Blog > Opinion , Your Health

Asbestos Can Take Your Breath Away, Forever

Posted on October 18, 2012

By Linda Reinstein, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) Co-Founder

Picture: Linda with her daughter and husband Alan.

ADAOThe time is now for the Senate to unanimously support the passage of the Safe Chemicals Act (S.847). We need to do more to protect our children from BPAs, fire retardants and other dangerous toxins in our world. What many don’t realize is that asbestos is still legal and lethal in the United States, tragically impacting families. I know because it happened to us.

I remember the day when my husband Alan was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma as if it were yesterday.  We had never heard of mesothelioma, and we were devastated when we learned that there is no cure.  Our daughter was only ten years old when we began our arduous family battle to fight mesothelioma and work with Congress to ban asbestos.

Alan, an avid marathon runner, transformed into an invalid within just a few years. The average life span of a person with mesothelioma is only 9 months. Courageously, Alan battled mesothelioma, which entailed radical surgeries and chemotherapy in hopes of more time with his family. He spent his last year tethered to oxygen 24 hours a day as mesothelioma tortuously ravaged his body. As a result of asbestos exposure, Alan died three years after diagnosis with our then 13-year-old-daughter and me by his side.

Fueled by my intense grief, I turned my anger into action by co-founding the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) in 2004. 

In the United States, more than 10,000 Americans die each year from preventable asbestos-caused diseases, including an estimated 5,000 Americans who die from asbestos-caused lung cancers and 2,500 who die from mesothelioma.

"History is a great teacher to those who listen, but is Congress listening?"

In 1989, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule banning most asbestos-containing products; however, in 1991, this regulation was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Don’t be fooled – consumer, environmental, and occupational exposure continues in the United States. In August 2012, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the U.S. consumed 1,180 metric tons of asbestos in 2011, which is a 13% increase from 2010.


There is nothing funny about mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases; however, as a mesothelioma widow and ADAO co-founder, I enjoyed The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’s powerful segment “Ored to Death.” Aasif Mandvi asks Bernard Coulombe, a top Jeffrey asbestos mine executive from Canada, a simple question: “Does ‘asbestos’ mean something different in French than it does in English? Because in English it means slow, hacking death.” I encourage you to spend five minutes to watch the video and share it with your networks.

ADAO proudly stands with Safe Chemicals, Healthy Families and hundreds of public health, environmental, and business groups that have come together to support S.847, which would impose stricter regulations on toxic chemicals, including asbestos.

For each life lost, a shattered family is left behind.  Our grief is overwhelming, like that of so many other families. We cannot forget hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have paid the ultimate price for asbestos exposure – their lives. We cannot forget their children, including my daughter, who will always miss their fathers and mothers. 

As I remind Congress, “together, change is possible."

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Asbestos is very harmful and sad to see that Alan has become yet another victim.

Posted by: | Nov 19, 2012 3:50:27 AM

Like you my husband has mesothelioma, we have 2 boys a 12 year old and a 9 year old. This cancer is awfull, and knowing that it could of been prevented makes it even worse. Something needs to be done now to prevent more young familys going through this heartbreak everyday.

Posted by: Jemma walker | Oct 21, 2012 1:37:50 PM

Anne, sadly greed is the ultimate reason why this preventable disease is still affecting many families worldwide.
With more awareness and knowledge the world is coming closer to having asbestos banned. It would only take politicians to have a loved one suffer with Mesothelioma or spend time with someone suffering to open their eyes.

Posted by: Tracy | Oct 21, 2012 7:34:43 AM

If these diseases are preventable, why aren't we preventing them? Why aren't we being a bit more cautious?

Posted by: Anne | Oct 19, 2012 9:41:01 AM

Tom and Maria, I greatly appreciate your kind words. I know that with SCHF at the helm and our solidarity - we can make change happen. I would love you join me on Twitter or on Facebook if possible - info at

Posted by: lindacalifornia | Oct 18, 2012 10:44:47 PM

Wow. I am so sorry for your loss Linda. May we work together to seek justice and fairness. The loss of a healthy life is simply not ok. I support all that you do.

Posted by: Tom | Oct 18, 2012 10:55:51 AM

Thank you Linda for sharing your story with us. Many would like to forget that things like asbestos and other chemicals affect real people, you've helped dispel that notion. Your story inspires me to keep calling my members of Congress. We need action now!

Posted by: Maria | Oct 18, 2012 9:01:23 AM

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