U.S. Surgeon General's Asbestos Warning 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Shortly after the Obama administration took office, the Acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson issued a statement warning citizens of the asbestos menace lurking within their homes and workplaces. He wrote:

“Asbestos can be dangerous if it is inhaled. Activity that disturbs asbestos causing these small fibers to float in air increases the chances of inhalation and the contraction of asbestos-related diseases. Disturbance is what leads to exposure. Do not attempt to touch or remove asbestos by yourself. Only people professionally trained and certified to safely handle asbestos should remove it.”1

This statement, which had long been desired and lobbied for by public health campaigners, was released on April 1, 2009 to coincide with the 6th U.S. annual National Asbestos Awareness Week. While it was a very important and much welcomed initiative, the fact of the matter is that neither the Office of the Surgeon General nor the government publicized its existence. As a result of this failure, knowledge of this warning did not become known until 5 months later when the Asbestos Diseases Awareness Organization sent out a press release sub-headed: Recently Discovered Surgeon General Statement Underscores Need for Full Asbestos Ban.2 Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Andrew Schneider was as much bemused by this lapse in communication as anyone; a September 16, entry on his blog was titled: Asbestos warning finally issued by Surgeon General, or was it? 3

Commenting on Schneider's piece, Celeste Monforton queries the need for such a high level of secrecy; writing:

“Galston's action was so stealthy (intentionally perhaps?) that the individuals who had been calling for it were never notified – not the Senators who marshalled a Senate Resolution urging a Surgeon General's warning or the Asbestos Diseases Awareness Organization who supported the congressional efforts.”4

Dr. Monforton calls upon the new appointee to the Surgeon General's post to ratchet up the national effort on asbestos prevention by:

  • issuing a more detailed warning with facts and figures documenting the reality of the country's asbestos epidemic;
  • highlighting the ongoing risks to specific occupations such as auto mechanics and miners;
  • explaining why the U.S. has not yet banned a substance already outlawed by 40+ other industrialized countries.

September 18, 2009


1 http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/news/pressreleases/pr20090401.html

2 ADAO Press Release: ADAO Congratulates the Acting U.S. Surgeon General, Steven K. Galson, and Thanks the U.S. Senate for Efforts to Encourage Warning about Asbestos Dangers. September 16, 2009:

3 http://www.coldtruth.com/2009/09/16/asbestos-warning-finally-issued-by-surgeon-general-or-was-it/

4 http://thepumphandle.wordpress.com/2009/09/17/surgeon-general-warns-about-asbestos-or-not/



       Home   |    Site Info   |    Site Map   |    About   |    Top↑