[Update 12/15/11 below]
It’s been 3 1/2 years since Leah Nielsen lost her father from mesothelioma. “I took care of my father as he died an excruciating death. He died too young.” This Utah resident wants to protect others from suffering the same kind of horrible death by banning the use and export of asbestos.
Pennsylania resident Barbara Mozuch feels the same way: “My mother died on June 18, 2011 from peritoneal mesothelioma, just seven weeks after being diagnosed!! Something needs to be done.”
Heidi von Palleske of Ontario, Canada explains how asbestos ruined the health and took the lives of both her parents. “They died horrible deaths. Please stop the suffering caused by greed.”
Yvonne Hall of Kentucky lost her 39 year old son to mesothelioma. “We can only speculate on how he was exposed to asbestos sometime in his youth. Asbestos must be banned!”
These are just of few sentiments from the millions of victims worldwide of asbestos-related disease. They are calling on U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to immediately endorse a North American plan to end asbestos-related diseases. Last week the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and Canadian Voices of Asbestos Victims issued a Declaration outlining the nine essential steps to eliminate asbestos exposure and thus asbestos-related diseases. These steps include:
Stopping the North American production and use of all types of asbestos;
Ending the North American export of asbestos to the developing world;
Supporting asbestos producing communities and workers in just transition to sustainable alternative industries;
Taking measures to prevent exposure to asbestos still in place and during asbestos removal and disposal; and
Establishing North American registries of exposure locations and of people with past and/or current exposures to asbestos.
The Declaration reminds us of the deadly consequences of exposure to asbestos, but also of the powerful economic interests that insist on its continued use. All forms of asbestos are known human carcinogens and exposure to them also cause irrerversible fibrotic lung disease. The World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 workers die annually from asbestos exposure, and an unknown number develop disease from second-hand exposure (e.g., children exposed from a parent’s work clothes.) Neither the U.S. nor Canada have prohibited the use of asbestos in the production of domestic products, and in the first seven months of 2010 the U.S. imported an estimated 820 metric tons of asbestos, with 90% coming from Canada.
“It is truly unbelievable that the United States continues to defy decades of science confirming asbestos is a human carcinogen,” said Linda Reinstein, ADAO Co-Founder. “As a mesothelioma widow, I find this unacceptable because numerous safer alternatives to asbestos exist.”
ADAO and the Canadian Voices of Asbestos Victims want to gather 10,000 signatures from across the globe on a petition supporting the North American Declaration to Eliminate Asbestos-Related Disease. Add your name to the petition, just like New York resident Antonina Avitabile did. She offered her name in memory of Joe Amento and Patsy Aiello.
[Update 12/15/11: Jim Morris and Chris Hamby with the Center for Public Integrity report today on an Inspector General’s (IG) finding that the EPA permitted companies to use unapproved methods to demolish buildings containing asbestos, allowing the cancer-causing mineral fibers to enter the environment and pose a risk to the workers, their families and communities, as well as EPA employees. The rationale?? To save time and money. I’ll be in touch with Jim Morris to find out if EPA or the contractors have a plan to identify and contact the affected workers. I’d like to know who will make a promise that 20-30-40 years down the road, if any of them develop asbestos-related disease, their medical care will be paid and lost function compensated.]