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April 5, 2012

Baby boomers beware

by: Jeanette M. Gilbert

I’m a Baby Boomer – one of those 78 million people born after WWII, sometime between 1946 and 1964. When dad came back from the War, grateful to be alive after having served on the front lines and receiving a bullet wound in the head, he and mom wanted a happy, abundant, peaceful life after the stress and deprivations of  WWII. Most folks whose parents served then had the same ambitions – that’s probably why there are so many Boomers around today! But Baby Boomers and their parents are often those folks who worked around or with asbestos. Many parents of Boomers, or Boomers themselves, have suffered from an asbestos-related disease, like asbestosis or mesothelioma, the most deadly form of asbestos related cancer. Why? Because they worked in an environment which contained asbestos.

When dads and moms went to work, striving to earn a living and provide for their families, they had no idea that a toxic work environment was poisoning them and possibly their families. Who knew that the mere act of going to work could expose family members to asbestos? Men who worked in an industry where they were exposed to asbestos unknowingly would have asbestos fibers on their clothing. When they arrived home, they would greet their families with hugs and affection. The fibers would transfer to the wives or children. Wives would normally handle the laundry. If dad worked in a dusty environment, mom would shake out the clothing before doing the laundry, causing her to be exposed to asbestos. Unfortunately, housewives have the second highest degree of mortality from mesothelioma, according to a 1999 study by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety.

So what can Boomers do to protect themselves? If a relative worked in an industry where there was possible exposure to asbestos, make sure you contact your medical doctor and discuss your concerns with him or her. Depending on how close exposure could have been, the doctor may recommend a chest x-ray or some other tests.

Wait a minute, you say: Don’t Baby Boomers have enough to be concerned about? The value of my savings account has hit an all time low; I’m aging and don’t know if social security will be there for me in my old age; I’m concerned about my children’s future; I am concerned with the environment; I am worried about my elderly parent who may no longer be able to live alone. Now I need to ask about exposure to asbestos? Well, if your parents or a close relative or friend worked in an industry where they may have been exposed to asbestos, you should think about it. We Boomers need to stay informed, and while an attorney who handles asbestos cases can provide legal guidance, your best advocate is yourself.

Don’t wait to find out what exactly dad or mom was doing when they went to work or where they worked; ask now. Our parents want to speak about the old days. They might welcome the chance to tell you about what they did or who they worked with. That information could prove to be vital data for your doctor, lawyer and family. More importantly, the discussions with your family member could lead to early detection which could save or prolong a life.