Steve McQueen’s widow speaks out about asbestos

17 Mar 2009 by under Events, News, People

stevemcqueen 100x100 Steve McQueens widow speaks out about asbestosA report posted yesterday by The Daily Mirror, a publication in the United Kingdom, features an interview with Barbara McQueen, widow of legendary actor Steve McQueen, who died of in 1981. The actor was exposed to asbestos while in the Marines, Barbara recalls, when assigned the duty of cleaning asbestos-lined pipes.

The Mirror is spearheading what it calls the Asbestos Timebomb Campaign, to raise awareness of the danger of asbestos exposure and to call on the British government to take action in preventing it. The news agency has a list of five demands as part of the campaign:

  1. Establishment of a £10 million National Centre for Asbestos Related Disease to find better treatment, alleviate suffering and work on cures.
  2. Reinstate compensation for victims of “pleural plaques” – scars on lungs caused by asbestos – after it was abandoned two years ago.
  3. Secure fair and equal compensation for asbestos disease sufferers who can’t trace the insurers of the bosses who exposed them, through a new Employers’ Liability Insurance Bureau paid for by the insurance industry.
  4. Establish a public register of all asbestos surveys carried out on public buildings.
  5. Provide the government’s Health and Safety Executive with the resources to meet the department’s own targets for inspecting asbestos removal work.

In a statement published by The Mirror, Barbara said, “I commend the Mirror for its watchdog efforts in leading the charge regarding asbestos exposure. My husband’s death was a long and painful ordeal, and I can readily identify with those who have been exposed to asbestos as well as their loved ones.”

She said that at the time Steve McQueen was diagnosed with mesothelioma, it was widely reported in the media simply as lung cancer. Many people are still unaware that the actor actually died as a result of asbestos exposure, she said.

Ironically, Barbara now lives in Montana, an hour’s drive from Libby, the site of the largest known asbestos contamination in U.S. history. The poisoning of Libby is linked to the vermiculite mine that operated there for years under the W.R. Grace & Company.

The company and some of its top officials are in the midst of a criminal trial to determine if it knowingly exposed mine workers and nearby residents to deadly asbestos.

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