By Mirela Stefanescu
From April 13-15, the 2018 Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization’s 14th annual conference put asbestos education first in Washington, D.C. The conference welcomed over 100 medical, academic and occupational experts, asbestos victims, and supporters of the ADAO from nine countries. Since 2005, ADAO’s annual conference has unified specialists, policymakers, unions, and those currently fighting the disease from 18 countries to share knowledge and increase efforts towards support and global asbestos-related awareness. The theme for the conference, “Where Knowledge and Action Unite”, was echoed throughout the weekend as two days were filled with speakers from around the world. On Saturday evening, the “Meet the Artists” awards dinner reception showcased various artists using their talents to raise asbestos awareness; it was the highlight of the program.
ADAO co-founder and CEO Linda Reinstein delivered a powerful video message directed at the EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, urging the EPA to ban asbestos with no exclusions. The video has reached over 1700 people at the time of this release and it is a heartfelt plea to the EPA to protect the American people against this deadly substance. Linda shared a commercial that advertised “what a great product asbestos was” demonstrated by children playing with toy trains. This commercial was produced in cooperation with Johns Manville, a well-known insulation manufacturer. Linda lost her husband Alan in May of 2006 to pleural mesothelioma.
Dr. Richard Lemen, retired Assistant U.S. Surgeon General, spoke at the conference reiterating what has been said since 1976: that there should be a national ban on asbestos. Dr. Lemen has attended the ADAO conference since its inception in 2005. He continually presents on the global dangers of asbestos and is a great supporter of the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Act. In Dr Lemen’s words, “asbestos kills and will continue to kill as long as it is in use in the United States”. As of February 27, 2018, the bill had been introduced to the House without any further action.
Later, President of the International Commission of Occupational Health, Dr. Jukka Takala DSc, MSc, BSc exposed staggering and infuriating statistics about asbestos diseases. According to Dr. Takala, asbestos leads to 34,270 lung cancer deaths, 3161 mesothelioma deaths, 787 ovarian cancer deaths, 443 larynx cancer deaths, and 613 chronic asbestosis deaths each year. As Dr Takala spoke of occupational cancers, he confirmed that asbestos causes 55-85% of lung cancers at work. Deservedly, Dr. Takala received a Dr. Irving Selikoff Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s conference.
The conference concluded on Sunday with a moving Unity and Remembrance Brunch. Kim Cecchini, Senior Communications Strategist and ADAO Board Member, performed the candle lighting ceremony in remembrance of all those who have meaninglessly lost their lives to asbestos-related diseases and illness but will be honored and never forgotten. Jill Cagle, singer and mesothelioma widow, performed a beautiful rendition of “The Other Side” by Colton Dixon to close out the ceremony.