reported to the Central Cancer Registry between 1972 and 2004, 456 (15%) were female. Altogether 1995 malignant mesotheliomas were compensated between 1969 and 2004, of which 105 (5%) occurred among women.” They discovered that the incidence of malignant mesothelioma increased among both genders, 15-fold. The survival rate proved to be consistent for men and women, seven months versus six months.
It also found that the survival rate was better among females who received compensation, eight and a half months versus ten months. The average latency period also increased throughout the study hitting 42.8 years. The study concluded that “…over the last 30 years, the total number of malignant mesotheliomas and the number of compensated cases of malignant mesothelioma have risen for both genders. The mean latency is increasing, and increasing numbers of “non-occupational” cases are being reported. Survival remains poor.”
As of 2018, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported that “[b]etween 2011-2017, on average, four times as many males were diagnosed as females—which is expected because the majority of cases are from exposure in the type of environments in which males more commonly work as one of the leading mesothelioma causes.”
In 1982, the number of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma was 135 for males and 22 for females. In 2017, that number drastically increased, accounting for 592 males diagnosed with mesothelioma and 118 females.
Geographic and Socioeconomic Elements of Mesothelioma in New South Wales (NSW) Australia
A study published by in 2017 evaluated geographic and socioeconomic dynamics in patients diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The researchers wanted to discover the relationship between geographic and socioeconomic factors and how it related to survival rates and treatments. Specifically, the researchers assessed patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma in patients who received compensation between 2002 and 2009 supplemented with data from the New South Wales (NSW) Cancer Registry.
The study found 910 patients, 67% of which resided in a major city, had a median survival rate of ten months. The results also revealed that there was not any significant gain for patients that resided in major cities, ten and a half months versus eight months. Further, the study discovered that a patient’s geographical location and distance to an oncological multidisciplinary team (MDT) was also not a significant factor and did not influence survival rates, ten months versus seven months.
The patients’ geographic location and distance to an oncological multidisciplinary team (MDT) did not impact chemotherapy, adjuvant radiotherapy, or extrapleural pneumonectomy provision. However, the study did show that socioeconomically disadvantaged patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma were less likely to receive chemotherapy, 37.4% versus 54.8%. The study concluded that evidence exists to show the differences in the treatment and survival rate as it correlates with socioeconomic status for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma receiving compensation in New South Wales (NSW).
Mesothelioma Patients Not as Likely to Survive Mesothelioma Than Most Cancers
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) explains that mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer with a poor prognosis. The rates of survival in those diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma are slim and have not improved over time. Mesothelioma is commonly missed and mistaken for other less serious conditions, which is why it is important to be aware of mesothelioma causes. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), “…people with mesothelioma who have already survived 1 year, their 5-year conditional relative survival is 10%, which is low compared with other cancers such as lung (35%), stomach (51%) and kidney (85%).
In 2018, 699 deaths of people diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma were recorded at a rate of 2.3 deaths per 100,000 population. The Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) found that this rate has been consistent since 2012.
Australia is also expected to see an increase in the number of deaths each year. Further, the statistics provided by the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) show, “[w]here cause of death information was available for the years 2012–2017, mesothelioma was the primary (or ‘underlying’) cause for 90%–93% of deaths among people with mesothelioma each year.”
Mesothelioma Causes and Blue Mountains City Council
Australia has seen a tragic increase in the number of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. The deadly disease took the life of Morris Pugh of New South Wales (NSW). It is projected that 38,000 people across the globe die from mesothelioma. That calculates to 105 mesothelioma deaths per day. With an increase in cases each year, routine health screenings are necessary.
At this time, there is not a known cure for mesothelioma. In Australia, there are a number of resources that patients diagnosed with mesothelioma and their families can take advantage of. The icare program offers a number of peer-to-peer support groups along with grievance programs. icare is also composed of several subagencies that can assist mesothelioma patients in finding the right care and support.
There are some hospitals in Australia that specialize in treating mesothelioma. There are always clinical trials throughout the world. If you are battling mesothelioma, it is worth reaching out to your healthcare provider to inquire about any ongoing clinical trials to determine if it is right for you.
There have also been recent advances in treatment options for those diagnosed with mesothelioma. More and more studies have been conducted, which has resulted in improved techniques and more treatment options. For example, there are more accurate methods to diagnose and determine what stage the disease is in. Advanced surgical techniques have also improved, along with evidence-based combinations of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma, along with their families, may also be entitled to forms of compensation. According to Healthdirect.gov, “[i]n Australia, people who develop mesothelioma and their families may be entitled to compensation. If you were diagnosed after July 1, 2010, consider providing information to the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR), which will help the government design policies to prevent others from getting mesothelioma in future.”
Morris Pugh is one of the victims of mesothelioma. He wants his former co-workers to have the opportunity to catch the disease early to secure a better prognosis than he did. Blue Mountains City Council is expected to meet Tuesday, February 25, 2020, to discuss Morris Pugh’s pleas and work to implement new policies and procedures to protect the council’s former employees.