Judy Clauson’s husband was a metalworker during the 1970s. Each night, she would wash his work clothing, having no idea that the dust from those garments contained microscopic fibers that would eventually burrow into her lung tissues and kill her. Ms. Clauson spoke out at a press conference that was held at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington, last month. Also at the press conference was U.S. Senator Patty Murray, whose bill to ban asbestos is due to come to the Senate floor for a vote this fall. Ms. Clauson said, “I feel cheated. There were no warning labels. I didn’t know what I was breathing in.” According to many experts who were at the press conference, many people in the U.S. are under the impression that asbestos has been banned in the U.S. Not so, says Senator Murray, pointing out that asbestos is still legally used in friction products such as brake linings as well as floor tiles and pipes. Murray’s bill would provide federal funding for asbestos disease research and citizen education programs on asbestos issues.
In the meantime, Ms. Clauson’s physicians have said that her cancer is spreading quickly. The chances are that she will not live to see Murray’s ban made into law. Clauson says that she is “very angry,” adding: “I want to see my sons get married and my grandbabies be born…how many people have to die before they do something about this?” The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center is an independent, non-profit biomedical research facility affiliated with the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Their staff include three Nobel laureates, including Dr. Lee Hartwell for discoveries on regulation of the cellular life cycle and Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, who shared the 1990 prize in Medicine for his work in bone-marrow transplantation. Both of these areas are closely tied to cancer research. Hartwell is the President and Director of the Hutchinson Center.