April 1-7 was National Asbestos Awareness Week

Over the last thirty years, scientists and researchers have conclusively determined that exposure to asbestos can lead to severe respiratory diseases.  The most dangerous and prevalent of these diseases is mesothelioma, a form of cancer that attacks the soft tissue surrounding the lungs.  A study by the Centers for Disease Control estimated that as many as ten thousand people in the US perish from lung diseases related to asbestos exposure each year, including up to three thousand from mesothelioma, and that the numbers will continue to climb over the next ten to twenty years.

One quality of mesothelioma, which could lead to this higher incidence rate, is that early symptoms of the disease often resemble those of other lung disorders, which leads to improper diagnoses.  By the time patients with the disease receive an accurate diagnosis, the aggressive cancer often leaves the patients with a year or less to live.

Linda Reinstein was one of the co-founders of the ADAO in 2004.  Currently, she serves as the group’s executive director.  Her husband, Alan, died of mesothelioma he contracted while exposed to asbestos.  She says that her group is dedicated to stopping the mining of raw asbestos ore and banning the manufacture and installation of construction materials that contain asbestos.

While asbestos bans are in place in many nations in the European Union, as well as Australia and New Zealand, other industrialized nations have not enacted such laws.  Asbestos mines are still active in Quebec, Canada, and that country exports tons of the toxic substance each year to developing countries.  The United States Congress has yet to pass legislation banning the mineral, although several government offices (such as the Environmental Protection Agency) place heavy regulations on its use and levy stiff fines against violators.

As part of the National Asbestos Awareness Week campaign, Ms. Reinstein and other group leaders asked citizens to contact their congressmen and senators about legislation that would ban the use of asbestos.  The group is also launching educational efforts to enlighten the public as to both the prevalence and the dangers involved in the widespread use of asbestos across the country.

As part of that effort, and in light of recent reports involving “do-it-yourself” home renovation, ADAO recommends that homeowners who are considering remodeling their older homes ask a certified inspector to check the property for the presence of asbestos.