-related diseases have impacted the lives of many different people, from ship workers and miners to housekeepers and teachers. At its height in the middle of the 20th century, asbestos usage was so widespread that millions around the world were exposed to the known carcinogen. Its harmful effects have cut short thousands of lives and have forced countless more people to stop working.
One of these victims is the speaker of New Mexico’s House of Representatives. The Rio Grande Sun reports that Rep. Ben Lujan intends to step down because of advanced lung cancer he believes was caused by asbestos exposure. Lujan believes he was exposed in his youth while working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. A member of New Mexico’s legislature since 1975, Lujan addressed his illness as the body opened its 2012 session, stating that he would not seek reelection to his seat.
In his speech, Lujan said, “This [cancer], I am certain, is the result of exposure to asbestos in my early days working on the hill in Los Alamos.” Lujan’s cancer is in stage four and requires complicated and dangerous treatments, including chemotherapy. “As a family, we gave stopping the cancer a top priority,” Lujan said. “But there also was important work to be done for the people of New Mexico. So it was important to [my wife] and I to make that sacrifice and commitment. It was a choice we don’t regret.”
While an outpouring of support came from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, Lujan’s overall prognosis is not as positive. Asbestos-related cancers often result in death for its victims, as many of these diseases such as mesothelioma are notoriously hard to treat. Democratic state Sen. Mary Jane Garcia told the Las Cruces Sun News that Lujan’s announcement cast a sobering tone for the session. “It’s such a shock. I knew nothing of this,” she said. “Stage 4 cancer, that is so heavy. But I am sure the speaker will try to keep working.”
Here at Ban Asbestos Now, we’re tired of reading stories like this. It’s time to stop cutting livelihoods short.
Join our fight; help us ban asbestos now.