Surely when one hears the name “Warren Zevon” one thinks of head-banging rock ‘n roll of the late 70s and early 80s; they think of “Werewolves of London” or “Lawyers, Guns, and Money,” or any one of Zevon’s other dozen-plus radio hits.
What one doesn’t think about, most likely, is mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the mesothelium (the thin membrane that lines the lungs), which is caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos. Indeed, however, this rare cancer was the unfortunate cause of the rock legend’s premature death.
In the wake of Zevon’s 2003 asbestos-caused death, much has happened — the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was formulated in 2004, the U.S. has taken some stronger precautionary measures toward workplace safety, and the federal government has finally passed much-needed toxic substance control reform — but one thing has remained eerily steady: asbestos.
The fibrous mineral that caused Warren Zevon’s death – and thousands of other deaths – continues to be a mainstay in some sectors of U.S. manufacturing.
The mineral, much to many people’s surprise, is still not banned in the United States. In fact, U.S. manufacturers using asbestos in their products still import — from places like China, Russia, and South America — at the rate of 1,000 metric tons per year. That’s the weight equivalent of 2.2 million pounds, or over 500 cars.
As a result, it’s estimated that about 3,200 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year, and up to 15,000 asbestos-related deaths occur annually in the States. The same mineral that took rock-legend Warren Zevon’s life continues to take thousands more lives each and every year while government and manufacturers stand by and do very little.
Warren Zevon’s Son, Jordan, and His Fight with to Ban Asbestos
In just a couple of days, the ADAO, a nonprofit whose mission is to not only bring public education and awareness to asbestos-related diseases, but to ultimately bring about the ban of asbestos, will be sponsoring the Warren Zevon Tribute Benefit dubbed “Lawyers, Guns, and Photos”, a photography exhibit in Hollywood, CA.
The exhibition will showcase hundreds of photographs of Zevon’s musician days and feature musical performances by many artists, including Zevon’s son, Jordan, who is himself an award-winning musician.
Jordan Zevon has been an ADAO spokesperson for a number of years, and is hopeful that the organization will continue its mission of generating public awareness of deadly asbestos-related diseases. In an interview with LA Weekly, Zevon said:
“[Asbestos] is not completely banned. And it’s still out there. I hate to be a scare monger, but when you’re a musician and you’re playing in some club in Wisconsin and your drummer is banging on the ceiling pipes, you could be exposed…. We’re [the ADAO] not trying to scare anybody; we’re just trying to get it banned. It takes so long to gestate and it’s so hard to fight.”
The “it” Jordan refers to is of course mesothelioma, which is by all accounts a rare, slow-moving cancer that can take between 20-50 years to even show symptoms.
Jordan’s Mesothelioma Myth-Busting Plays Important Role in Fight to Ban Asbestos
Advocates like Jordan Zevon help to not only bring public awareness to the half-century-long scourge of asbestos, they also help educate the public on common misconceptions.
For example, in Jordan’s interview with LA Weekly, he draws attention to the common misconception that asbestos-related diseases occur only in those who have worked in factories or shipyards, or were in the U.S. Navy. While it’s true that there is a high prevalence of asbestos-triggered disease in certain industries, Warren Zevon never worked at any such position typically associated with asbestos.
“Dad basically never worked a non-musical day in his life,” Jordan Zevon reports. Part of Jordan’s goal, in partnering with the ADAO, is to dispel myths like these. Other common myths being that asbestos is “already banned” in the U.S., when it’s not; or, that asbestos-related diseases only occur after long-term, repeated exposure to asbestos, when in reality such diseases can be triggered with the inhalation of just one, single asbestos fiber.
The rest of Jordan Zevon’s interview with the LA Weekly can be read here.
Lawyers, Guns, & Photographs
The Hollywood, CA event will take place on July 7th from 7 PM to 10 PM at the Musichead Gallery. It will feature photography taken by photographer George Gruel, who toured with Zevon from 1978 to 1983. In addition to photography from a world-famous rock ‘n roll photographer, the exhibit will also have an auction, and over a dozen live performances, including a performance by the 1982 band that toured with Warren Zevon.
Photographer George Gruel will also be holding a book-signing of his new book, entitled: Lawyers, Guns, and Photos: Photographs and Tales of my Adventures with Warren Zevon.
All ticket-sale proceeds will be donated to the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) in honor of the late Zevon. The funds will help the ADAO continue to fight for a national ban on asbestos, the very thing that caused Warren Zevon’s cancer and took his life prematurely, at the age of 56.