The 8th annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference this weekend in Los Angeles, California, will feature participants from nine different countries, highlighting the global public health crisis that has crossed all geographic boundaries.
The event, hosted by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, is designed to honor, inform and galvanize support that could lead to a future without this toxic mineral or the destructive path that it plows.
It also will coincide with National Asbestos Awareness Week (April 1-7), which was designated by a United States Senate Resolution for the eighth consecutive year.
“The harmful effects of asbestos are not contained within one country, or one border. It’s a global problem that must be solved internationally,” said Linda Reinstein, President/CEO and co-founder of ADAO. “We focus on the bigger picture, but if we’re not united, the problem cannot be solved.”
Asbestos, which once was used in thousands of products, industrial applications and building materials, is a known carcinogen that causes numerous health problems, including mesothelioma cancer.
Although it is banned now in more than 50 countries (but not in the United States or Canada), its use is increasing in many parts of the world.
The International Conference includes asbestos victims and their families, public health representatives, scientists, doctors and researchers, all banding together to continue raising awareness.
Actor Steve McQueen, who died from mesothelioma in 1980, will be honored posthumously with a Memorial Tribute that will be accepted by wife Barbara McQueen, who will deliver the keynote address on Sunday morning.
Saturday will be filled with a wide range of speakers and presentations. Doctors Richard Lemen (Emory University) and Arthur Frank (Drexel University) will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for work toward reducing asbestos-caused disease. Joel Shufro (New York City Occupational Safety and Health) will be presented with the Tribute of Inspiration Award. Patients Debbie Brewer, from the United Kingdom, and Larry Davis, from South Florida, will be honored for their work in helping others while fighting their own disease.
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) will receive the Tribute of Hope Award for his work toward a ban on asbestos in this country.
More than two dozen speakers will address the gathering. Topics will include the latest advances in both diagnostic and treatment techniques involving mesothelioma; asbestos-exposure prevention; occupational and environmental concerns; and global advocacy.
Among the speakers will be Fernanda Giannasi, a well-recognized inspector with the federal Ministry of Labor and Employment in Brazil, who will discuss issues she faces in her country as she battles a very strong asbestos industry.
There will be Conference participants from Italy, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, in addition to the United States.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 100,000 people each year die from an asbestos-caused disease. And what alarms many experts is that despite knowing the dangers that asbestos poses, several still-industrializing countries use it now more than ever.
“And as long as asbestos continues to be used, we can’t stop educating the public about exposure and fighting for its universal ban,” Reinstein said. “ADAO will continue to reach out to other nations in order to bolster support for the fight against asbestos.”