For the 14th year running, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) has announced the launch of Global Asbestos Awareness Week with a mission just as urgent as ever.
Those of us in the asbestos community – especially those directly impacted by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases – have a good understanding of asbestos exposure and its risks. However, too few others do not. “Why is asbestos bad?” and even “what is asbestos?” are among the fastest-rising search terms (related to “asbestos”) on Google.
While some people seek answers to these questions, almost 200,000 others around the world die from asbestos-caused diseases every year. That’s roughly 500 deaths a day attributed to a toxin from which the general public doesn’t know how to protect itself.
It’s encouraging to see more public interest around the so-called “silent killer,” but statistics only show how far we are misinformed. That’s what GAAW, along with on-the-ground support, sets out to solve.
What Is Global Asbestos Awareness Week?
Hosted by ADAO from April 1-7 each year, GAAW is an international effort to bring more public awareness to asbestos, including what it is, why it’s dangerous, and why it should be banned.
The campaign presents us with 4 cold, hard facts: that asbestos is a known carcinogen, that all forms of asbestos cause cancer, that there is no safe level of exposure, and that the U.S. remains the only industrialized nation yet to do anything about it. Many uses of this lethal substance are still legal and responsible for a growing number of American deaths each year.
Each Global Awareness Week brings a new theme to highlight the importance of working toward an asbestos-free future for all. This year’s, “One Word, One Week, One World,” will focus primarily on banning all uses, enforcing existing regulations, preventing further asbestos exposure, and strengthening intercontinental collaboration.
Since its founding in 2004, ADAO has worked with the U.S. Senate to pass 14 Asbestos Awareness Week Resolutions. This has helped give the message about exposure some weight.
“While we push the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to finally deliver an asbestos ban, having Congress recognize Asbestos Awareness Week is a great way to shine a spotlight on lifesaving prevention strategies,” ADAO wrote in a recent Facebook post.
But true change will take recognition from more than Congress – and that’s where the public comes in.
What’s Happening This Year
The week will kick off with a 30-second public service announcement video called “Asbestos: The Killer You Can’t See.” And for the first time, this and other educational resources will be made available in 6 languages (Russian, Hindi, Portuguese, French, and Spanish in addition to English) to reach more people around the globe.
“We are excited to bring our educational messages to an even wider audience by collaborating again with McOnie, an award-winning U.K.-based public relations firm, who are expanding our ability to distribute our messages globally,” said Linda Reinstein, ADAO founder, whose husband died of mesothelioma.
The rest of the week’s schedule features stories from asbestos victims, celebrations of recent awareness initiatives, and an online candlelight vigil. The campaign wraps up in Washington, D.C., where ADAO will host its 14th Annual International Asbestos Awareness and Prevention Conference to give attendees the chance to connect with asbestos prevention leaders.
How to Help Thwart ‘The Killer You Can’t See’
Even if you can’t attend the conference, you can still make a difference. Making a contribution means:
- Educating yourself and others. Learn more about asbestos in ADAO’s blog and Facebook posts, then share with your own online communities and join the conversation.
- Sharing your experiences. Have you or someone you know experienced an asbestos disease firsthand? Sharing your story with others gives true meaning to the challenges involved.
- Donating to the cause. Funds raised by ADAO its partners contribute to much-needed research into asbestos diseases, which are thus far difficult to diagnose and impossible to cure.
- Reach out to a state representative. No matter where you live, you can reach out to a representative and urge them to support asbestos research or a full ban. Find your local representative here.
Ultimately, we have 2 choices: Keep asbestos away from the people through a ban, or keep the people away from asbestos through education. Until we make progress on the former – which may be far off – we’re left with spreading Reinstein’s key message:
“The simple truth is asbestos kills and prevention remains the only cure. Asbestos-caused diseases like mesothelioma can take years, even decades, to kill, but the hidden risk of asbestos fibers only takes a few heartbeats to tell.”
Learn more about GAAW and other work by ADAO on the organization’s website.