Posted on October 29, 2020

As the novel coronavirus pandemic progresses, we are even more aware that lung diseases have an enormous impact on our ability to breathe and our bodies ability to function properly. While we continue to stay inside and protect ourselves as much as we can from Covid-19, ADAO wants to take the opportunity this month to raise awareness of asbestos-caused diseases; diseases that steal the breath and lives of nearly 40,000 Americans each year.

Lung cancer kills more people than any other form of cancer, with 1.8 million deaths worldwide each year. It is responsible for roughly 1 out of every 6 cancer deaths on the planet. Of the 9.6 million total deaths attributed to cancer every year, 18.4% of them are linked to lung cancer. In the United States, lung cancer kills almost two times more Americans than colon cancer, and nearly four times more than breast cancer.

In October we celebrated Healthy Lung Month and focused on Health Literacy. Now, starting on November 1st, we shift our focus to Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Many people are unaware that asbestos, a known carcinogen found to this day in buildings, schools, cosmetics, children’s toys, and more, can damage your lungs and cause cancer. Yet the United States still imports and uses the deadly toxin. There are about 3,000 people diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the U.S., and asbestos-related lung cancer kills twice as many Americans each year as mesothelioma. In 2017 alone, an estimated 34,000 Americans died from asbestos-caused lung cancer. Asbestos is as legal and lethal in the U.S. as it ever was.

Second-hand asbestos exposure can ripple through a community at rapid rates. The fibers of this mineral cling to the clothing and hair of people who work directly with it, making exposure possible for countless others. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, for either those who work directly with it, or those exposed second-hand. There is also legacy asbestos found in millions of buildings around our nation, which can be exposed through natural disasters like wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes. This puts our first responders and community members in direct danger of asbestos exposure after a disaster.

Therefore, in honor of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, ADAO is presenting five ways in which you can learn more about asbestos and asbestos-related illnesses, advocate for those who have been exposed, and fight for a ban to help save lives.

  1. Educate yourself: Asbestos can be found in homes, schools, and workplaces. In 2019, the Chlor-alkali industry, the sole importer and user of raw chrysotile asbestos. Nearly 200 metric tons of asbestos were imported from Russia. 
  2. Quit smoking: Acquire knowledge around smoking cessation programs. Those exposed to asbestos are 5 times more likely to get an asbestos-related respiratory disease if they smoke.
  3. Watch for early warning signs: A cough that won’t go away, tightness in the chest, wheezing and ongoing shortness of breath may be signs of concern. Try to seek professional medical advice if these symptoms persist. (We of course want to mention you should speak with your physician to discuss COVID symptoms and testing. 
  4. Aim for Early Detection: Ask your physician for a low-dose CT scan. These scans are a new and accepted form of screening tests that help improve early detection and treatment. You can learn about them in this video by Dr. Steven Markowitz.
  5. Learn about your diagnosis: Lung cancer develops within the lung; however, mesothelioma develops in the mesothelium. Mesothelial tumors can be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant mesothelioma). There are four types of mesothelioma: pleural, peritoneal, pericardial and testicular. Both lung cancer and mesothelioma have a poor prognosis.

When it comes to asbestos, a catalyst of many fatal respiratory diseases, prevention is the only cure. ADAO is a proud stakeholder of the bicameral Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act (ARBAN).The bill already has nearly 70 cosponsors and over 30 national and international organizations and unions supporters. It would ban asbestos use and imports within one year and would require a deep investigation of where legacy asbestos can be found in structures, and improve the Chemical Data Reporting rule.  . The bill has bicameral support and passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce last year with a strong vote of 47-1. You can join this fight by signing this petition.

The time to act and save lives is now. We are stronger together.

Linda Reinstein

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