Steve McQueen’s Widow Lobbies Congress to Ban Asbestos

Barbara Minty McQueen, wife of actor Steve McQueen

Barbara Minty McQueen, the wife of former movie star Steve McQueen, lived up to her earlier promise to finally join the fight to help ban asbestos in this country.

Minty McQueen, who watched her husband die from mesothelioma cancer more than 30 years ago, spent this week in Washington D.C., speaking on Capitol Hill at a United States House of Representatives staff briefing.

She was there as part of a contingent from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), lobbying for the Safer Chemicals Act of 2012, which passed through a key Senate Committee on Wednesday.

Steve McQueen, regarded as the King of Cool and once Hollywood’s hottest star, died in 1980 at age 50. His cancer was traced directly to an earlier exposure to asbestos. Minty-McQueen, who was 27 when he died, had remained mostly silent on the topic of what killed her husband.

“Putting Steve’s name and face to the cause (of banning asbestos), that made my day here,” she said during a telephone interview. “I want people to know how awful this disease is. It took my man away, stripped him from me. If there is anything I can do to help, I’m here to do it now.”

Along with various House of Representative staffers, Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-California) was there to listen to Minty McQueen and her story.  Also among those in the ADAO party were Dr. Richard Lemen, former U.S. assistant surgeon general; Brent Kynoch, asbestos abatement expert; Barry Castleman, environmental consultant; and Linda Reinstein, co-founder of ADAO.

“It’s really kind of sad that after all these years that asbestos is still with us,” Minty McQueen said. “The people I spoke with all seemed receptive to what I had to say. A lot of young faces. It felt good to talk to them all about this problem.”

Minty McQueen, a still-feisty former model and photographer, lives in Idaho, but she has joined forces with ADAO in Los Angeles. In April, she accepted a memorial tribute award in her husband’s memory at the ADAO’s annual convention.

It was at the convention when she made the vow to lend her husband’s name and clout to the fight to ban asbestos, which remains legal in this country.

“If he were alive today, he’d be kicking some serious ass over this,” she said in an April interview. “Unfortunately, he didn’t live to tell about it. I guess, that’s where I come in now.”

Minty-McQueen recently added a page on asbestos awareness in the latest edition of her book, “Steve McQueen: The Last Mile. . . Revisited.” McQueen starred in popular films like “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Towering Inferno,” and “The Great Escape.”


Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His most recent experience is in researching and writing about asbestos litigation issues and asbestos-related conditions like mesothelioma. If you have a story idea for Tim, please email him at tpovtak@asbestos.com

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