Today, Andrew Schneider at Cold Truth tells usÂ that way back in April, actingÂ Surgeon General Steven Galson issued a long-awaitedÂ statement about the dangers of asbestos, a statement urged for years by asbestos-disease victims,Â their families and public health advocates.Â Â Galson’sÂ action was soÂ stealth (intentionally, perhaps?) that the individuals whoÂ had been callingÂ for itÂ were never even notified–NotÂ the Senators whoÂ marshalled aÂ Â Senate ResolutionÂ urging a Surgeon General’s warningÂ or the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) who supported theÂ congressionalÂ efforts.Â Â The Resolution called on the Surgeon General “toÂ warn and educate people that asbestos exposure may be hazardous to their health.”
Schneider recounts in “Asbestos warning finally issued by Surgeon General, or was it?” how asbestos-disease advocatesÂ asking for the warning had beenÂ wholey ignored by the G.W. Bush Administration.Â
The Surgeon General might have already crossed this task off his to-do list because heÂ technically issued the statementÂ in AprilÂ but I see it differently.Â Given that the Senate called on him to “warn and educate people,” and realizing that his statement wasn’t even noticed by the very people who were most interested in it, hisÂ action can’t seriously count as meeting the resolution’s terms.Â Â
I know that ADAO was heartened to learn this week that theÂ Surgeon General had madeÂ this statement on the dangers of asbestos.Â ADAO director Linda Reinstein graciously said:
“As a mesothelioma widow, I am pleased to see the Surgeon General’s statement, as asbestos has been a known carcinogen for more than 30 years.Â ADAO is excited to be able to advance educational efforts with his statement, which strongly reaffirms the need to ban asbestos.”
I agree andÂ hope Galson’sÂ statement isÂ only a first step for the Surgeon General’s office.Â Warning and educating the public must be more than simply posting a notice on aÂ website, especially one as vanilla pudding asÂ
“I urge every American to become aware of the public health issues of asbestos exposure and the steps they can take to protect their health”
“it is important for all Americans to be aware of asbestos levels in their environment.”
What about a warning that gives the toll of asbestos-related disease, how the prevalence of asbestosis and asbestos-related cancers is on the rise?Â Â
How about explaining that workers in numerous occupations are still exposed to asbestos, including auto mechanics working on brakes and clutches, and miners who encounter asbestos seems while extracing other ores?
What about taking the lead for the Obama Administration on explaining why a ban on all forms of asbestos makes solid public health sense and noting that 40 industrialized countries have already done so?
As Andrew Schneider reminds us in his post, President Obama’s pick for Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, has not yet been confirmed.Â Eventually the calls for Surgeon General leadership on asbestos-disease prevention will shift from Steve Galson’s toÂ her desk.Â Â ADAO and the larger public health community willÂ eagerly waiting her response.
Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH is with the George Washington University School of Public Health.Â She is currently chair of the OHSÂ Section of the American Public Health Association, and worked with members of the OHS Section to propose a policy resolution calling on APHA to support a ban in the U.S. on all forms of asbestos.Â Â The resolution will be debated and voted on in November at the APHA Annual Meeting.