Asbestos: Hidden Secrets, Killer Lies
- June 29, 2016
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- Posted in AsbestosHealthIndoor Air Quality (IAQ)Industry News
By Linda Reinstein, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)
“Each year, ADAO dedicates April 1-7 to increasing awareness of asbestos and preventing exposure by bringing together experts and victims from around the world to share, learn, and take action. Although there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, with greater awareness and prevention, we can save lives and dollars.”
For centuries, the asbestos tragedy has been told in dollars and data, often diminishing the human cost of this man-made disaster – but our personal stories are inarguably hard to ignore.
I want to share a bit about the personal side of my journey, not for sympathy, but so you can better understand the motivation behind the the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization’s (ADAO) work today.
Mes-o-the-li-o-ma. Can’t Pronounce It,
Can’t Cure It.
Thirteen years ago everything seemed perfect. I was married to the love of my life and was a mother to our beautiful, ten-year-old daughter. However, in 2003, my life took a sharp turn in an ill-fated direction – one that too many have traveled down.
Alan, my husband of 20 years, had developed a slight, persistent cough, and had also lost some weight. Intuitively, I thought something was wrong.
During Alan’s routine physical, an x-ray revealed a pleural effusion – fluid between the lining of the lung and the lung itself. Alan suffered through a glut of tests to determine what was causing the effusion. For nearly one year, every test was negative, but Alan’s breathing and cough worsened. Finally, Alan underwent surgery for an idiopathic condition.
When the thoracic surgeon met with me afterward to discuss the procedure, he asked if I was alone, and my heart nearly stopped. He told me that Alan had mesothelioma, a cancer only caused from asbestos exposure.
I had never heard of mesothelioma, I couldn’t pronounce the word, and worst of all, I learned it was incurable.
Hidden Secrets. Killer Lies.
Alan’s diagnosis was pre-smartphones, so I had to wait until that night to search the web for more information
Shockingly, I learned that asbestos caused a number of deadly diseases, not just mesothelioma. And, late that night, through my tears, the hidden secrets and killer lies began to unfold. Betrayal, rage and devastation enveloped me when I also learned that mesothelioma is a preventable cancer.
The asbestos industry knew that exposure to asbestos caused incurable respiratory diseases and mesothelioma, as well as other lung, gastrointestinal, laryngeal, colorectal, and ovarian cancers. However, instead of protecting the public, the industry chose to cover up the dangers of asbestos in order to protect profits.
The asbestos industry’s disregard for human life and public health was deplorable. In 1966, E. A. Martin, Bendix Corporation wrote, “My answer to the problem is: if you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products why not die from it. There’s got to be some cause.”
The industry leaders also knew that asbestos-caused diseases often take decades to manifest. The longer they could cover up the deadly nature of asbestos, the more likely the casualties would be someone else’s problem.
It didn’t take long for the companies manufacturing or using asbestos to grab the “Big Tobacco Playbook” to hide the truth, create doubt, and lobby Congress for financial bailout bills.
Alan would do anything for more time with his family, even drastic surgery. Alan survived the surgery in 2003, which removed his entire left lung and pericardium, and replaced his diaphragm. He learned how to live with only one lung, and we began to heal as a family.
Watching Alan change before my eyes was utterly unbearable. Falling from the vibrant, active father and husband he had been, Alan changed forever, and so had we. I faced intense helplessness and hopelessness, all while trying to be an optimistic wife and mother.
Click HERE to read the entire article in the April 2016 issue of Healthy Indoors Magazine.