Our Tribute to Heather on Lung Leavin’ Day 2 February

At the age of just 36, Heather Von St. James did not expect to be diagnosed with Mesothelioma so young. Upon the diagnosis of this cancer, Heather was given just 15 months to live. On February 2nd, 2006, Heather underwent major surgery to have her lung removed, in the hope to save her life. Heather’s sister declared the day “Lung Leavin’ Day”. 16 years later and after successful surgery, Heather is still fighting the cause to raise awareness of the disease.

Mesothelioma, a form of cancer commonly found in the lungs or abdomen, is caused by exposure to asbestos. Simple exposure to airborne asbestos is that deadly. Whilst the number of new cases per year is approximately 3,000, an even more harrowing stat is that around 20,000,000 people are at risk of developing mesothelioma each year due to exposure to asbestos.

“When I was a girl, I wore my dad’s work coat all the time. It was covered in asbestos from his construction job” Heather claimed on the Lung Leavin’ Day website. Asbestos is still found in many industrial buildings, homes and schools and is invisible to the naked eye. Heather’s story is, unfortunately, one of many. But Lung Leavin’ Day is about, in Heather’s words “building hope and awareness”.

Asbestos and Mesothelioma is a growing problem in construction; however, it’s not alone. Almost 70% of cancer diagnosis in relation to construction health is caused by asbestosis – the next highest is exposure to silica. The APPG report released in 2020 in the UK entitled Silica – the next asbestos? explores this idea in more detail, but this is a subject that has been discussed scientifically, a long time before this date – e.g. The Guardian in Australia stating that silica IS the new asbestos.

It is estimated by the HSE that in 2005, respirable crystalline silica (RCS) was the cause to over 500 deaths in UK construction. Like asbestos, RCS can cause extreme problems within breathing as well as, like in Heather’s case, forms of lung cancer and inevitably silicosis. Whilst some treatment is available for Mesothelioma, similar treatments are not yet available for silicosis.

As shocking as this is, Heather’s message is one of hope and awareness of this issue, and many Health and Safety associations and companies are working to reduce the risk to employees from the exposure of hazardous substances, and the damage this can cause. Trolex is one such company that is on this mission, by inventing dust monitoring equipment that measures the dangers in real time – this isn’t unique to Trolex. However, specific monitoring of silica in real time IS.

Launching in May 2022, the Trolex Air XS Silica Monitor is the first real-time RCS monitor of its kind, which allows for dangerous silica dust to be detected quicker than any other method. This ground-breaking technology will eventually save millions of lives.

Today, on Lung Leavin’ Day, the message is simple.

Exposure to hazardous substances, in particular dangerous particulates is a serious matter. Silica, like asbestos, kills.

It’s time to raise awareness of this issue and GET REAL on this matter.

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