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ADAO's March 29 Conference Unites Survivors, Families and Physicians

DETROIT, March 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Linda Reinstein of Redondo Beach, California, had no idea that she would help lead a global mission to enhance awareness and stop the production of one of the deadliest carcinogen's that took her husband's life in 2006 -- asbestos. Reinstein is executive director and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), a nonprofit, volunteer-run international organization that serves as a voice for all asbestos victims and their families.

On Saturday, March 29, Reinstein will be joined by several world renowned experts to present ADAO's 4th annual Asbestos Awareness Day Conference, which will be held at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, Michigan. The conference is part of ADAO's continuing efforts to educate the public about the dangers of asbestos, ban its use and encourage research efforts to improve treatment options. The international conference is a collaborative partnership of ADAO, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. It officially kicks off Asbestos Awareness Week.

Reinstein experienced first-hand the devastating effects of asbestos related-diseases and the toll it takes on families. Her husband Alan Reinstein, former ADAO president, lost his three-year battle with mesothelioma; an incurable cancer caused from inhaling asbestos fibers. Diagnosed when he was 63 years of age, he was exposed to asbestos 50 years earlier through occupational exposure and home repairs.

"Alan courageously fought his battle with mesothelioma," said Reinstein. "He never complained about his surgeries or treatments, even after having his lung removed. He drew strength from his will to live and the love of family and friends. He was and still is an inspiration to all those impacted by asbestos-related diseases."

Inhaling or swallowing asbestos fibers permanently penetrates the lung and other tissue which causes cancer and other respiratory diseases. It can take anywhere from 10 to 50 years before the problem is realized and often it is misdiagnosed. Asbestos exposure causes lung cancer and causes twice the risk for getting colon cancer.

According to environmental and asbestos expert Michael R. Harbut, MD, MPH, FCCP, "There is no such thing as a safe level of exposure to asbestos fibers. Each and every fiber causes an increased risk of unnecessary suffering and unnecessary death."

Dr. Harbut is co-director of the National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers, created by the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, in affiliation with Wayne State University.

There are 4,000 to 8,000 new cases of mesothelioma per year in the United States and the only known cause is asbestos. This is the smallest percentage of asbestos-related cancers. Tens of thousands of more people will die from lung cancer, asbestosis and other cancers related to asbestos.

On any given day, Gary Stevens' home in Shelby Township, Michigan, has flags waving proudly from the flagpole in the front yard -- a United States flag and a Prisoner of War flag. There is no doubt that Stevens has a love for his country and those who serve it.

Stevens, 60 years old, is the vice president and acting president of Vietnam Veterans Association Chapter 133, in Oakland County. He served three years in Vietnam in the United States Navy Special Forces and was part of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal, a special team that worked with ammunition.

For the past 30 years, Stevens has been working maintenance at a cemetery, doing anything from digging grave sites to crematorium duties. He currently works full-time during the day at the cemetery and has another full-time job working the night shift at a department store. In addition, he is a compassionate volunteer advocate, not only for veterans but also for his fellow members of United Steel Workers Union Local 13702, which includes cemetery workers.

Concerned with the potential health hazards from working in a cemetery and crematorium, Stevens worked closely with Dr. Harbut and former Michigan Governor James Blanchard to authorize the Hepatitis B vaccine for all cemetery workers, funeral home staff, and public safety employees.

About 15 years ago, Stevens was experiencing severe breathing problems and at times he would gasp for air. He was also having migraine headaches and sinus problems. He attributed the symptoms to Michigan's changing weather. Once again, he decided to see Dr. Harbut.

After a thorough exam, it was determined that Stevens had environmental asthma and the spots on his lungs were caused from exposure to asbestos and other environmental hazardous chemicals related to his time in the service and his work at the crematorium. Stevens recapped his years in the service, spending time on naval ships and serving in Vietnam.

"I have flashbacks of being on the naval ship at sea, lying in my bed and looking at the pipes above my head," Stevens said. "There were lots of pipes on the ship. There was a crystal-like dust coming down from the pipes that would sparkle in the light. The dust would fall on us. I never dreamt that was asbestos and I had no idea the damage it could cause.

"I was happy to be serving my country. I didn't even wait to be drafted -- I enlisted," Stevens stated with conviction. "There are probably a lot of people out there who have been exposed to asbestos and don't know it. I bury veterans all the time. I can't help but wonder how many of them would still be here if they knew about asbestos screening and where to go to get help."

Stevens has frequent check-ups and is monitored closely.

"Dr. Harbut gave me my life back. My wish is that everyone would have access to screenings and the proper medical care. No one should have to worry about asbestos exposure."

Stevens' flags are still waving. They are at half-mast.

"Until all our troops come home and all the unaccounted people are returned to their families, these flags will continue to fly at half-mast."

The March 29, ADAO conference, held 8 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. at the Karmanos Cancer Institute, will provide education and outreach to those affected by asbestos exposure and asbestos related disease, including families, employers, employees, physicians, scientists, healthcare providers and others. The cost ranges from $75 for survivors, families and students; to $225 for physicians and other healthcare professionals. Continental breakfast and lunch are included.

There will also be a Remembrance Service & Brunch on Sunday, March 30, from 9:30 - 11:30 a.m., at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center. During the gathering, at 10:30 a.m. EDT people from across the globe will participate in a special candle lighting to honor and celebrate the memory of those who have died from asbestos-related diseases. The cost to attend the brunch is $25.

Registration for both of these events is limited. For more information visit and click Asbestos Awareness Conference.

For more information on asbestos-related screenings and treatment, call 1-800-KARMANOS.

About ADAO

In 2004, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was founded by asbestos victims and their families. The mission of ADAO is to provide the most advanced medical, occupational and environmental information available about asbestos-related diseases to individuals throughout the world. ADAO seeks to give asbestos victims and concerned citizens a united voice to help ensure their rights are fairly represented and protected, while raising public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and often deadly asbestos related diseases. ADAO is an independent organization funded through voluntary contributions and staffed by volunteers. For more information go to

About IBAS

The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), established in 2000, provides a conduit for the exchange of information between groups and individuals working to achieve a global asbestos ban and seeking to alleviate the damage caused by widespread asbestos use. Such use may be largely historical in the established economies of the West but is continuing in developing nations. Since its inception, IBAS has been involved in co-sponsoring and supporting national and international conferences furthering the above aims. In so doing, we have sought to counter the asbestos industry's control of the information stream and to provide a platform for victims to speak out against the injustices they have suffered. Through its coordinator, Laurie Kazan-Allen, IBAS channels the views of a network of victims' groups, medical and legal professionals and concerned individuals. IBAS has a continuing role in raising public awareness of asbestos hazards and providing informed comment on current developments.

About the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute

Located in mid-town Detroit, MI, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is one of 39 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Caring for more than 6,000 new patients annually on a budget of $216 million, conducting more than 700 cancer-specific scientific investigation programs and clinical trials, the Karmanos Cancer Institute is among the nation's best cancer centers. Through the commitment of 1,000 staff, including nearly 300 faculty members, and supported by thousands of volunteer and financial donors, the Institute strives to prevent, detect and eradicate all forms of cancer. John C. Ruckdeschel, M.D., is the Institute's president and chief executive officer. For more information call 1-800-KARMANOS or go to

SOURCE Karmanos Cancer Institute
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