What difference does a year make

By Joshua Richardson,2014-06-26 21:47
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What difference does a year make ...

Good afternoon and thank you for holding this hearing and

bringing much needed light and transparency to the growing questions and

concerns many Minnesotans - but most especially those who work and live

on the Iron Range - have about this disturbing, unnerving issue.

My name is Susan Vento. My husband Bruce died of mesothelioma in

    October of 2000. Since his death, I’ve become involved in issues

related to asbestos and mesothelioma. My goal is to reach out to

    mesothelioma patients and families and to let them know they’re not alone

and to make whatever progress is possible to reduce the growing number of

mesothelioma diagnoses.

In recent days, I’ve been asked repeatedly about Minnesota Department of

    Health Commissioner Diane Mandernach’s withholding of the report

    regarding the high incidence of mesothelioma in miners from Minnesota’s

    Iron Range. I’ve been asked if one year makes a difference. I believe it does

and I believe that it does from many perspectives including the medical,

    research, public awareness and personal patient and family perspectives.

For the medical community, the difference is knowing that if the patient

you’re examining is a miner or the family member of a miner what’s ailing

    them may be more than a cold or a flu bug or pneumonia but may instead be

    mesothelioma. The difference is that the risk of serious illness must be

    considered with each and every patient who is a miner, who is the spouse or

    child of a miner, or who lives near the mine. The difference is that many

others who don’t live near a mine may also be at risk.

    For the research community, the difference is the opportunity for the

    necessary partners to come together to collaborate in researching this

    challenging and too-long ignored cancer and its cause - asbestos.

    For the medical community and for the research community, time is most

    definitely of the essence. Each and every day makes a difference. Public

    and private dollars are critical to learning about the diagnosis and treatment

    of mesothelioma. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation has

    funded about $4 million in research since it was founded in 1999. The

    foundation has also led efforts to secure federal funding for research.

    For the media and advocacy communities, each and every day provides an

    opportunity to increase public awareness about the realities and risks of

asbestos in our home and work environments. Here are some very basic

realities regarding asbestos and the diseases it causes realities that have for

too long been unknown:

? For too long, too many Americans have been lulled into believing that

    asbestos related diseases like mesothelioma are the result of

    occupational exposure. Yes, that’s often the case, but not always.

    Many mesothelioma patients are exposed away from work settings or

    in work settings where we don’t expect to be at risk such as schools,

    office buildings, hospitals.

? For too long, too many Americans have been lulled into believing that

    direct, prolonged and repeated exposure to asbestos is what causes

    illness and death. Not true. Many mesothelioma patients have limited

    exposure in their work setting. Many others are spouses and family

    members whose exposure is from the worker brings home on clothing,

    skin or hair.

? For too long, too many Americans have been lulled into believing that

    our federal government banned asbestos decades ago and that it is no

    longer a risk. Not true. It has not been banned. The risk is present and

    all too often unknown until the diagnosis, which is too late.

For patients and families, the difference of one year is the chance to celebrate

    another Father’s Day or Mother’s Day, another birthday, another

anniversary, another holiday. The difference is the chance to hold that new

    born or to see one’s child or grandchild take that first step, graduate or marry.

Early detection is a crucial key to prolonging one’s life when battling any

disease but most certainly mesothelioma.

Bruce was diagnosed in January of 2000. He was initially told by doctors at

Bethesda Naval Hospital that he had lung cancer but was diagnosed with

mesothelioma the following week at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. His

asbestos exposure occurred in factories and a brewery on St. Paul’s East Side

not far from where we are today but quite a distance from the mines in NE


Bruce lived each and every day of the 255 days between his diagnosis with

and death from mesothelioma. He celebrated the birthdays of his sons

and grandsons, the birth of his granddaughter, our birthdays and our

wedding. He didn’t have a full year, but he lived as fully as possible while

enduring the rigors of and every possible, available treatment for


As one of far too many family members who’ve lost a loved one to

mesothelioma, I hope, pray and ask that you and your colleagues along will

do everything in your power to find out why and how this delay occurred and

will ensure that such a breach of the public trust and such a threat to the

health of Minnesotans never occurs again. I further implore that you ensure

that every effort is made and every possible resource is provided to reduce

the risk of asbestos exposure in Northeastern Minnesota as well as elsewhere

in Minnesota, to increase public awareness, and to fund medical research

for early detection and treatment of mesothelioma most especially for the

detection and treatment for those at risk in Northeastern Minnesota.

I will conclude with a little good news. The good news is that federal

legislation known as the Ban Asbestos in America Act has been introduced

in Congress to finally, once and for all ban asbestos in this country, to

    increase public awareness and to fund critically needed research. US Senator

    Patty Murray of Washington State is the Senate author. Our own

    Congresswoman Betty McCollum is preparing to introduce the House

version within the next few weeks. Enactment of this bill can’t occur soon

    enough for those of us who have witnessed the physical and emotional

    misery of mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases. Certainly, the good

    news is also that this hearing occurred today and another will be held in

    Mountain Iron Thursday evening. These hearings are important steps.

    Thank you. Thank you for listening. I hope that you will act.

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