This Wednesday, people around the U.S. will come together to celebrate Mesothelioma Awareness Day: a national effort to bring more awareness to this rare, asbestos-caused cancer, the obstacles that come with it, and how asbestos exposure affects patients and their families.
Each year, the campaign sets out to “paint the world blue.” But what does it mean to wear blue on September 26? Why do people observe this important day, and how has it helped in the past?
The Importance of Mesothelioma Awareness Day
Mesothelioma Awareness Day was established in 2004 by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF), America’s only nonprofit dedicated to ending mesothelioma, with 3 objectives in mind:
- Educate the public about how to prevent mesothelioma
- Educate mesothelioma patients and their families about the treatment and support programs available
- Bring attention to the urgent need for more research into treatments that could save patients’ lives
The first might seem straightforward, but far too many people underestimate the threat of asbestos (mesothelioma’s only known cause) and how to prevent exposure to the deadly mineral. In the U.S., which sees around 3,200 new cases of mesothelioma every year, many people believe asbestos was banned decades ago. In fact, it was only regulated. With greater awareness of where asbestos still lurks, more people can avoid the avoidable exposure that leads to disease.
And that’s key. For, by the time someone is diagnosed with mesothelioma – often decades after first exposure to asbestos – it’s too late to reverse the damage. Most patients die within 4 to 18 months. This unacceptable prognosis demands a critical need for medical research, but as a relatively rare disease, mesothelioma gets less attention (thus less funding) than other types of cancer.
By bringing attention to the needless suffering of mesothelioma patients, however, MARF calls on Congress to fund much-needed research. Along with its campaign partner, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), the foundation works to transition mesothelioma from a terminal cancer to a manageable, even curable illness. That will mean banning asbestos without the legislative loopholes and exemptions that have allowed the asbestos industry to flourish.
What Has Mesothelioma Awareness Day Achieved So Far?
ADAO, the largest asbestos victims’ advocacy group in the U.S., designates the entire month of September to mesothelioma awareness. The organization’s contributions to the campaign have helped the Meso Foundation reach groundbreaking milestones, including:
- 2002: Assisted Senator Patty Murray in introducing the Ban Asbestos in America Act, the first in history specifically geared toward federal funding of mesothelioma research.
- 2009: Launched the Miles for Meso 5K Race in Alton, Illinois to support mesothelioma awareness. The race has since raised nearly $400,000.
- 2010: Secured proclamations from both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives declaring September 26th an official and federally-recognized Mesothelioma Awareness Day.
- 2017: Raised over $100,000 in local communities for last year’s Mesothelioma Awareness Day alone.
- 2018: Reached $10 Million awarded to mesothelioma research grants.
Having wrapped up another successful Miles for Meso race on Saturday, ADAO is off to a great start. The organization is now preparing to host its 13th Congressional Staff Briefing, where it will address the EPA’s failure to address the asbestos risks killing nearly 40,000 Americans every year.
You, too, have a golden opportunity to help spread nationwide awareness of the fatal risks and prevalence of asbestos this week. Stay tuned for results of the race, what’s happening this year, and how to support the cause.