September 26 is Mesothelioma Awareness Day. The day is intended to share information about mesothelioma, an incurable cancer that forms on the linings of vital organs, typically the lungs, following asbestos exposure. While the prognosis for individuals diagnosed with the illness is grim, preventing it is very much possible.
Scientific studies of asbestos conclude there is no safe level of exposure. Accordingly, the clear solution to preventing mesothelioma is to ensure people are never exposed to asbestos in any amount. Safer alternatives to asbestos exist, so banning it is not beyond reach. Despite this, the U.S. is not among roughly 50 nations that have done so. Although asbestos is no longer manufactured in the United States, it persists in previously installed insulation and is still being imported every year.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, nearly 100 percent of the asbestos imported into the United States in 2017 came from Brazil and was used by the chloralkali industry. However, "an unknown quantity of asbestos was imported within manufactured products, including asbestos containing brake-linings, knitted fabric, rubber sheets for gasket manufacture, and potentially asbestos-cement pipe." In 2018, the U.S. also imported asbestos from Russia, with the biggest producer of asbestos in the world labeling its products with President Trump's face because he supported rolling back efforts in the U.S. to regulate the dangerous minerals. And asbestos has also turned up in recent years in household products, such as cosmetics and children's crayons.
Although asbestos exposure poses a health risk to the public generally and children attending older schools, the risk is highest for workers exposed on the job. Even workers who do not presently handle asbestos may be exposed if they have worked at a site where asbestos was once prevalent, such as a shipyard or power plant. Workers may also be exposed at worksites where asbestos is still present, such as in older homes under renovation or in the automobile industry. To see a list of asbestos job sites across the U.S., check out Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance's comprehensive database.
To help raise awareness about mesothelioma and call for an asbestos ban on September 26, visit the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) website to sign a petition urging EPA to impose a ban, and for additional events and activities.