Rancho Palos Verdes, CA—A beloved public figure has died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, just one day after narrowly losing an election in which he was widely considered a long shot.
John McTaggart, 79, had been a city founder, Planning Commission member, and a councilman for 20 years, from 1983 to 2003. Six years after losing his council seat, he became dissatisfied with the direction that Rancho Palos Verdes was taking, and decided to run for office once again. McTaggart had previously been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the rare and deadly cancer caused primarily by asbestos exposure, but had recovered several years ago, against all odds. He had also undergone brain surgery in the past – and that occasion marked the only time that he was absent from a council meeting. One week before the election, a visit to the hospital brought bad news: McTaggart’s cancer had returned. ‘
He was placed into hospice care at home just a few days later, although he managed to get out of bed in order to vote in the election. When the results came in, McTaggart had finished third in a field of seven candidates, yet it’s unclear whether or not he was aware of the election results, and he had already slipped from consciousness. He died late Wednesday night, surrounded by his family. Mesothelioma, an unusual cancer because of its asymptomatic nature and long latency period, is nearly always traced back to previous occupational exposure to asbestos. Once nearly ubiquitous in the construction of new buildings, ships and even automobiles, asbestos has since fallen out of favor as an insulating material because of its carcinogenic nature. McTaggart had worked as a plumber and engineer – two of the occupations most at risk for asbestos exposure and development of asbestos related diseases. Roughly 2,000 to 3,000 new patients are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Because the peak era of asbestos use was in the mid-20th Century, and because mesothelioma has a latency period of up to 50 years, it’s estimated that the number of new diagnoses will increase in the coming decade before eventually declining again.