October 27, 2015

Health Literacy Month - Heather Von St. James - Mesothelioma Survivor

October is Health Literacy Month and today is Mesothelioma Awareness Day.  Heather Von St. James was only 36 years old and just had a sweet baby girl, Lily Rose, with her husband, Cameron, when she found out that she had only 15 months to live. She was diagnosed with Pleural Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that affects the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen. Heather's cancer affected her lung's protective lining in the chest.

This type of cancer is more common in men over 60, so how did Heather get this? Mesothelioma in women and children has been attributed to secondhand exposure to asbestos. Heather's dad was a construction worker at a large construction and project management firm and would come home with "white dust" on his clothes and boots. At that time no one thought anything of it, and it turned out to be asbestos dust that she was exposed to. (Mesothelioma)

Every year around 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, though there has been a small amount of cases without exposure. And sadly, on average, they are only given 10 months to live.

When you think of asbestos you think of old buildings, something that used to happen (it was commonly used between 1930-1950), and something that can't possibly be around anymore, but unfortunately, asbestos is not banned in the U.S and still can be found. For example, building materials between the 1940s and 1980s had asbestos. It was used then because it was durable and fire resistant.

Take a look at a quick fact infographic I created explaining the truth about asbestos and mesothelioma

In the 1970s, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were created to limit exposures to asbestos. In 1989, the EPA issued a Phase Out Rule, and banned most asbestos-containing products under the Toxic Substances Control Act, but frustratingly and maddening that rule was overturned in 1991 in the landmark lawsuit Corrosion Proof Fittings v. the Environmental Protection Agency. (OpenJurist)

And today, about 30 million pounds are still used every year in the U.S. Additionally, asbestos can still be found in homes, schools, and buildings. And asbestos was once used in making household consumer items, such as toasters and hairdryers, and sadly these could still be in use by people. Even a little exposure to asbestos is unsafe. Today, various products are still being made with asbestos, and we don't even know about it. A few products still being made with asbestos are: car brake pads, welder's blankets, aprons, roofing products, and chlorine. Some progress is being made, in 2010 Washington passed a law that all brake pads and shoes are required to be asbestos free by January 2015. (ECY)

Today, Heather is a nine year mesothelioma cancer survivor. I highly recommend visiting her blog and reading more about her story and what she is doing to bring awareness to this deadly disease that can be prevented. I also recommend watching her story.

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