What You Should Know About Global Asbestos Awareness Week

Global Asbestos Awareness Week

Today marks the beginning of Global Asbestos Awareness Week, a campaign sponsored by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). Since 2004, individuals and organizations across the globe have been coming together to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos and work to prevent asbestos exposure.

Each year, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization helps pass a U.S. Senate resolution to declare April 1-7 National Asbestos Awareness Week, which has spread to a global movement. Additionally, the ADAO has worked with the U.S. Senate “to secure eight U.S. Surgeon General asbestos warnings.” This public advocacy work is especially significant, given that the dangers of asbestos were known well before industries stopped using the material.

What You Should Know about Asbestos

Asbestos is an odorless, tasteless mineral fiber that occurs naturally in rock and soil and has been mined by hand for centuries. Once it was discovered that asbestos fibers could be mixed with other materials to add strength while being lightweight, inexpensive, and heat-resistant, asbestos use became widespread.

Between the 1950s and the 1980s, nearly every building across the U.S. was constructed using asbestos materials. It was used in bricks, sheetrock, siding, flooring, roofing, pipes, insulation, boilers, furnaces, and other building components. Asbestos was also widely used in automobile brakes, clutches, and transmission plates, and on the pipes of ships, factories, and nuclear plants.

How Asbestos Causes Chronic and Fatal Illnesses

Asbestos is now widely known to cause mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer, which kill approximately 300,000 people annually.

How is asbestos dangerous to humans? When asbestos is mined, and when materials are installed or otherwise disturbed during cleaning, repair, or removal, millions of tiny asbestos fibers are released into the air. This happens, for example, when pipes are drilled or sawed, or when insulation or drywall is cut and nailed.

Asbestos fibers can land on workers’ skin and hair, and they can be inhaled or swallowed. Once inside the body, asbestos fibers can get lodged in the lungs, soft tissues, and other organs, causing lasting and often fatal damage.

Tragically, the risks of asbestos-related injury and disease are often spread to a worker’s family members when asbestos fibers travel home on a worker’s clothes, skin, hair, and belongings. Second-hand asbestos exposure can also happen to anyone working or passing through a site where asbestos was present.

Industries have known about these dangers since the 1930s. Asbestos lung cancer research and evidence have been known since the 1940s, and mesothelioma knowledge has been collected since the 1960s. However, due to corporate interests prevailing over workers’ safety, the government failed to enact a ban, putting families and workers at risk to this day.

Asbestos-Related Diseases are Chronic and Often Fatal

Asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer (even in smokers), mesothelioma, esophageal cancer, colorectal cancer, and asbestos, which is the scarring of the lung tissue and chronic shortness of breath. Asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma are aggressive forms of cancer that typically develop years after asbestos exposure.

Asbestos lung cancer appears as tumors inside the lung tissue, which restrict the flow of oxygen into the bloodstream, while mesothelioma develops on the lung’s outer lining, rigidly encasing the lung and causing painful, restricted breathing. Unfortunately, there are few treatment options for these types of cancers, and most people diagnosed with mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer do not survive. Asbestos is the only external factor known to cause mesothelioma.

It can take anywhere between 15 and 50 years from first exposure to asbestos before symptoms of cancer or mesothelioma occur, and these symptoms can be mistaken for other common ailments. Individuals may initially experience shortness of breath, chest or lower back pain, chronic coughing, difficulty swallowing, and fluid around the lungs.

How to Participate in Global Asbestos Awareness Week

The theme for this year’s Global Asbestos Awareness Week is “Asbestos: One Word. One Week. One World.” The aim is unity among advocates and international nonprofits to make the week a success. And the focus will be on the following areas:

  • Banning the mining, manufacturing, and use of all six asbestos fibers around the world
  • Preventing asbestos exposure
  • Increasing compliance and enforcement of existing laws and regulations
  • Strengthening international partnerships to protect public health

You can participate by sharing your story on the ADAO website, which will help spread awareness and build this growing community.

You can also read hundreds of individuals’ stories in the ADAO’s Shared Story Collection, from individuals around the world who are fighting asbestos-related diseases and advocating for their loved ones.

Click here to read more about Global Asbestos Awareness Week 2023. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, where we will post surprising facts about asbestos to do our part in raising awareness.