In 2009, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Betty McCollum (MN-4) introduced to Congress a proposal to make September 26 “National Mesothelioma Awareness Day”.
The resolution was an attempt to acquaint a wider spectrum of United States’ citizens to the specter of mesothelioma, a fairly rare cancer that attacks the mesothelial linings that surround and protect the lungs, heart and abdominal organs.
Occurring as pleural mesothelioma (in the lungs) in 75 percent of cases, the cancer lies dormant for as long as 50 years before becoming highly aggressive and invasive, affecting so much vital tissue and vital organs that most patients diagnosed with the disease die within about a year.
Mesothelioma reportedly claims about 2,500 people in the U.S. each year. This is not a huge number, but the fact is the disease could be eradicated in a lifetime if the U.S. would join the 52 other nations around the globe that have successfully banned asbestos, the only known cause of mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, the U.S. is like Canada, China, India, Japan, Russia, and 200 other countries around the globe which are either taking asbestos from the earth, to the tune of 2 millions tons in 2009, or selling it, generating an estimated $1.25 billion dollars in profits as a result. It’s hard to resist the term “blood asbestos”, though most of the deaths occur at the back end of the mining and production cycle.
In spite of this regional (and global) catastrophe, the U.S. – like Britain, Russia and China – has ignored the need to fund research to find a cure. Though even this may soon change, as volunteers of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation rally this September to raise awareness of the disease’s costs, both in human and financial terms.
The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, once known as MARF and now called simply the Meso Foundation, is a non-profit organization devoted to educating the public, supporting mesothelioma victims and their families, finding funding to spur further research into a cure, and advocating for a national mandate to end the mesothelioma debacle by banning asbestos.
It was reported, according to Chris Hahn, Executive Director of the Meso Foundation, it is only through the activities of these dedicated volunteers that mesothelioma will finally become “part of a broad national conversation” about this appalling form of cancer and its intolerable impact on the country.
As Representative (former Senator) Murray once pointed out, the disease went unrecognized and unremarked for so long, even by the health sector, that today’s legacy costs are remarkable only for their extent.
National Mesothelioma Awareness Day, which began life as H. 771, remains a milestone in the effort to reverse that legacy. Unfortunately, the bill itself languishes in the House’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a 41-member committee chaired by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY10).
In the public sector, Meso Foundation champions like runner Larry Davis have been active and highly visible in their efforts to achieve the same goals. Davis, a survivor of asbestos-induced cancer, is one of a group of concerned individuals who are pushing for a national mesothelioma day.
It hasn’t happened yet, but in March of 2009, the Florida House of Representatives approved HR 9041 (SR 2714) designating Sept. 26, 2010 – and the same date thereafter – as Mesothelioma Awareness Day in Florida.
This year, on Sept. 26, the Meso Foundation will be in New York City for the taping of the Today Show, another step forward in getting national recognition for this devastating disease. In addition, nationally-recognized EHE International (a leader in preventive health programs and plans) has donated the 10 Rockefeller Plaza display window for the Meso Foundation to use from Sept. 1 through the 30 – a high-profile location that will likely boost the cause enormously.
For Davis, whose father died at the age of 56 from mesothelioma acquired at a box manufacturing plant in New Haven, Connecticut, the occasion is one highlight of his year, the first being the revival of the 2009 Boca Raton (Fla.) Miles for Meso run which occurred on Feb. 13 at Spanish River Park this year.
On Labor Day, Sept. 6, Davis and his wife, Carol, plan to run in the USA 20K Championship in New Haven, Conn. – again to highlight the cause of mesothelioma. On the weekend of Sept. 26, Davis will run a meso benefit in Illinois. According to Davis, the Illinois run organizer told him that the hills across which the run was scheduled were “killers”.
To which Davis replied: “I’d rather go that way (than die from mesothelioma).”
Mesothelioma is the form of cancer that claimed rock-and-roll singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, 1960s Hollywood actor Steve McQueen (The Great Escape) and NFL Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, who went on after his football career to act in several television series, including Little House On the Prairie, Aaron’s Way, and Father Murphy, among others.