When most folks hear the word “asbestos,” a number of unwelcome thoughts come to mind. The latest horror story about asbestos exposure on the news, perhaps, or President Trump’s objectionable position on toxic substances. Others of us might be immediately reminded of lethal asbestos-related diseases, such as the incurable cancer, mesothelioma.
The only thing worth thinking of, however, say anti-asbestos advocates, is action. It’s time to step up with determined, positive momentum toward what we’ve all been wanting for decades: a total and complete ban.
The first week of April marks 1 of the most important asbestos campaigns of the century. National Asbestos Awareness Week (NAAW) is an annual commemoration of victims and their families and a critical opportunity to share stories, learn about protection, and lend a hand. This year’s theme is “Hear Asbestos. Think Prevention.”
ADAO’s Contributions to an Asbestos-Free Future
NAAW is organized by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), an independent nonprofit headquartered in California that is dedicated to asbestos awareness, prevention, and education.
Linda Reinstein – 1 of the world’s leading anti-asbestos activists whose husband was diagnosed with mesothelioma (a cancer caused exclusively by asbestos) – founded the organization in 2004. Since then, it has grown to become the largest of its kind in the U.S. Reinstein has presented at hearings, symposiums, and programs in over 20 countries to connect with others affected by toxic asbestos-caused diseases. So far, she has successfully secured 12 Asbestos Awareness Week Resolutions with the U.S. Senate and 5 U.S. Surgeon General asbestos warnings.
This awareness week is the result of Reinstein’s resolve to educate the world about asbestos risk and how to avoid it. Starting out as 1 day of recognition in 2005, NAAW quickly became a global initiative. “Knowledge truly is power, in this situation,” said Reinstein, “and this week is about empowering and equipping people to protect themselves while we work for protective legislation.”
This year’s “Hear Asbestos, Think Prevention” theme has 3 aims:
- Banning all use and presence of asbestos
- Educating the public about asbestos exposure
- Enforcing and expanding existing laws and regulations
To this day, far too many people remain unaware of the carcinogens lurking in the air we breathe every day. ADAO has made significant strides to spread the word about asbestos, but the problem has grown to such an extent that there is no quick fix.
An Ongoing Epidemic That Still Grips the World
In the late 19th century, asbestos was known as a “miracle mineral” and was popular in construction, shipbuilding, manufacturing, and other industrial fields. Since then, research has found asbestos exposure to be extremely deadly – causing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma – and therefore put millions of workers in many industries at serious risk for cancer and death.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen: a deadly, parasitic substance that destroys human tissue and causes cancer. There is no reason for the mineral to remain in use whatsoever. However, asbestos is still not banned in the U.S. and remains legal in nearly 70 percent of the world, killing over 190,000 people annually.
To put this into perspective, in the U.S. alone, 30 Americans die per day from asbestos-caused diseases. Asbestos is so lethal that the 5-year survival rate for mesothelioma, for example, is less than 10 percent. And the most troubling statistic of all? 100 percent of those deaths were preventable.
For 13 years, ADAO has consistently operated on 3 key pillars: education (giving the public the tools they need to help prevent asbestos exposure and disease), advocacy (a global effort to ban asbestos), and community (creating a united front of victims all working toward the same goal).
Through its mission – and both national and international influence – ADAO gives a voice to people affected by the disease. Counter to common belief, as the organization reminds us, asbestos is still in active use in many countries around the world, including the United States. ADAO’s vision is to have as many people as possible united to fuel the most impact, which is why awareness campaigns are so critical.
How to Get Involved with NAAW This Year
On the weekend of April 7-9, ADAO is holding its 13th International Asbestos Awareness and Prevention Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, a place “Where Knowledge and Action Unite,” brings together over 300 experts and victims to speak about efforts to raise awareness of and help prevent future cases of asbestos-related disease. ADAO established this event in 2005, and remains the only U.S. nonprofit to hold asbestos-dedicated conferences of this scope.
The sessions include talks on progress and challenges, medical advancements with asbestos-related diseases, what to do about prevention, and status updates on global ban efforts. There will also be a recognition dinner at which noted asbestos advocates will be awarded for their inspirational services to the cause.
You can follow the week via the ADAO website and on social media using the hashtag #GAAW. There are plenty of other ways to show your support, too, such as making a donation. Even better, if you have been affected personally by asbestos, you can share your story on the ADAO website.
“We at ADAO know very well that we cannot succeed alone,” Reinstein has stressed. “We are depending on our community to be innovative, be bold, and be outspoken to make the 2017 Global Asbestos Awareness Week the loudest call to action yet.”
When Will We Unite and Put Asbestos in the Rearview Mirror?
Today’s perpetual increase in deaths occurring from asbestos-related diseases – known as the “third wave of asbestos-related disease” – is showing no signs of slowing yet, for 2 reasons. First, a corporate agenda to put profits ahead of people; the asbestos-death epidemic might never have escalated had manufacturers of asbestos-containing products been honest about their dangers. For another, a fat, corporate lobbying wallet that succeeds in creating a lack of government intervention.
So far in 2017, we heard Trump’s plans to scale back on several government agencies. These included the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): the agency responsible for regulating exposure to and use of toxic substances. As our only hope for implementing real change, the EPA was on the right track during the Obama administration. Trump, on the other hand, considers asbestos “the greatest fire-proofing material ever used.”
As of now, federal action is uncertain, to say the least. But there are still ways to make a difference. ADAO, and other asbestos awareness groups, have a simple goal: Ban asbestos in the United States. And while the goal may sound simple, the journey itself is far from it. Only together – united as one – can we make it happen.
Pitch in and help out, and, most of all: Hear asbestos, think prevention.