Health Literacy Month: Preventing asbestos exposure and deaths
Linda Reinstein, Mesothelioma Widow and Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation Co-Founder, discusses Health Literacy Month and what the ADAO is doing to help prevent asbestos exposure and disease.
Health illiteracy may very well be our worst foe in the fight for occupational health and safety. As I often remind Congress, most Americans can’t identify or manage the risk of asbestos exposure. While the fiber remains lethal and legal in the USA today, our estimates indicate that nine in 10 Americans incorrectly believe it has been banned. In a country where an estimated 2,500 people died from mesothelioma last year alone, this demonstrates that awareness – in and of itself – is a major issue.
For countries like the United Kingdom, which banned this carcinogen in 1999, asbestos exposure might be considered a thing of the past. I unfortunately must assure you that this is far from the truth. Just two years ago, Cancer Research UK reported nearly 2,500 deaths from mesothelioma, just one of the many asbestos-caused diseases currently threatening lives worldwide.
Carcinogenic to humans
Allow me to clear the air: according to the World Health Organization, “all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are carcinogenic to humans.”
Much is being done across the globe to communicate this message. A documentary entitled Breathless: Fighting the Global Asbestos Industry will premiere in London on 27 October. Focused on the criminality and injustice of mining, use, and remediation, this film will certainly raise awareness, expand prevention efforts, and strengthen social action efforts to end the man-made disaster that is asbestos.
The first African Conference on Occupational Health & Safety (ACOHS) will be held in Ghana on 29 – 31 October. With global partners, sponsors, and allies, ACOHS will focus on cultivating a ‘Safe and Healthy Work Culture’ worldwide. ADAO will be joining our longtime allies at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and presenting ‘Asbestos Prevention in the 21st Century: Lessons Learned from the Frontline.’
In an attempt to share our own resources and spread awareness, ADAO will be presenting a four-part blog series throughout the month of October in tune with the themes of #HealthLiteracyMonth. With a new piece each week, we will discuss prevention, high risk occupations, early warning symptoms, and treatment – all as they relate to asbestos-caused diseases. Each piece will share the irrefutable facts that workers and employers need to know.
For prevention, we provide resources on how to identify and avoid asbestos exposure in homes, schools, and the workplace. ADAO’s kNØw Asbestos website, for instance, has been built as a one-stop resource guide for anyone to learn about asbestos and prevention.
Workplace safety is everyone’s business, as about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace. In part-two, we discuss “High Risk Occupations.” With asbestos fibers contained in a range of building and construction products, the risk of these fibers becoming disturbed and released into the air is continual.
Asbestos exposure symptoms
Part-three helps readers to “Understand the Warning Symptoms for Asbestos-Caused Diseases.” Early detection is often difficult, as asbestos-related disease symptoms are generally vague and can be easily confused with other illnesses, such as pneumonia. Many symptoms may not even appear until 10 to 50 years after the first exposure. Only a doctor can properly diagnose asbestos-related diseases, but this blog will provide important information about symptoms and links to resources.
The final piece in the series is aimed at helping patients and their families overcome the feeling of helplessness after diagnosis. As part of this effort, we have compiled a list of treatment centers specializing in mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases, in hopes of providing easy access to information about medical resources.
Health Literacy is much more than a one-month-a-year commitment. ADAO is dedicated to raising asbestos awareness year-round to prevent exposure and eliminate deadly diseases.
As we say at ADAO, “Hear Asbestos. Think Prevention.”
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