The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which combines education and advocacy to end workplace asbestos exposure and guarantee that victims of asbestos-related diseases are treated justly, issued a Workers’ Day statement from its president and co-founder, Linda Reinstein, calling for a total ban on asbestos use in the U.S.
“As we observe International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD, May 1), we somberly remember the millions of workers who have been injured or killed at work. Asbestos, a human carcinogen, remains the greatest single cause of work related deaths. Exposure can cause mesothelioma, lung, gastrointestinal, colorectal, laryngeal, and ovarian cancers; as well as non-malignant lung and pleural disorders,” Reinstein, whose husband died of mesothelioma, said in the statement, according to a press release.
“Asbestos remains legal and lethal in the United States today. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ‘about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace’ and ‘more than 107 000 deaths each year are attributable to occupational exposure to asbestos,'” she said.
Asbestos is a mineral that can be found in nature, with versatile uses due to its resistance to heat, tensile strength, and insulating properties. Asbestos was broadly used in construction and building products worldwide throughout much of the 20th century. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are six different types of asbestos — chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite — and all of them are carcinogenic.
“Congress has failed Americans by not passing legislation to ban asbestos, and instead, has allowed those who caused this man-made disaster to shirk their liability and responsibility to the sick and dying. Since the first IWMD in 1970, the United States has used over eight billion metric tons of asbestos, and hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from preventable asbestos-caused diseases. While promising research continues, prevention remains the only cure,” Reinstein said.
Toward the end of the 20th century, asbestos was firmly established to be the cause of severe respiratory diseases, and its use was banned in over 50 countries. Some countries like the U.S., however, continue to allow the limited use of asbestos.
Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The cancer typically forms on the thin protective tissues that cover either the lungs or the abdomen.