Insulators support Breath of Life Foundation
March 8, 2017
By Marty Mulcahy, Editor
Construction workers have a big stake in the prevention, detection, treatment and cure of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
That’s why the Breath of Life Foundation is partnering with and is supporting research, diagnostic, treatment and physician training efforts at St. John Providence Park Hospital in Southfield, one of only three such facilities in the Midwest.
On Feb. 20, Breath of Life made a “Big Check” presentation to the Providence Health Foundation in the amount of $60,000 to help further the medical team’s efforts. The funds are primarily raised through a golf fundraiser. Breath of Life has raised about $400,000 for asbestosis-related research over the past several years.
“All the trades are affected by asbestos, not just members of the insulators union,” said Michigan native Greg Revard, secretary-treasurer of the Heat and Frost Insulators International Union. “I know when I was young I worked in areas where you could only see a few feet in front of you because the air was so thick with airborne asbestos.”
Established in 2009, the Breath of Life Foundation is a collaborative effort of the Central States Insulation Association, the Central States Conference of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Union, and others that serve the insulation industry in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization supporting efforts which may result in the prevention, detection, treatment and cure of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
Thousands of older workers, retirees and their immediate family members have been diagnosed with occupational-related lung diseases, and many active workers should be aware of the potential for asbestos exposure. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that 11 million people were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978, when use of the material began to be phased out.
Dr. Michael Harbut, professor of medicine at Michigan State University, leads a team of nine post-doctorate fellows at Providence Park who research, diagnose and treat victims of occupational asbestos-related diseases.
“We can’t thank the Breath of Life Foundation enough for the donation,” Dr. Harbut said. “Here at Providence we have kept the spark, and hopefully it will lead to a blaze in doing this work the future.” He said the group has a treatment clinic for occupational lung diseases, and has two papers in progress aimed for a presentation at the National Cancer Institute.
Harbut said unfortunately, the occupational lung disease training programs at Michigan State, University of Michigan and Wayne State have all ended over the last decade, and there are now only a handful of physician training centers in the nation. The only one in Michigan is at St. John Providence.
“We’re very supportive of the work of Dr. Harbut and the fellows, and there is certainly not enough of this type of research going on in the country,” said Dr. David Svinarich, Vice President, Research at St. John Providence. “Our activities tend to be more in the clinical area; we are always looking at better ways of diagnosing and treatment, and put ourselves in a better position to treat occupational disease.”
Among the doctors doing that diagnosing and treating of patients with occupational lung disease is one of the pulmonary-critical care fellows on staff at St. John Providence, second-year Fellow Dr. Sandip Saha.
“I’m very pleased to be able to work with Dr. Harbut in this clinic,” he said. “I have gained a real appreciation of the effect this disease can have on the lives of the people who are afflicted, and it’s through patient examinations that we get to know the symptoms and become better able to treat occupational lung disease.”
Greg Revard said his dad, Joseph Revard, was an insulator who died of an asbestos-related disease at age 56 in 1989. Greg’s mom, Carol, recently died of lung cancer at age 84. She washed her husband’s work clothes, Revard said, a process that always included shaking out the white asbestos that fell into his cuffed pant legs at the jobsite. “She’s a perfect example of someone who was afflicted with asbestosis through secondary exposure,” Revard said.
If you suspect you were exposed to asbestos, go to www.breathoflifefoundation.net for more information on lung-related diseases, potential screening and possible treatment options.