June 17, 2016 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 1Comment

Factcheck.org has a growing list of Donald Trump’s erroneous statements. But it’s not the only source for dissecting Trump’s uninformed and ignorant statements. On the topic of asbestos, I can’t think of anyone better to school the Republican candidate than a strong woman who is a widow because of the deadly mineral.

Linda Reinstein’s husband Alan, died in 2006 from pleural mesothelioma. It’s the quintessential disease associated with exposure to asbestos. He was 66 years old and their daughter Emily was only 12 at the time.

Writing in yesterday’s Huffington Post, Linda Reinstein reacts skillfully to Trump’s assertion that asbestos just “got a bad rap.” She draws attention to the candidate’s “verifiably ridiculous” defense of asbestos, which was reported originally by Max J. Rosenthal at Mother Jones.  Reinstein writes:

“According to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, the anti-asbestos movement is a mafia-led conspiracy theory that has absolutely nothing to do with public health and safety. ‘I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal,’ Trump claimed in his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback. ‘Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented. Millions of truckloads of this incredible fireproofing material were taken to special ‘dump sites’ and asbestos was replaced by materials that were supposedly safe but couldn’t hold a candle to asbestos in limiting the ravages of fire.’”

Reinstein goes on to set the record straight.

She counters Trump’s idiotic statement that the “movement against asbestos was led by the mob.” The anti-asbestos movement was made up of tradesmen, such as members of Local 12 and Local 32 of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers, and physicians including Irving Selikoff and E. Cuyler Hammond. Together they provided the scientific evidence and the body count to get the movement started. In 1969 and 1970 when Congress was deliberating on a bill to create the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the illness and death caused by asbestos helped with the legislation’s passage. Because of the strength of the science and its grave risk to workers’ health, it was the very first health standard adopted by OSHA. The struggle continued including efforts to force the EPA to ban asbestos—something that has yet to happen, so the fight goes on.

The mob interested in making money on special disposal sites? Wrong, Mr. Trump.

Reinstein describes the billionaire’s own culpability for exposing workers and community to asbestos:

“Trump fought a class-action lawsuit brought by demolition workers who had been contracted to clear the way for Trump Tower in New York. When the workers were interviewed by the New York Times, they cited working in ‘choking clouds of asbestos dust without protective equipment’ among other subpar working conditions.”

Shortly before his death, Alan Reinstein along with Linda and Doug Larkin established the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). It has grown into a network made up of thousands of patients, caregivers, and public health advocates from around the globe. They are responding in a big way to Donald Trump’s ignorance about the roots of the anti-asbestos movement. Oregon resident Ann Samuelson commented on Reinstein’s post:

“Just to be clear I am not part of the mob.  Asbestos killed my father and many friends I have come to know through my advocacy work through ADAO. We have made great progress through education and awareness and recent toxic reform at the federal level, many have suffered and died…we will continue to tell their stories…this isn’t about a Republican or a Democrat this is about life and death.”

Samuelson’s father died at age 53 from asbestos-related cancer.

Read Linda Reinstein’s “Donald Trump and The Art of the Crooked Asbestos Deal” on HuffPost and leave a comment.


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