Who Cares About Us?

22 Feb 2008 by under News, People

As I’ve been researching the topic of Mesothelioma and asbestos-related cancer and disease for this blog, I’ve been really disturbed by something.

Searches, news alerts, links – they invariably take me to stories written by the British media and posted to web sites and publications. The Press Association, the BBC, WebWire – just TODAY they had three stories about asbestos-related disease.

Stories urged workers likely to come in contact with asbestos to use precautions, wear protective clothing including filtered breathing units. Britain is having Mesothelioma Day Feb. 27.

Where is our news? Where is our information? The only time anyone in America has ever heard of Mesothelioma is when a loved one is shocked by a diagnosis.

Oh, and there is another time people hear about it. On commercials for law firms, which can tend to generate skepticism, scoffing, a sense that someone is trying to gain from someone else’s misfortune. Is that the truth?

The web site Asbestos.com recently talked to a professor of ethics at Washington University School of Law, Peter Joy. He said that asbestos lawsuits have, in fact, sparked many criticisms of the legal profession, and questions about the ethics of soliciting for clients.

But, he said, those who have suffered because of asbestos exposure have a different view of the situation. For many, faced with mounting medical costs, the right to bring suit against the companies responsible for their illness is their only recourse.

But shouldn’t they have known the danger their job might be posing? some ask.

Joy says no. He points out that the asbestos industry and others who knew and understood the dangers of asbestos to their workers and to the public showed complete callous disregard for general safety.

The Mesothelioma Information and Resource Group estimates that the connection between asbestos exposure and lung cancer was noted as early as 1925, and confirmed over the next 70 years. But, Joy says, the industry buried information about the dangers and hazards in the interest of maintaining higher profits.

Remember that the incubation period of Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers is a long one, remaining latent in those exposed for 30 to 40 years. By the time the dangers of asbestos were told to the public, it was too late for many people.

Even now, asbestos is still not even completely banned in the U.S.

Asbestos litigators, Joy points out, have actually been responsible for raising public awareness about asbestos and mesothelioma. The result is that people have more information, and they are alert to their risk level. They seek early screening, which may save their life.

We certainly don’t see these stories in our media. Maybe a blip here, or a brief story here, then it’s gone again. People in the U.S. assume asbestos is yesterday’s worry. Surely that was years ago, right? That was fixed, wasn’t it?

Who else is going to help asbestos disease sufferers beat this drum, when the still-real danger has been so effectively swept under the rug?

Joy summarizes that it’s hard to fault methods and measures that bring about awareness, and help people in desperate need find a little bit of justice, whatever cold comfort that might bring.

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