Asbestos: Prevention Remains the Only Cure
Linda Reinstein became an activist after her husband, Alan, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2003. In 2004, she co-founded the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) to reach out to those who have been affected by asbestos-related disease.
Linda is supporting Health and Safety Week. Find out what you can do to get involved here.
Mes-o-the-li-o-ma — can’t pronounce it — can’t cure it.
I remember it as if it were yesterday; the day my husband Alan was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. We had never heard of mesothelioma. We were devastated when we learned that the asbestos-caused disease has no cure. Our daughter was only 10 years old.
Alan had no idea how he was exposed to asbestos. Back in the 1960s, he had done a short stint as an engineer inside nuclear submarines when they were being built. In those days, asbestos was a common insulation material in gaskets, boiler rooms and many other places inside ships. Alan was good with his hands and loved to do home repairs. He removed contaminated floor tiles and fixed walls with compounds that probably contained asbestos. Like many other asbestos victims who suffer from these terrible diseases, he had many encounters with this substance. That’s part of the tragedy: our inability to identify toxic materials and products. We are left in the dark and cannot always avoid being exposed.
An avid marathon runner, Alan underwent chemotherapy and radical surgeries in hopes of buying more time with his family. He spent his last year tethered to oxygen 24 hours a day as mesothelioma ravaged his body. He died in 2006, three years after diagnosis, with our then 13-year-old daughter and me by his side.
Fueled by my intense grief and anger about Alan’s mesothelioma diagnosis, I co-founded Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), an independent nonprofit, dedicated to eliminating asbestos-caused diseases through education, advocacy, and community initiatives.
Deadly Hugs and Killer Chores
Trust me. It is not just workers who have paid the ultimate price for their jobs — it is also their families. The National Cancer Institute stated, “This risk is thought to result from exposure to asbestos fibers brought into the home on the shoes, clothing, skin, and hair of workers.”
Occupational Diseases are No Accident
Without adequate regulations, people cannot determine or manage consumer, environmental and occupational asbestos risk.
From 2011 — 2012, mesothelioma deaths accounted for nearly 20% of all United Kingdom occupational lung disease and cancer deaths. In comparison, more than 10,000 Americans die each year from asbestos-caused diseases. Mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases are preventable, and we still import asbestos and have not passed ban asbestos legislation.
The world production of asbestos reached its highest level in 1975 at over 5 million tons. Presently, the annual production trend has been a steady 2 million tons. Chrysotile accounts for 95% of the asbestos mined and Russia is responsible for 50% of global production.
According to the World Health Organization:
“All types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs). Exposure to asbestos occurs through inhalation of fibres in air in the working environment, ambient air in the vicinity of point sources such as factories handling asbestos, or indoor air in housing and buildings containing friable (crumbly) asbestos materials.
In 2004, asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis from occupational exposures resulted in 107,000 deaths€ﾦ”
Building a Culture of Prevention
Preventing exposure is especially difficult because of asbestos’ extremely small fiber size, public misconception about safe use, and the long latency period from 10 to 50 years for disease to present.
Prevention saves lives and dollars. As the International Social Security Association reported in 2011, the “cost-benefit potential for investments in prevention may be as strong as 1: 2.2, and even higher in some cases.” Partnering for Prevention is imperative, and central to our role at ADAO.
While mining continues, the World Health Organization clearly states, “The most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos.”
Standing at the Intersection of Where Knowledge and Action Unite
Through collaborative efforts and leveraging social media advocacy, we are strengthening engagement with civil society, unions and non-governmental organizations (NGO), private sector, and governments.
The digital revolution is exciting and promising for all of us. The advancement of technology has lowered the cost barrier for mobile devices and tablets, paving the wave for efficient, effective, and rapid global and national communication to raise awareness, promote education, increase compliance, and expand transparency enforcement. More than 90% of global population lives in locations with access to mobile digital devices, making it possible for ADAO to bring together the global alliance we truly need to stop this manmade disaster.
Since 2004, ADAO has frequently served as a resource for Congress and the Media. When I testify for Congress, I remind them that “One life lost to asbestos disease is tragic; hundreds of thousands of lives is unconscionable.”
As we work to end the asbestos man-made disaster, you have renewed my hope. Thank you for “inspiring excellence in health and safety”! Together, change is possible.
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