Posted in July 2012
We have been touched by asbestos in individual ways, yet we are joined together by a common bond of community. As a testament to the strength of our global family, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) is highlighting the courageous stories of our members with the “Share Your Story” feature on our website.
This week, as we learn more about the history of asbestos in Brazil and meet countless victims of occupational and environmental exposure, we would like to honor the story of Jorge. Jorge was a worker at several asbestos factories in Brazil when he was younger and shared his story with ADAO while we were visiting Fiocruz in Rio de Janeiro. His hope is to share his story in order to open the world’s eyes to the continued issue of asbestos in Brazil and around the world.
We encourage you to submit your personal stories by clicking here and following the simple instructions on the page. In sharing, comes healing. Remember, you are not alone.
Name: Jorge Souza Gomez
Date of Birth: 1945
State: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Date of Diagnosis: Approximately 2000
Treatment: Public health provided from the government of Brazil
Jorge held many jobs in various asbestos factories between 1965 and 1982. Like many of his fellow workers, he remembers that his jobs required daily handling of asbestos products with no protection supplied by employers. His last job in an asbestos factory was working in a plant owned by Brasilit with about 800 other workers. He remembers the trucks delivering bags of both chrysotile and brown asbestos and that his job was to carry the bags, open them, and dump them into a container. He also told us about the exposure of those who lived in areas surrounding asbestos factories and knows people who became ill from only environmental asbestos exposure.
Jorge was informed by a member of the early asbestos workers’ group – which formed when women who had worked in an asbestos fabric plant realized they were becoming ill because of asbestos exposure – that working with asbestos was dangerous. He came to Fiocruz for more information and was diagnosed with asbestosis around 2000. When his employer found out that he had gone to Fiocruz, they called him to reassure him that working with asbestos, as he did, was not a danger. They offered him some money to settle for his illness.
Jorge is now active in the social movement against the asbestos industry in Brazil. He says that his colleagues from past asbestos plants formed an asbestos workers group that meets annually. However, what began as almost 100 workers in the group has dwindled to just 20 because many have died. When we spoke with him at Fiocruz, Jorge said, “All of this was a process. Before I did not know why I was sick, but after these meetings, I’ve learned that my sickness has been due to asbestos. I can tell other people about the symptoms to look for also.”