Mr. John Stewart
The Daily Show
Dear Mr. Stewart,
I am a great fan of yours on the Daily Show. However, as much as I enjoyed
your humor as host of the Oscars, I was disconcerted by your comment about
asbestos. I know you've heard from others about this, but I feel that
I must add my perspective as a survivor (so far) of mesothelioma.
I want you to join with asbestos-disease victims and activists in the battle
against the forces that would continue this carnage. Your presence and
reach would add awareness of the truth in an environment that suppresses
media coverage of this issue.
I'm sure that your comment was intended as sarcastic, but I'm also
sure that most of your audience missed the sarcasm. My own cancer was
caused largely by exposure to chrysotile asbestos, what the industry loves
to call the "good asbestos" (by way of creating a "promotable
villain" in the words of
Fatal Deception author Michael Bowker). The truth, as I think you know, is that there
is no safe asbestos.
People like me are engaged in a century-long battle to stop the use of
asbestos worldwide and the spread of asbestos-related diseases. Although
there's been some progress overseas, there's been almost none
in the US. Few Americans know that asbestos is still legal here, that
it's still imported, and that it is likely still used in products
on the American market. We don't know for sure about its uses, because
there is no regulation or monitoring of the transport and use of this
deadly toxin for commercial and military purposes. My wife and I, and
many others, are working to help end this charade.
The hottest battleground in this ongoing war is currently the floor of
the US Senate, where industry forces are trying to escape forever the
responsibility for the mayhem and death that they've knowingly caused,
and to maintain their freedom to keep doing the same with impunity. Their
Senate Bill 852, the misnamed "Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution
Act of 2005," is an assault on the health of Americans and on the
Constitutional right of Americans to seek redress when wronged.
Asbestos kills a percentage of the people exposed to it. But asbestos is
still intentionally being put into American products. European and other
countries have found suitable substitutes for every single use of asbestos.
Why have we not adopted these? Because continuing to use asbestos has
been cheaper than investing in changing product designs and factory processes
to accommodate substitutes. As long as corporations have been able to
escape responsibility for asbestos-related deaths, it's been business
as usual for them.
So let me make an analogy. Like asbestos, anthrax kills a percentage of
the people exposed to it. Would any of us think of allowing anthrax to
be put intentionally into American products? Would any of us think of
protecting the interests of someone who would profit from doing so? Wouldn't
we expect a very forceful response from government, from the public, from
industry, if we were talking about anthrax instead of asbestos?
A few weeks ago, when Senate Bill 852 hit the floor of the Senate, I spoke
at a press conference in the LBJ Room of the Capitol. I chose not to use
the anthrax analogy there, as I did not want to risk being hauled from
the building by overzealous guards. But this kind of language is what
people need to hear, in order to understand how outrageous the attitude
of our Government and industry is. Americans are incensed at the idea
that some clandestine terrorist group might use weapons like anthrax against
us, but our Government aids and abets American companies in the use of
asbestos against the American people in the name of increased profits.
This has to stop!
Please join with us in this battle. The lives of future generations and
the rights of American citizens are at stake.
Paul S. Zygielbaum
Santa Rosa, CA