Grant Awarded to Univ. of Penn. to Study Asbestos Exposure Pathways

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have received a $10 million grant to study the effects of asbestos exposure that lead to the development of mesothelioma and other diseases, as well as how to safely remove asbestos.  

The grant was awarded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and announced by the university in a press release on June 9. The grant will go to researchers at the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, at the university’s Perelman School of Medicine, which is home to the Penn Superfund Center that studies the health effects of a nearby environmental cleanup site contaminated with asbestos.

Researchers will use the grant to study asbestos exposure pathways that cause mesothelioma, asbestos bioremediation, and the mechanisms that cause other asbestos-related ailments.

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Exposure to asbestos can cause the development of mesothelioma. Lawsuits have been filed nationwide against asbestos manufacturers.

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The school’s asbestos research was sparked by community concerns regarding the BioRit Asbestos Superfund site in Ambler, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles north of Philadelphia.

“I am heartened that the NIEHS has chosen to fund this truly interdisciplinary center, which is uniquely qualified to address the concerns relating to asbestos exposure that have been identified by the Ambler community,” the Center’s director, Ian A. Blair, PhD, professor of Pharmacology, said in the press release.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, which is only known to be caused by exposure to asbestos and breathing asbestos fibers. It is a lethal disease that is often at a very advanced stage when a diagnosis is made, resulting in a very short life-expectancy.

Mesothelioma litigation is the longest-running mass tort in U.S. history, with more than 600,000 people having filed a lawsuit against more than 6,000 defendants after being diagnosed with cancer that was allegedly caused by inhaling asbestos fibers.

In addition to claims for workers exposed to asbestos, in recent years there have been a growing number of mesothelioma lawsuits brought following second hand exposure, with wives, children and other family members alleging they developed the disease after breathing asbestos fibers brought home in the hair or on the clothing of individuals who worked directly with the material.

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