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Walk raises awareness of asbestos dangers

No cures for the diseases it creates
Walk raises awareness of asbestos dangers

An organization dedicated to raising awareness about issues surrounding asbestos is planning its second annual walk.

Walk for Truth—Asbestos Kills 2013 will take place on Saturday, June 22. The AREA (Asbestos-related Research, Education and Advocacy) Fund is hosting the event to honour asbestos victims and to raise awareness of the devastating effects of asbestos exposure, as well as raise funds for asbestos-related research, education and advocacy projects.

The diseases caused by exposure to asbestos can affect anybody, said Tracy Ford, AREA Fund co-founder. “Obviously workers are affected more than anyone,” she said. “It doesn’t take a lot to be exposed to asbestos and there is no known safe exposure limit.”

More than 4,000 products contained asbestos and these products are in buildings constructed before 1990, including homes, public buildings and workplaces. “Homeowners need to know if they are going to tear something apart, cut holes in something or demolish something, it’s advised to have some testing done, because it was in everything,” Tracy said. “There are no cures for the diseases it creates. Prevention is the only ‘cure.’”

The Ford family created the AREA Fund in 2010 in loving memory of Dave Ford, Tracy’s father, who died of mesothelioma, a terminal cancer in the lining of the lungs caused by asbestos. The fund was created when the family learned that asbestos-related diseases are the number one occupational killer in Canada, yet there was no Canadian fund to specifically support asbestos-related research, education and advocacy work. AREA Fund’s mission is to raise funds for asbestos-related research, education and advocacy projects and to raise awareness of the devastating effects of exposure to asbestos.

The walk, which starts at Powell River Recreation Complex, features guest speakers, including New Democratic Party Winnipeg MP Pat Martin, an outspoken activist for banning asbestos, who is returning for the second year.

Participants will help raise awareness by carrying asbestos message signs on the 3.5-kilometre loop along Joyce Avenue and will honour asbestos victims by dropping 107 daisies from the complex footbridge into the creek below. The daisies represent the 107,000 people that the World Health Organization estimates will die from asbestos-related diseases this year alone. The walk will close with a hot dog and veggie dog by-donation barbeque, hosted by CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) Local 798 and a photo opportunity for children with Powell River Fire Rescue’s mascot Sparky. All donations will be given to the AREA Fund.

Following the barbeque, there will be a free book reading and signing at River City Coffee with Canadian author Jim Williams for his award-winning novel Rock Reject. It won the inaugural Beacon Award for social justice literature. Set in a BC asbestos mining town in the 1970s, it is a story about accepting responsibility for one’s actions, corporate irresponsibility, and the blind pursuit of profit at the expense of physical and environmental health. The author, originally from BC, is flying in from Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his family.

On Friday, June 21, there will be a continuing medical education session on asbestos-related diseases at Powell River General Hospital, open to all medical practitioners. The presenters, Dr. Christopher Lee, of BC Cancer Agency, and Dr. Tim Takaro, from Vancouver General Hospital’s Occupational Medicine Clinic, are well-respected experts in the field.

Free coffee and cookies are available during sign-in for the walk, from 10:30 to 11:15 am at the recreation complex. Speakers will address participants at 11:30 am and the walk begins at noon.

For more information and to register for the walk, readers can visit the fund online.

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