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September 25, 2018

Mesothelioma Awareness Day: It’s past time to save lives

by: John E. Herrick

On September 26, Mesothelioma Awareness Day, advocates will unite to raise awareness of the nearly 3,000 lives that are tragically lost each year in the U.S. due to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer that targets the lining of the lungs, chest wall and abdomen, can develop even from a brief exposure to asbestos. Victims are often diagnosed decades after they were originally exposed.

Asbestos is a toxic and extremely deadly mineral, but if you were told that its use was a thing of the past, you were told wrong. Despite decades spent reining in the manufacturing of asbestos, lawmakers have fallen short of enacting an outright ban in the U.S. — meaning Americans, many unknowingly, remain at risk.

Sadly, with each passing year, the toll of asbestos exposure not only continues to grow, but it threatens to burden future generations with life-threatening diseases that are entirely preventable with a ban.

No ban or protection. Instead, potential new uses of asbestos.

Faced with a rising death toll and asbestos’ undeniable risk, Congress opted in 1989 to pass federal reforms under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that prohibited new uses of asbestos in order to prepare for the eventual phasing out of the toxic material.

Unfortunately, nearly 30 years later, a phasing out of asbestos use has still not come to fruition. Quite the contrary, in fact, as the current EPA administration recently chose in June to impose new restrictions on future asbestos use, including requiring EPA approval prior to the manufacturing, importing, or processing of products containing asbestos. While the EPA presented this development as a proactive step forward, in reality, if enacted, this plan would reverse the hard-fought, decades-old asbestos reforms by opening a door for NEW, EPA-approved uses of asbestos when it should not be used at all. Being EPA approved does not, in any way, reduce the risk to those who will inevitably be exposed. Instead of encouraging new uses of asbestos, the public would be better served if the EPA made headway to regulate and remove asbestos that is already in place in older buildings throughout the country, including in schools and homes. Unfortunately, this too has yet to occur.

Further reinforcing the need for a ban, in recent months, many were shocked to hear that asbestos was found in some brands of crayons and potentially exposed children. Asbestos has also been found in baby powder, makeup and other talc-based products. Talc and asbestos are both naturally occurring minerals. If not carefully processed, asbestos can contaminate talc products if the minerals are mined within close proximity to one another. Roughly 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year due to asbestos exposure.

My colleague Anne McGinness Kearse previously discussed related developments in the following blogs:

And so perhaps more than ever, it is essential that Mesothelioma Awareness Day cannot be observed just one day out of the year. Awareness and work toward a full asbestos ban in the U.S. is critical to protecting all from a deadly exposure.

Advocacy for asbestos victims can never stop

Given these recent developments, advocates are working around the clock daily to make sure all Americans are aware of the dangers of asbestos and what needs to be done to enhance safety and protect us all. Advocacy groups that have taken on this cause include the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) led by mesothelioma widow Linda Reinstein. You may visit ADAO’s website for more information on Mesothelioma Awareness Day and how you can get involved.

We can only hope that in the near future we will see a ban on asbestos to protect our future generations. I encourage you to join in the spreading of awareness so that we, together, can take valuable strides to save lives.