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Madison Square Garden

History

Asbestos Exposure at Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden has been a fixture in New York City for over one hundred years. However, it has been re-built and moved several times over its history so that what is now knows as Madison Square Garden (MSG) is in fact the fourth incarnation.

The first Madison Square Garden began in 1871 as P.T. Barnum's Monster Hippodrome, which became Gilmore's Garden in 1876. In 1879 William Henry Vanderbilt purchased Gilmore's Garden and re-dedicated it as Madison Square Garden. MSG I was located at the junction of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street (Madison Square) and only lasted eleven years due to shoddy construction. MSG II was designed and built by famed architect Stanford White on the same parcel of land as MSG I. MSG II lasted thirty five years and held sporting events such as boxing, as well as the 1924 Democratic National Convention. MSG II closed in 1925.

MSG III was built at Eighth Avenue and 50th Street and was opened in 1925. This new, state-of-the-art facility was the home of the New York Knicks professional basketball team as well as the New York Rangers professional hockey team.

The building now called Madison Square Garden (MSG IV) is located at Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street, atop Penn Station. It opened in 1968 and is unofficially known as "The World's Most Famous Arena" as it has been home to countless sporting events as well as concerts by such greats as Springsteen and Sinatra. In October of 2001, Madison Square Garden was the location for the Concert for New York City, raising money to help the victims of the 9/11 disaster.

Asbestos Use at Madison Square Garden

The current Madison Square Garden was constructed and opened in 1968. During the 60s and into the 70s, a common mineral that was used in many areas of construction was asbestos. Asbestos is very durable and is fire-retardant, making it ideal for use in insulation and floor and ceiling tiles. It was not until the mid 1970s that the dangers associated with asbestos became public. Exposure to asbestos dust can be extremely harmful to a person's lungs, causing health problems listed below.

Asbestos products were certainly used during construction of Madison Square Garden, mainly as insulation on the piping systems that provided heat, steam and hot water throughout. The decades following the awareness of the dangers of asbestos were marked by serious efforts to remove older asbestos containing products. However, if the removal is not done properly, those workers were subsequently exposed. It is believed that through improper removal procedures, hundreds or even thousands of workers in Madison Square Garden as well as the New York Coliseum were placed in a hazardous asbestos-dust containing environment. Due to the latency period associated with asbestos diseases, it could take decades to discover who in fact was harmed.

Madison Square Garden Workers At Risk for Mesothelioma and Other Asbestos Diseases

By the mid 1970s, strong evidence was uncovered regarding the health dangers associated with prolonged exposure to asbestos. Many who had worked with asbestos for extended periods of time were coming down with pulmonary diseases (such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis) from breathing asbestos dust.

The asbestos-related diseases include:

  • Mesothelioma: a type of cancer only caused by asbestos exposure that attacks the lining around the lungs and/or heart and/or abdomen. This cancer is not in the organs themselves, though untreated it will spread. The most common form is pleural mesothelioma (lung lining), then peritoneal mesothelioma (stomach lining), and then pericardial mesothelioma (heart lining).

  • Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer: while lung cancer can come from numerous sources, asbestos exposure can lead to the formation of a malignant tumor that blocks the air passages (common for smokers who were exposed to asbestos).

  • Asbestosis: a pulmonary condition, only caused by exposure to asbestos, where scar tissue builds up in the lungs causing breathing problems and low blood flow.

The diseases associated with asbestos are similar in that their symptoms often do not appear for many years after exposure. It is not uncommon for someone to develop lung cancer after a 10 year lag between onset and initial exposure. Mesothelioma cancer and asbestosis often do not become apparent for 30 to 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos. Common symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest pains, a dry hacking cough that sometimes contains blood.

The health problems associated with asbestos were not just isolated to people who worked directly with the product. The asbestos dust would spread easily through the air putting workers who never used it at risk. Family members were also at risk because workers would return home with the dust on their clothes, shoes and even hair.

There are different treatments available for patients suffering asbestos-related cancers and diseases. These include, but are not limited to: chemotherapy and certain medications including Lovastatin which can be used as an antineoplastic agent preventing the growth of certain cancerous tumors, and Alimta® (also called Pemetrexed) which has been approved by the F.D.A. for mesothelioma treatment.

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