For 15 straight years, April 1 through April 7 has been congressionally designated Global Asbestos Awareness Week (GAAW). Each year, the first full week of April marks a crucial time when advocates, scientists, doctors, survivors and their families can all join together as one group to share new knowledge, provide community and support, and plan future goals and actions.
While GAAW will continue as planned this year, the accompanying annual International Asbestos Awareness and Prevention Conference, hosted by the Asbestos Awareness Disease Organization (ADAO) in Washington D.C., has been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In a statement, ADAO President and CEO Linda Reinstein said,
“In light of the recent developments in regard to COVID-19, ADAO believes it is best to put the health and safety of our community first. After conversations with medical experts and ADAO board members, we feel this is the best path at this time.”
Simmons Hanly Conroy has been a consistent supporter of ADAO’s mission, GAAW and the annual conference, and will continue to support these advocacy efforts as a platinum sponsor of ADAO.
Our efforts this year will include a seven-part video series—one video for each day of GAAW—that shares survival stories, offers valuable medical perspectives and provides information on ways you can get involved in ongoing advocacy efforts.
The novel coronavirus may stop people from physically joining together to fight for a common cause, but it cannot stop people from voicing and demonstrating their support through other means. To both support the cause and follow along as the latest news develops throughout the week, stay tuned to #2020GAAW across social media channels.
Understanding the Significance of Global Asbestos Awareness Week
In 1989, when federal regulators came to truly understand the deadly—and 100 percent preventable—consequences of asbestos exposure, asbestos was banned in the United States. The ban, however, did not last long. It took only two years for industry pressure to completely upend the law and make asbestos legal once again.
Due to corporate lobbying, asbestos has remained legal in the United States since 1991, and as a result, tens of thousands have died needlessly. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of the cancer mesothelioma, for which there is no cure. Asbestos can also cause asbestosis, or intense scarring of the lungs, and asbestos-related lung cancer.
According to data announced by ADAO, nearly 40,000 Americans die each year from asbestos-related diseases, which puts asbestos within reach of the top-10 causes of death in the United States, just after influenza and kidney disease.
Simply put: If a ban is enacted, lives can be saved.
For these reasons and many more, GAAW plays a vital role in both educating people about the health effects of asbestos and fighting for an outright ban. Across the globe, nearly 70 countries have completely stopped all mining, importation and use of asbestos.
It takes awareness campaigns like GAAW to build momentum behind similar prevention measures in the United States and elsewhere.
In the words of ADAO,
“Prevention remains the only cure. When it comes to asbestos and mesothelioma, knowledge truly is power. GAAW is about delivering that power: we seek to equip people with the tools they need to protect themselves while we work for preventative legislation and a cure.”
GAAW: A Cause for Worldwide Advocacy
While Simmons Hanly Conroy focuses on advocacy efforts that raise money for non-profits and aid Americans in the fight against asbestos, the diseases themselves have no international borders.
Asbestos still poses great risk to individuals and families across the globe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 125 million people are exposed to asbestos at their workplaces. Additionally, each year, more than 250,000 people around the world die from asbestos exposure.
Once hailed as a “miracle mineral” for its natural strength, durability and heat-resistance, asbestos was incorporated into countless products, vehicles, buildings and structures throughout the 20th century both in the United States and abroad. This is why, even with an asbestos ban, the legacy of asbestos will continue to endanger people for decades to come.
Still, the best first step toward building a better future in this regard is a ban that phases out all present uses of asbestos.
For its part, ADAO has introduced a bill (H.R. 1603) to Congress called the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, or ARBAN, named after Reinstein’s late husband, who died from mesothelioma. ARBAN would ban all uses of asbestos in the United States and start Americans down the path of recovery.
This Year, Let’s Take Our Fight Virtual: #2020GAAW
These are unprecedented times. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the postponement of the 16th Annual International Asbestos Awareness and Prevention Conference, which was set to take place on April 3 and run through April 5.
Similar to the content-production efforts made on behalf of ADAO, Simmons Hanly Conroy will also be posting a week’s worth of videos to Facebook throughout the week. Be sure to follow our Facebook page and tune in for new content as it becomes available.
While GAAW will be different this year, it will not stop ADAO and its sponsors from connecting with people who need information, resources and community. In the powerful words of Reinstein,
“Together we are stronger, and together, we can make a difference. ADAO looks forward to virtually connecting with our community in the coming weeks and months.”
Stay up to date and share your story through #2020GAAW.