Asbestos still wreaking havoc

‘Asbestos still wreaking havoc’ is not the title I gave the letter below, but it certainly could be. The title comes from an editor at the Toronto Star. The paper published the following as a Letter to the Editor: on the Internet on Monday April 25; in print on Tuesday April 26, 2016.

Asbestos and mesothelioma (Toronto Star, April 23 2016)

Will Burtin and Hilda Burtin, in 1933 German passport photo

Will Burtin and Hilda Burtin in 1933 German passport photo

My Letter to the Editor (below) responded to a story about the continuing use of asbestos-laden products in Canada:

Dr Irving J. Selikoff

Dr Irving J. Selikoff

” My wife’s parents, Hilda Munk Burtin and Will Burtin, both died from the asbestos-linked disease, mesothelioma. Like many designers in the 1930s they had used asbestos paper because it stayed white for years. At the time of Hilda Burtin’s death in 1960, the link to asbestos exposure had not been established. That link was subsequently confirmed by Dr Irving Selikoff, who named the disease. Dr Selikoff was on the faculty at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, where Hilda Burtin died. Eleven years later Will Burtin was admitted to the same hospital, where he also died, of mesothelioma. Given the links between the two cases, Dr Selikoff reviewed Hilda Munk’s file and confirmed that she, too, had died of mesothelioma.”

Your story told me something I had not known. The Canadian mines are closed, but asbestos products are still being imported. It’s likely that our air is full of asbestos particles thrown up from brake pads. Madness! ”

Robert Fripp

* * *

‘Asbestos still wreaking havoc’ applies to many families, not only in the industrial world, but in countries that continue to import asbestos products, such as large-bore drain pipes, boiler liners and insulation materials.

It’s tragic, really. The Mad Hatter might say that we know the answer, but we can’t learn the lesson. As in so many aspects of human life, vested interest is too firmly in control.

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