Regular readers may recall the name of Dr. Michael Harbut, the Detroit physician who runs a storefront clinic while serving as co-director of the National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers, part of the Karmanos Cancer Institute. During the weekend of 28-30 March 2008, Harbut was a featured speaker at the annual Asbestos Awareness Day Conference, which has been presented each spring by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) since 2004. This year, Harbut stressed the importance of early detection, saying that diagnosing such disease in its initial stage ” helps people live longer and less painfully–and hopefully less tragically for the family.” “People think asbestos is a thing of the past… I wish it were,” Harbut said.
He reminded his audience that ingesting asbestos fibers by swallowing can be just as deadly as breathing them into the lungs. About the center of which he serves as co-director, Harbut said that it was “…a place you can go to find out if you are at high risk for developing asbestos cancers–and get some help… Karmanos is generally thought to be at the forefront of asbestos research.” Harbut was part of a group of researchers who recently discovered physiological “markers,” or signs of asbestos disease that can be detected through a blood test. Gary Stevens, a veteran of the U.S. Navy who served three tours of duty in Vietnam and a retired steelworker, also spoke out at the conference.
“I have flashbacks of being on the naval ship at sea, lying in my bed and looking at the pipes above me,” he said, describing “a crystal-like dust coming down from the pipes that would sparkle in the light. I never dreamt that was asbestos and I had no idea the damage it could cause.” Stevens is one of Harbut’s success stories. He came to Harbut’s clinic in 1993, where screening revealed spots on his lungs. Because of this early detection and Harbut’s treatments, Stevens received a new lease on life, and today is able to work full time at a department store and the steelworker union cemetery. Stevens credits Harbut for giving him is life back. ” If God were to say, ‘Come with me so that he could continue his work,’ I would go immediately. I believe in Dr. Harbut and his work that much. I’ve never seen anyone fight so hard for the people,” he told reporters.