Sept. 26 is National Mesothelioma Awareness Day, a time for mesothelioma survivors and the asbestos-prevention community to come together to support victims and survivors and to recognize the serious long-term challenges ahead.

Across the country and around the world, thousands of people are living with mesothelioma—thousands more are developing mesothelioma and don’t even know it yet. The key to fighting back is raising awareness so more people are educated about the disease and its only known cause: asbestos.

A Day Dedicated to Mesothelioma Awareness

Mesothelioma Awareness Day was first observed in 2004 on Sept. 26, which makes this the 16th year that the day has been observed.

In 2010, after years of advocacy by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (the Meso Foundation), the Asbestos Disease Awareness Association (ADAO) and others, the day was recognized by both chambers of Congress with official proclamations. Since then, Sept. 26 has been officially designated as Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

As the day has grown in prominence, the month of September has become an extraordinarily active month for the mesothelioma community. In 2018 alone, Mesothelioma Awareness Day events raised over $100,000.

On Sept. 28, the 11th Annual Miles for Meso 5k and 3k Fun Run/Walk will take place in Alton, Illinois. At this year’s race, Steve McQueen’s motorcycle will be on display in honor of the late film star who was taken in the prime of his life by mesothelioma. While the asbestos awareness community has made an impact since McQueen was diagnosed, there is still a lot of work to do.

Mesothelioma Is Still Deadly and Asbestos Is Still Legal

In the United States, around 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, a toxic mineral that was used widely in construction and manufacturing throughout the 20th century.

There is no such thing as a “safe” level of exposure to asbestos, and the risk of developing mesothelioma is lifelong. According to estimates by researchers at the World Health Organization (WHO), as many as 43,000 people die from mesothelioma each year.

The long latency period of the disease—which often takes between 10 to 50 years to develop after exposure—means that people who were exposed in the 1970s and ’80s are only now getting sick.

Around the world, nearly 70 countries have banned asbestos outright. Surprisingly, however, the United States has not. Asbestos remains a daily threat to many American workers, and each year hundreds of tons of asbestos are imported into the country. According to ADAO, nearly 40,000 Americans die each year from asbestos-related diseases including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Advocates are trying to put an end to this trend. For the past six years, the Alton Miles for Meso 5k has benefited the ADAO and supported its efforts to secure a total U.S. asbestos ban. This past March, with help from the ADAO, the bicameral Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act (ARBAN) of 2019 (H.R. 1603) was introduced to Congress. If passed, the bill would ban the importation, manufacture, processing and distribution of all forms of asbestos.

Today, on Mesothelioma Awareness Day, the bill cleared another important hurdle in the legislative process. It was passed out of the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change and into the main House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Co-founder and ADAO President Linda Reinstein called it a “critical step forward” that moves the country significantly closer to banning asbestos.

“This is the farthest a U.S. House bill to ban asbestos has ever reached in the legislative process,” Linda said. “Thank you for the support of Simmons Hanly Conroy and everyone who has attended the Alton Miles for Meso events over the years. Your support has allowed us to do the unimaginable.”

Once the bill is marked up in the Environment and Climate Change Committee, it will advance to the House floor for a vote.

“This is an important step forward and one I believe can lead finally to ending the use of asbestos in this country,” said Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ 6th District) about the bill.

Paint the World Blue and Show Your Support from Near or Far

Blue has become the official color to symbolize mesothelioma awareness. Get involved this year by painting the world blue. The simple act of wearing blue colors lets survivors, victims and their families know that people are showing their support from all around the world.

Use #ENDmeso to share your thoughts, support and well wishes. Share your story of exposure, your story of strength or your story of a loved one who is no longer here to share it themselves.

Another way to support the asbestos-prevention and mesothelioma communities is to sign the petition to ban asbestos. Get your friends and family to add their names. In addition, you can call your congress member and advocate for the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019.

A mesothelioma diagnosis can make an individual feel powerless. On Sept. 26, remind them and the world that they are not alone.

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