Asbestos - Virtually Invisible, Yet Absolutely Lethal

Preventing Asbestos Exposure to Eliminate Deadly Diseases.

Mes•o•the•li•o•ma - can't pronounce it - can't cure it. I want to share a bit about the personal side of my journey - not for sympathy, but so you can better understand the facts about mesothelioma. In 2003, after enduring nine months of symptoms and multiple visits to doctors, my husband, Alan, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Alan underwent an Extra-Pleural Pneumonectomy (EPP) -- a surgical procedure that removed a rib, left lung, and pericardium and replaced his diaphragm -- in hopes of having more time with his family. But, because of his asbestos exposure, our then-10-year-old daughter had to watch her father slowly die from a preventable disease. Sadly, our experience is a common one, and the fear, despair, and isolation were paralyzing.

The truth behind asbestos

After Alan's diagnosis, we learned that asbestos causes deadly diseases, and not just mesothelioma. We learned the silent truth: that, when inhaled, these sharp, invisible, odorless, tasteless asbestos fibers can cause permanent damage. Even more shocking is the fact that this has been well known and documented for more than 100 years. Fueled by grief, anger, and bewilderment, I knew I needed to turn my anger into action, which is why I co-founded the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) with Doug Larkin. Technological advances have enabled us to build international alliances over 20,000 strong and continue our educational, advocacy, and community support initiatives, including hosting our annual Asbestos Awareness Conferences, testifying at Congressional hearings, and keynote speaking at numerous engagements.

History is a great teacher to those who listen

More than 30 years ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared asbestos to be a human carcinogen. The World Health Organization, International Labor Organization, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Surgeon General all agree: asbestos is a human carcinogen and there is no safe level of environmental or occupational asbestos exposure. Asbestos can cause mesothelioma and lung, gastrointestinal, laryngeal, and ovarian cancers, as well as non-malignant lung and pleural disorders.

Deadly hugs, Deadly chores.

Workers' exposure doesn't stop at the site; one can follow the trail of toxic dust home. It is no longer just workers who are at risk; it's also their families, children who hug parents wearing contaminated clothing home from work, and spouses who wash those clothes. The asbestos victims' profile has changed, once a blue-collar worker in his mid-sixties, there is a new patient profile emerging. Tragically, it is becoming more and more common to find women in their 50s being diagnosed with mesothelioma. The new patient profile presents frightening evidence that environmental exposure is lethal.

Construction workers were found to be 11 times more likely to develop mesothelioma.

The World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 workers around the world will die each year of an asbestos-related disease, equaling 300 deaths per day. An estimated 1.3 million employees in the construction and general industry face significant asbestos exposure on the job." In May 2010, the President's Cancer Panel (PCP) in America released the landmark 200-page report titled "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now." Environmental and occupational cancers are on agency radars now more than ever before. More than 90 percent of the asbestos used worldwide today is used in the manufacturing of asbestos-cement sheets and pipes.

Prevention is the only cure.

There are only two ways to stop mesothelioma - prevent asbestos exposure, and find a cure; the first step is to prevent environmental and occupational exposure. Through our voices, we can turn our anger into action. Educate yourself - prevent exposure by learning which materials might contain asbestos, and avoid disturbing them. If in doubt, hire a licensed and experienced asbestos inspector to sample the materials in your home to determine if there is asbestos present. If you were exposed or have experienced the early warning symptoms of an asbestos-related disease, talk to your physician and seek treatment from experienced doctors.

Every life lost to a preventable asbestos-caused disease is tragic; hundreds of thousands of lives lost is unconscionable.

Linda Reinstein became an activist when her husband, Alan, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2003. In 2004, she co-founded the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) to reach out to those who have been affected by asbestos-related disease.

Reinstein has been a strong political voice for justice in every major asbestos-related issue. Reinstein, a highly sought-after international speaker, has frequently served as a Congressional witness and presented at Department of Labor (OSHA), British House of Commons, United Nations Congress, American Public Health Association, and audiences around the world.

Recognized as an expert with more than 35 years of nonprofit experience in building and sustaining grassroots organizations, Reinstein specializes in developing, implementing and leveraging integrated social media campaigns. Focused on national and international occupational and environmental disease prevention, Reinstein's proficiency in the powerful advocacy space of online media has greatly increased the effectiveness of ADAO's core mission of education, advocacy, and community support actions.

Follow Reinstein at

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