by Laurie Kazan-Allen
The publication of an article entitled “Mesothelioma – The British Disease” in mid-June, 2013 set the tone for a summer of legislative, political, and public mobilization on asbestos. As groups representing asbestos victims lobbied politicians over the unfairness of provisions in the Mesothelioma Bill, members of the House of Lords tabled amendments to address the woeful lack of British funding for mesothelioma research. Lord Alton proposed that a levy be imposed on the insurance industry to fund medical research into mesothelioma; unfortunately, this amendment was defeated during a heated debate in the House of Lords. After the summer recess, the Bill will go to the House of Commons.
The importance of research funds and a coordinated research strategy were highlighted on July 3, 2013 in a presentation made by Mary Hesdorffer, NP Executive Director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) to the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group during its annual seminar in the House of Commons. Mary’s participation at this high-level Westminster event was warmly received as was the input by her colleague Dr. Daniel Sterman from the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. Ms. Hesdorffer, NP and Dr. Sterman were the first American medical experts to take part in this event which has been a fixture of the Parliamentary calendar for well over a decade.
Commenting on her experience, Ms. Hesdorffer said:
“I was delighted to have this opportunity to discuss in Parliament the role of government as well as private sector funding in spurring innovative research to end the suffering caused by mesothelioma. All opportunities to collaborate and confer on the needs of those affected by mesothelioma are most welcome and in light of the increasing number of cases being diagnosed worldwide, we need to explore ways in which we can work more closely together on this global pandemic.”
By good luck and advanced planning, Mary and Dan were able to take part in Action Mesothelioma Day (AMD) events on July 5 in Birmingham and Liverpool. AMD is marked by asbestos victims groups, cancer charities, and civic officials throughout the country and has become a focal point for efforts to raise research funds and public awareness of mesothelioma, a disease killing more than 2,000 British citizens every year. It was a privilege to join Mary in Birmingham for the activities mounted by Asbestos Support West Midlands. The appeal for mesothelioma research funds by the Birmingham group raised £4,500!
Speaking about the day’s events, Doug Jewell, Coordinator of Asbestos Support West Midlands, commented:
“It seemed that Mary and Laurie brought the good weather with them when they came to Birmingham. After the 2012 storms, it was great to be able to be able to mark Action Mesothelioma Day under blue skies. The speakers’ input during the official segment of the program was much appreciated by our friends and colleagues, most of whose lives have been impacted by mesothelioma. There was a great deal of interest in Mary’s discussion of the clinical trials and new drugs being used in the US and UK with many people following up on information she presented in the days after the seminar.”
In the aftermath of AMD, work continues by mesothelioma sufferers and asbestos victims’ groups to raise awareness of a deadly epidemic that shows no signs of abating. Research means hope and it was a message of hope that Mary and Dan so ably transmitted during the time they spent with us in the UK.
About Laurie Kazan-Allen
Ms. Laurie Kazan-Allen has been researching, writing and campaigning on asbestos issues for more than twenty years. The British Asbestos Newsletter, the quarterly publication she founded in 1990, is widely regarded as one of the most authoritative contemporary sources of information by the UK community of asbestos activists. In collaboration with international colleagues, in 1999 she established The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS). As the IBAS Coordinator she has organized and/or participated in asbestos events on six continents, amongst the most recent of which was an asbestos hearing at the European Parliament.
As an adviser to the UK All Party Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group, Ms. Kazan-Allen helps organize the annual Parliamentary asbestos seminar. Kazan-Allen has written prolifically about asbestos issues in 85+ issues of the British Asbestos Newsletter and in IBAS publications such as Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial, Report on the Asian Asbestos Conference 2009, India’s Asbestos Time Bomb and Killing the Future – Asbestos Use in Asia. These and other texts can be accessed at www.britishasbestosnewsletter.org and www.ibasecretariat.org