The week focuses on promoting a global ban, preventing exposure and toughening enforcement of safety laws.
The first week of April 2016 has been designated National Asbestos Awareness Week by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, known as ADAO. Every day during this week, the organization releases important and moving educational resources about the devastating medical impact of asbestos exposure on victims and their families.
In 2004, ADAO was founded by Linda Reinstein and Doug Larkin, both of whom had lost family members to mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos-linked cancer. The organization describes itself as the "largest independent asbestos victims' organization" in the country, founded to "give asbestos victims and concerned citizens a united voice, to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and to work towards a global asbestos ban."
Specifically, ADAO seeks to prevent diseases caused by asbestos exposure through public education, advocacy and initiatives like the annual awareness week. This year's awareness week has three areas of focus:
- Promoting a global ban on mining and using asbestos
- Preventing human exposure to the deadly mineral
- Toughening enforcement of existing laws that regulate asbestos
Many people wrongly assume that the mineral is no longer in use. The truth is that many tons of asbestos are still mined, transported, and utilized in manufacturing around the world every year. While some countries have total bans, the U.S. is not one of them, although the mineral has not been mined here since 2002.
Specific information about asbestos is gathered by the U.S. Geological Survey, a federal science agency that is part of the Department of the Interior. According to the USGS Mineral Commodity Summary for asbestos from January 2011:
- U.S. annual consumption at that time was around 820 metric tons based on import levels, down from 803,000 tons in 1973.
- The decrease in asbestos use in manufacturing is being driven by "health and liability issues."
- About three-quarters of American consumption were in roofing materials.
- Asbestos imports are mostly from Canada at 90 percent with the rest coming from other countries, including Brazil.
- In 2010, Russia was by far the largest global source of mined asbestos, followed by China, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Canada and a handful of other countries.
In conjunction with ADAO's efforts, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution designating the first week in April 2016 National Asbestos Awareness Week, which it has also done previous years. Significantly, while the resolution acknowledges the risk of deadly diseases from asbestos exposure, the scarcity of medical treatment options, the continued use of asbestos in the U.S. and the ongoing deaths of thousands of Americans from asbestos-induced illnesses, the resolution does not call for a U.S. or worldwide asbestos ban.
ADAO will end the week with an online candlelit vigil on April 7, 2016. It will also publish the list of signers of its Global Asbestos Awareness Week Declaration for a Worldwide Asbestos Ban. In addition, some of the ADAO annual conference events can be livestreamed on April 9 and 10, 2016.
From offices in the western U.S., the asbestos law firm of Brayton Purcell LLP promotes asbestos awareness and education and represents asbestos victims and their loved ones across the nation in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.