Posted on April 24, 2013
“Fight for the fallen, ban asbestos.” ~ Sumner
What should people know about asbestos? On April 24, 2013, 400 high school girls at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy outside of Los Angeles shared their answers to that question. If each of these young women tells only one of her friends, that’s 800 new people spreading awareness about asbestos! I am so excited that they invited ADAO to their school in honor of Earth Day. ADAO sends a huge thank you to teachers Ms. Grady and Ms. Power, who organized today’s assembly.
Students Camila Strassle and Terra Cheung saw an ADAO program last year and were so moved that they wanted their whole school to get involved. Their excellent letter to the Whittier Daily News, “The dangers still presented by asbestos,” was an inspiration for today’s program.
Asbestos and Earth Day? Yes! We need to take care of our planet by protecting the air we breathe so that people are no longer exposed to this invisible carcinogen. I did an activity with the students where each of them breathed through a straw while pinching the end partially closed. They could imagine how difficult and scary it is to try to breathe when you have asbestos disease, and they were sad to hear that my husband, Alan, had died of mesothelioma. We got to know each other.
Sacred Heart’s website translates into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Thai, showing the international reach of the student body. Asbestos is a worldwide problem and has only been banned in 54 countries. Sadly, there is not a ban in the United States, in spite of the fact that 30 people die of asbestos disease every day.
I asked the teachers if it was okay for the students to bring their phones to the presentation. Everyone was puzzled, but, when I explained why, they said “yes.” Social media is integral to what we do at ADAO, so I encouraged students to tweet in every language they speak to get the word out about the dangers of asbestos exposure. During my presentation “Asbestos: No Longer the Magic Mineral,” the students and I started a new six-word asbestos quote campaign. I also shared The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’s excellent segment about asbestos, “Ored to Death” by Aasif Mandvi. Aasif encouraged the students with this important tweet: “Say NO to Asbestos and say YES to Vegetables,” and the students tweeted him back.
The young women I met today have the ability to create a safer world for the next generation and literally save lives by spreading awareness about asbestos. I was honored to be invited to present at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. This is ADAO’s first experience involving high school students in our education campaign and it is a wonderful new beginning. I’m thrilled to see how these outstanding students immediately embraced our educational messages with their tweets and emails.
Join ADAO’s new high school campaign today! Email email@example.com your six-word quote about asbestos, in any language! And remember: “Asbestos is worse than homework.” – Jessica.