Buffalo, NY—An Army veteran and former construction superintendent who worked on the Lake Placid Olympic bobsled run has died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Donald Pritchard, 73, was from Ellicott, N.Y. He served in the United States Army in Germany in the 50s, and then spent over 40 years as a construction worker and superintendent. Both of these vocations would have put him in contact with the toxic material asbestos, which was widely used throughout the twentieth century in military and civilian construction products. Known for its resistance to heat and fire, in addition to its durability and strength, asbestos was added to a number of other materials and supplies, including tile, drywall, cement, insulation, joint compound, and electrical and plumbing systems. Unfortunately, exposure to asbestos can lead to a number of serious diseases, including the cancer of the chest and lung lining known as mesothelioma.
Although there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, the development of asbestos-related diseases is more common in those who have worked extensively with the material. Diagnosed in approximately 3,000 people in the United States each year, mesothelioma usually claims the lives of its victims within two years—often sooner. There is currently no cure for mesothelioma, although some treatments can be attempted in order to slow the cancer’s spread throughout the body and alleviate the patients’ pain. In addition to the Olympic bobsled run, Pritchard was also involved in the construction of the county jail, a county building, a high school and his own home. He was a member of the Ellicottville Zoning Board and Ellicottville Rotary, as well as the one-time president of the Carpenters Union Local 66. Pritchard died on October 17. His family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to a trust they have established in his name, the Donald J. Pritchard Mesothelioma Trust.