To The Editor:
Asbestos is a deadly Class A carcinogen, which is known to cause cancer in humans. So it was no surprise to me when I read in the Queens Tribune (Asbestos Dumped in Elmhurst – Jan. 17-23) that the NYPD, Dept. of Sanitation, the Environmental Protection Agency and an elected official’s office got involved when multiple bags of asbestos were improperly sealed and dumped in Elmhurst. Those responsible for dumping bags of asbestos without taking the proper prescribed precautions for removal risk exposing countless individuals to this deadly substance. Kudos to those who saw something and said something to the authorities. Hopefully, these bags were removed without any additional exposure to those in the area.
This incident in Elmhurst reminds me of a news story that was the talk of the town nearly two decades ago. In August 1993, Mayor David Dinkins rightfully ordered all public school buildings in New York City to be closed until each school was inspected for possible asbestos contamination based on a report that indicated uncertainty on the status of asbestos in all schools.
However, whenever I read or hear about similar instances that cause great public concern when exposure to asbestos, radon gas or benzene leakages occurs, I wonder why the same anxiousness does not occur when individuals are exposed to secondhand smoke on a daily basis? To be clear to all who read this, secondhand smoke is the same/identical Class A carcinogen known to cause cancer in humans as asbestos, radon, benzene and a number of other toxic substances. We all should ask ourselves and our elected officials, why is our reaction not the same for exposure to secondhand smoke as it is to asbestos exposure?
The primary reason this occurs is due to a history of the tobacco industry spending billions of dollars annually to market their deadly products to the point that smoking remains a normalized activity in our society.
Concerned public health individuals and organizations are striving to denormalize this addictive activity.
Ironically, in 1993, smoking was still permitted in school buildings. I urged Mayor Dinkins to explain to us why smoking was still allowed in schools then when secondhand smoke was already known to be an equivalent Class A carcinogen as asbestos. I never received a response.