The U.S. Senate has once again passed a resolution designating the first week of April as “National Asbestos Awareness Week.” The resolution is intended to raise public awareness about the prevalence of asbestos-related diseases and the dangers of asbestos exposure. First introduced in 2005, the initiative is championed this year by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
Former Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) initially introduced the resolution in 2005 in support of the hundreds of people who have died in Libby, Montana from asbestos-related diseases. Libby is the site of the W.R. Grace Mine and mill that shut down in 1990 and is blamed for widespread contamination from asbestos.
“The devastating and long-lasting effects of asbestos exposure continue to impact American families,” said Senator Markey in the March 10 press release announcing the awareness week. “We must never lose sight of the on-going problem that asbestos presents as long as it is present in our environment.”
Expert Insight“This resolution ensures that awareness remains high about asbestos-related illness and disease and that efforts continue for prevention, detection and treatment.”
Asbestos is a known carcinogen and is proven to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, a serious cancer caused by breathing in the asbestos fibers that then become lodged in the thin membrane that lines and encases the lungs. Often called “asbestos cancer,” mesothelioma is highly aggressive and is resistant to many cancer treatments. Approximately 3,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year with mesothelioma.
Senate resolution 376 urges the U.S. Surgeon General to warn and educate people about the public health hazards of asbestos exposure. The resolution cites the fact that thousands of workers in the U.S. face significant asbestos exposure, as well as the fact that a significant percentage of asbestos disease victims were exposed to asbestos on naval ships and in shipyards while serving the country.
According to the World Health Organization, about 107,000 people die each year around the world of asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, a chronic scarring of the lung. Symptoms of asbestos-related diseases can take 15 to 60 years to appear, so people exposed to asbestos in the 1970s may only recently have been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
The resolution points out that little is known about late-stage treatment of asbestos-related diseases and there is no cure for the diseases. The expected survival of people diagnosed with mesothelioma varies from 6 to 24 months, according to the resolution. Most often diagnoses are not made until symptoms appear and the disease has progressed to an advanced stage leaving the patient with life-threatening complications. Early detection of asbestos-related disease may give some patients additional treatment options.
“We are extremely pleased to have bipartisan backing of this critical resolution once again so that we can continue our concerted efforts to educate the public on the dangers of asbestos and build a legacy of hope for victims of asbestos each year,” said Linda Reinstein, President and Co-Founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
The 12th Annual Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization’s International Asbestos Awareness Conference is held April 8-10 in Washington, DC. Since 2005, ADAO’s conference “has brought together more than 300 speakers ranging from experts, victims, unions to lawmakers from 14 different countries to speak about our joint efforts in education, advocacy and awareness,” according to the organization’s website.
For more information and to register for the conference visit ADAO’s website.