Artist’s Legacy Cut Short by Asbestos Exposure

Working as I do with mesothelioma patients and their families and seeing the suffering cause by this deadly, preventable disease, it’s easy to be frustrated by the lack of knowledge about asbestos exposure. Thankfully, we’ve been seeing more and more coverage about this serious issue in the mainstream media as the news spreads about the dangers of asbestos exposure.

Recently, I came across a story that appeared on the Milwaukee news program, Today’s TMJ4 News. In it, investigative reporter Aaron Diamant tells the story of Richard Herr, a sculptor and Sheboygan, Wisconsin, native.

Richard’s story is a tragic one of a life cut painfully short by mesothelioma. It’s not a typical story—Richard didn’t work in construction or industry. He was a gifted sculptor and teacher who used asbestos in his studio to make the molds for his works of art. After decades of this exposure, he developed this deadly cancer caused by asbestos and died in 2009.

As Richard’s illness and death shows, mesothelioma is not going away. In fact, in Wisconsin, some reports indicate this deadly disease is on the rise. Even though asbestos was officially outlawed in the ‘70s, people are still being exposed every day. And since asbestos still lingers in our environment, anyone can be exposed—regardless of whether or not they work in industries that in the past have been associated with this painful form of cancer.

Because of the lack of education about asbestos, Richard’s legacy as an artist was cut short. Richard’s death was a horrible a loss, and one of the most tragic things about it is that it could have been avoided. As he says about the asbestos he used in his studio, “If I’d known of any hazards, I wouldn’t have used it.” Let’s hope that as the word spreads about Richard and victims like him, this kind of deadly exposure can be avoided. That would be Richard’s greatest legacy.

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