The dangers of exposure to airborne asbestos fibers have been known for decades. In fact, the fiber – which is often used for the production of insulation and flame-retardant products – has been linked to pulmonary problems since as early as the 19th century.
Despite this fact, a United States surgeon general had never issued a public warning to the public detailing the dangers of asbestos exposure. Finally in April 2009 Surgeon General Steven Galson issued a brief statement about the dangers of asbestos fibers.
Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are diagnosed in tens of thousands of individuals each year. Any effort that serves to increase awareness is seen as a potential way to reduce these numbers on the future.
But the question remains, why did an asbestos warning from a surgeon general take so long? Well, during the Bush administration, a form letter response basically stated that the surgeon general has more important issues to worry about than asbestos and mesothelioma.
That’s hardly a valid defense, however. Given that the eventual asbestos warning issued came in at well under 400 words, it’s hard to imagine that the statement took more than an hour to draw up.
More likely, the Bush administration was taking a passive stance against promoting asbestos awareness. This fact is backed up by the strong push by the Bush White House to restructure asbestos tort reform in such a way that it would be harder for asbestos sufferers to file asbestos lawsuits against their employers.
Regardless of past failures, the recent surgeon general’s warning is certainly a step in the right direction. Anything that informs U.S. workers and citizens to the dangers of asbestos exposure has the potential to improve early diagnosis of the illness.