Annual U.S. Asbestos Victims' Conference 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



The 6th annual gathering of the Asbestos Diseases Awareness Organization (ADAO) which took place in Chicago, Illinois from April 9-11, 2010, confirmed the importance of this extremely professional and active victims' group in the national debate on asbestos. The fact that Senator Richard Durbin, the Assistant Majority Leader, and Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, participated in the conference on April 10 indicates that not only has ADAO's leadership been acknowledged at the highest levels of government but that individual politicans and civil servants recognize the vital role this organization is playing in improving outcomes for asbestos victims and their families.


Senator Richard Durbin (left) and Jordan Barab, OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary.

In her contribution to the conference program, ADAO Volunteer Caitlin Burton put it this way:

“When I first started volunteering with ADAO in 2006, it was out of grief and necessity… The conferences, in my mind, were largely ceremonial – a reason to meet, share, grieve and dwell in ways that we simply couldn't do the other 363 days of the year. The rest of the year we had to keep our chin up and pretend that life goes on.

In the past year ADAO has addressed the American Public Health Association, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the Environmental Information Association, and the 2009 Asian Asbestos Conference, met with representatives from public agencies like Congress, the White House, and the Environmental Protection Agency and has visibly increased its international presence.

The annual conferences are no longer purely ceremonial; they bring together leading experts to dialogue on the status of asbestos and its affects on public health. ADAO is growing into an incredibly strong organization and making headway toward our goal of an international asbestos ban. Instead of mourning for a few days each year, ADAO is active and its impact can be felt year round.”

ADAO's annual event is unlike any other. The gatherings, meetings, sessions, and proceedings, which bring people from across the world together, include plenty of time for social interaction as well as presentation of information. A new feature of this year's conference was a chance for family members and ADAO representatives to mingle informally before the official sessions began, so that people new to ADAO might have a chance to meet up with ADAO contacts that had previously been only email acquaintances. Over some of Chicago's finest pizza, we had the opportunity to chat and further develop personal links with those who, through corporate malfeasance and government neglect, had become victims of asbestos. Many of the folks new to ADAO welcomed the initiative; within just a short time, they were enfolded into the ADAO family. They knew then that the upcoming days would be spent in a convivial atmosphere with people who welcomed their presence. They arrived in Chicago as strangers but returned home as treasured members of the ADAO community!

In the official meet and greet session, Jordan Zevon, the ADAO national spokesperson, treated delegates to a performance of several of his songs. Although Jordan's introduction to ADAO came about because of his father's tragic death from mesothelioma,1 his input to the organization's work has been integral. A video clip of Jordan meeting Selma Archerd, mesothelioma widow of the famous Hollywood columnist Army Archerd, which was shown on Saturday was extremely well-received. In the footage, Jordan plays his father's last song “Keep Me in Your Heart” for Selma. Her reaction to this musical lament about the loss of life caused by asbestos was simple and forthright; it was, she said, “beautiful.”

The packed nine-hour agenda on Saturday managed to balance contributions from medical, nursing, scientific, engineering, and analytical experts with updates on political and international progress. The focus of this year's session on global issues was “the Americas.” To this end, contributions from speakers Fernanda Giannasi (Brazil), Nathan Cullen MP (Canada) Drs. Dick Lemen and Barry Castleman (U.S.), reported on the current situation in South, Central and North America. The final speaker in this session, Laurie Kazan-Allen, issued: “A Call for the Americas – Ban Asbestos Now,” which urgently requested that all Pan American regulatory bodies and governments:

“…adopt policies calling for asbestos to be banned. Working with international bodies, they should set a timetable, no more than 2 years, for the implementation of asbestos prohibitions, delineate a strategy for achieving this objective, adopt a just transition for affected workers, and ensure that support and medical care for the asbestos-injured is provided. We urge official bodies to work closely with those most affected by the asbestos epidemic – the asbestos victims – in all negotiations and consultations.

To end the needless slaughter, an immediate commitment to ban asbestos, accompanied by a detailed action plan for achieving this objective, is essential; the citizens of the Americas have the right to live a life free of asbestos pain and death.”2

All the sessions were filmed and will be available in due course on ADAO's website:



Linda Reinstein, ADAO Executive Director.


In the aftermath of the conference, Linda Reinstein, ADAO Executive Director, said:

“ADAO was grateful to include so many world-renowned experts at our annual conference. Asbestos exposure continues at an alarming rate, as evidenced through ADAO's independent product testing, in workplace exposures as seen at the U.S. Capitol, and in public areas like Illinois state beaches. Through education and increased awareness, we see the positive effects of preventing exposure and eliminating diseases.

Medical and scientific presentations in Chicago validated the universal consensus that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and that all types of asbestos are carcinogenic. Pictures shown by engineer Fernanda Giannasi clearly demonstrated the tragic reality of asbestos use in Brazil. We were delighted that this outstanding ban asbestos campaigner was able to join us in Chicago. The photographs she showed during the remembrance brunch of so many Brazilian asbestos victims reinforced our collective determination to work together towards a ban not only in the U.S. but all over the world. Through unity, we are witnessing a change in policy to protect public health.”




Fernanda Giannasi receiving the Tribute of Inspiration Award from Dr Arthur Frank.


April 14, 2010


1 Warren Zevon's performance of this song can be viewed at:

2 English text for a Call for the Americas - Ban Asbestos Now!
Spanish translation:
French and Portuguese translations:



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