Asbestos Is No Joke

The full-page ad on the back of this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is supposed to be funny.

In a parody of the magazine’s cover image – a model cavorting in the surf – the ad features a woman in a hazmat suit and respirator. She’s one of the “Goddesses of Asbestos Removal,” modeling “this year’s sexiest safety equipment.” It’s a Snickers ad, supposedly showing what could happen if the magazine’s editors were too hungry to come up with a good theme for the issue.  

It’s so funny I forgot to laugh.

My husband died of mesothelioma, an incurable cancer caused only by exposure to asbestos. Each year, 15,000 Americans die from mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos-triggered lung cancer. There is no such thing as a safe level of exposure. Every fiber represents an increased risk of needless death and heartache.  

For decades, asbestos was mined and widely used in construction, fireproofing and textile products. Since its dangers have become widely known, many products with asbestos have been removed from the consumer market. But asbestos can still be found in many homes and businesses. Since 2013, $4 million worth of asbestos has been imported from Brazil for use in the chlor-alkali industry.

The U.S. is the only industrialized Western nation that hasn’t banned asbestos. Under the nation’s new chemicals law, asbestos is one of the first 10 chemicals the Environmental Protection Agency must evaluate. The EPA is expected to announce in the coming days whether it will further restrict or ban the use of asbestos.

Until there is a complete ban, workers, families, and even young children playing with makeup or toys, will be exposed to asbestos – putting them at significant risk for incurable cancers. I founded the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization as a platform for people and families who are striving for an asbestos-free future. The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, named for my late husband, would expedite a ban within 18 months.

The unfunny Sports Illustrated ad is part of Snickers’ “You’re not you when you’re hungry" campaign. Well, I’m hungry for a ban on asbestos. And a candy bar won’t satisfy me, or thousands of other asbestos victims and their families.

Linda Reinstein is founder and president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.

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