Posted in Advocate, Health Activist Challenge, NHBPM

NHBPM Day 6: If I could anything as a health activist: I would fight against asbestos

Today’s prompt asks the following: Get inspirational. Money is no longer an issue. What is your biggest goal that is now possible? How could you get there? Now bring it back down to size. How much of this can you accomplish now, in a year, in five years?

 I advocate for arthritis and fibromyalgia.  Both causes are important to me because I live with both diseases.  However, if I good do anything as a health activist, it actually wouldn’t be for fibromyalgia and/or arthritis.  If money wasn’t an object and I could do anything as a health activist, I would fight for legislation that takes strict action on asbestos use and exposure.

In this fight for asbestos legislation, I would have three goals in mind.  First, I would push to develop a better system that compensates those injured and to protect their rights and the rights of their families. Second, I would promote legislation to ban asbestos use all together, and third, I would work to harshly prosecute those who knowingly expose people to asbestos.  This is personal because I lost my 31 year old brother to peritoneal mesothelioma and it hasn’t even been a year.  My brother never worked in an asbestos related industry so how he was exposed is a mystery.  However, if not that exposure and someone else’s disregard for life, my brother would be here today.

The federal government has policies to promote safety related to asbestos but the U.S. hasn’t taken a universal ban on asbestos.  There are 55 countries around the globe that have banned the use of asbestos.  Federal legislation would not only ensure that asbestos claimants would be properly compensated for sickness, loss of life, and loss of wages but also would work to prosecute company heads who knowingly make decisions that expose people to asbestos. For me, monetary compensation does not bring back those lives lost.  As for compensation for victims and their families, it would be similar to the Black Lung Benefits Act that created a benefits program for U.S. coal miners. Such a law would benefit persons who have become sick from asbestos exposure and entitle them to legal protections.  What most people don’t know is that cancers related to asbestos exposure are the most painful cancers out there and for me, this is something that makes me very angry. I watched my brother suffer in the most horrible way and it was the first time I felt true anger.  No one deserves what my brother went through, what others have gone through, and what will happen to more people if we don’t do something.

There have been some legislation considered but none have become law.  Current asbestos legislation to date doesn’t guarantee compensation to all sufferers.  The inability to pass such laws is a result of tampering with proposed legislation to protect asbestos corporations.  We cannot protect hardworking people if allow powerful lobbying that works for those with the deep pockets.  If I had the financial ability to pass legislation, I would put an end to this kind of lobbyism because right now, the asbestos industry doesn’t have to worry about stronger laws to protect victims and criminal penalties to prosecute those responsible. If I could, I would put an end to this. Further, legislation could promote a ban as has been mentioned by the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission but unfortunately, these have also failed because of lobbyism has favored corporations.  

As for a timeline, in the first year I would push for legislation that protects victims and their families by providing medical care and compensation in addition to funds for research towards better treatment methods, methods that prolong life and hopefully lead to higher rates of remission and a  cure to asbestos cancers.  Three years after, I would like to see an EPA ban passed on asbestos use and passage of legislation that minimizes the strength of lobbyists who fight to bring down laws that protect people from asbestos exposure. By the fifth year, I would like to see companies that knowingly expose people to asbestos punished under criminal negligence statutes. 

For more, this is an issue that hurts because I had to choose between watching my brother suffer and letting him die.  There was a point where my family had to make a decision to end care because nothing was working.  He was in pain and he was suffering and nothing we did could change that.  If not for the negligence of someone else, there is a good chance my brother could be here. I have fought many demons on this one but I can’t and don’t have the strength to play a role as health activist for mesothelioma sufferers and their families or even a political or legal activist role to fight for laws that promote litigation against asbestos.  Someday, I will be strong and that is when I will fight in my brother’s memory and when I do, I will fight to the best of my ability.  I won’t stop fighting until my goals are met.

What about you? If you can do anything as an activist, what would it be? 

This post was written as part of NHBPM – 30 health posts in 30 days:


One thought on “NHBPM Day 6: If I could anything as a health activist: I would fight against asbestos

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