Three years ago my uncle died at age 60 from mesothelioma, cancer caused by
asbestos fibers embedded in the lining of the lung. As a kid, my uncle
spent time in his Dad's service station where they worked on asbestos
brakes. While serving in the Navy he worked in the ship's boiler room where
pipes were insulated with asbestos. And he also worked as a home
improvement contractor likely coming in contact with asbestos in older
My uncle was always very healthy and physically fit. Initially his only
symptom was becoming winded walking up a flight of stairs but subsequent
tests confirmed mesothelioma. He died a very painful death exactly one year
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From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Richard L. Hess
Sent: Tuesday, June 14, 2005 7:45 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Somewhat off-topic: Corporate responsibility
At 08:10 PM 6/14/2005, Mike Csontos [log in to unmask] wrote:
>Many people had asbestos siding on the house.
I did and, on occasion drilled and sabre-sawed it in the 60s and 70s.
>We had asbestos coated cardboard insulation on the steam pipes with the
>joints covered with asbestos cement. I used to play with some left over
Me too, but I think it was more asbestos than cardboard over our steam
pipes, covered in fraying cloth. Of course, some of the vertical runs got
dinged and what flaked out?
>Everybody lived in that environment. I don't know of anybody who developed
>asbestosis (there were no shipyards in the area). Where are the bodies?
To put this in perspective, one should read some of the stories about
people working in asbestos mines and mills. A friend of mine runs the Web
site for the now-ghost town of Cassiar, BC. My wife and I stopped there for
lunch on our driving trip to Alaska in 1989 and it's amazing that a town
that was thriving is now gone. We think of ghost towns from the 1800s and
perhaps the early 1900s, but here is one that was ghosted in 1992!
Here is the link to a particularly interesting asbestos story. Now, of
course, Cassiar mined "good" asbestos--the long-fibre white kind if I
This is found at http://www.cassiar.ca/ under "Herb's story" but rather
than have you all go navigate his wonderful site, here it is. Herb is the
Web master for cassiar.ca. It's a fascinating site if you're interested in
rugged and gorgeous landscape, the North, and wilderness.
>>I remember working one summer as a student, my first full-time job with
>>Cassiar. I was assigned to the mill department as a labourer, I think it
>>was about 1971. There was no job orientation that I can recall and was
>>handed a broom and an aluminum grain shovel and taken upstairs and shown
>>a floor to sweep. It was a large floor but there were pipes and equipment
>>all over the place breaking up the expanse in to lots of smaller areas so
>>that you generally could see only short stretches from most locations. It
>>was covered in asbestos dust about two inches deep. I was shown a
>>wheelbarrow and where to dump the dust and then I was left on my own.
>>Wanting to make a good impression it being my first day on the job, I
>>tackled the floor with gusto, thinking that this floor must not get much
>>traffic to get such a heavy layer of dust as there weren't many
>>footprints in the dust. I worked steadily, the fine, light dust sweeping
>>up easily on the nice hardwood floors and I dumped many wheelbarrows full
>>of dust. I carefully got all the dust from around the numerous nooks and
>>crannies around and under the machinery. After about two hours of this it
>>was nearly time for coffee break and I stopped to turn around and survey
>>my work. I was shocked to discover that the area where I had started
>>already had about half an inch of dust again! Needless to say I realized
>>that it was more important to be less meticulous about nooks and crannies
>>and just sweep the bulk of the dust and go for high production instead.
>>Note: I don't recall being issued a dust mask that summer. As awareness
>>of health risks from exposure to asbestos rose dust control measures
>>improved and mill workers were issued dust masks and their use became
>>mandatory. Employees went to the Cassiar Hospital annually for a physical
>>exam which included testing for asbestosis. The tests were a chest x-ray
>>and blowing into a lung efficiency machine. When it was learned that
>>cigarette smokers were at 400% higher risk of getting asbestosis than
>>non-smokers the company made lots of effort to encourage smokers to quit
>>smoking. I did. I have made my physician aware of this history of
>>exposure and still get regular chest x-rays. So far they have been clear.
>>Sadly he said by the time anything showed up on an x-ray it was already
There are reports from time-to-time of people who had lived and worked in
Cassiar dying of mesothalimia. So far, my friend Herb has been lucky--maybe
his fishing business north of Vancouver is keeping him healthy.
>It bothers me when I hear of people who feel that they must run to the
>doctor, the EPA, or to a lawyer whenever they see a speck of anything that
>imagine might be asbestos. Something is not quite right here.
>People somehow need to get a realistic picture of the nature of the real
>world. This should be a principle task of our educational system. Instead
>seems to be left to the sensational news media and those who have vested
>interests in making mountains out of molehills. Someone should be resisting
A few of us try, but extremists on both sides are not to be believed. It is
extremely complex to figure all of this out for oneself, and it's hard to
know who to believe.
Thanks for your post of sanity, Mike! Asbestos now has to take its place
among nuclear power, depleted uranium, silicone breast implants, agent
orange, dioxin in general, PCBs, ozone-depleting chemicals, and a host of
other things that are demanding our attention for cleanup or reduction.
Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
Media web: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/
Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX