When the New England Patriots and New York Giants take to the field for Super Bowl XLVI, chances are commentators will take some time to discuss the traumatic injuries often associated with the sport of football. We will likely hear about everything from concussions and bruises to torn ACLs, broken fingers and neck trauma. These are all fairly common on-field injuries for football players that the National Football League, for good reason, is trying to limit.
At Ban Asbestos Now, the Super Bowl is also a reminder of a football legend whose life was cut tragically short due to asbestos exposure. Merlin Olsen, a defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams, appeared in 14 Pro Bowls over the course of his 15 seasons in the league in the 1960s and 1970s, and ultimately earned a spot in the Football Hall of Hame. For Olsen, the effects of asbestos exposure proved too much, ultimately causing his death March 11, 2010, at the age of 69. The cause of death was mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure. In a lawsuit filed following his diagnosis in 2009, Olsen contended that his first contact with asbestos materials occurred in his youth. He had worked in construction after school and during summer vacations and was “around workers working with asbestos drywall patching compounds.” Following his career in the NFL, Olsen was a broadcaster for NBC Sports and also appeared as an actor in “Little House on the Prairie.” He was a tremendously talented individual who, sadly, won’t be joining this year’s NBC telecast of the Super Bowl. His is just one more example of a life cut short by the harmful effects of asbestos exposure.
Like many sports leagues, the NFL is moving to try and minimize the long-term damage that on-the-field injuries pose to players by experimenting with new rules and enforcements, as well as new technologies for protective equipment and medical care. But despite all we know about the dangers associated with asbestos, little is being done today to continue to mitigate the risks associated with inhaling its toxic fibers. In the United States, asbestos usage continues to be legal. Several tons of the substance are used annually and the deaths caused by it continue to mount.
It’s time to end all usage of this substance. It’s time to be proactive about asbestos-related injuries, like the NFL is doing with on-field injuries.
Are you ready to ban asbestos now?