Baldies' Blog began originally in the UK by a 26 year old journalist with a blood cancer on a mission to inform the world about bone marrow donation.

He has since died, and I took on the cause of making cancer care more transparent for everybody.

Cancer is a disease that will touch everybody through diagnosis or affiliation: 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed and 1 in 3 woman will hear those words, "You Have Cancer."

I invite you to read how I feel along my journey and
how I am continuing to live a full life alongside my Hodgkin's lymphoma, with me controlling my cancer, not my cancer controlling me.

I hope that "Baldies' Blog" will prepare you to handle whatever life sends you, but especially if it's the message, "You Have Cancer."

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Protecting their True Interests: The EPA and Libby, Montana

Welcome Baldies' First Guest Blogger: Krista Peterson

  Health care reform may be dominating the media, but the recent call for reversing health care reforms are not the only government actions that threaten the health and safety of millions of Americans. While the refusal to support those seeking lifesaving health treatments is certainly appalling, failing to initially protect individuals from health threats is yet another strike against our government of late. Specifically, the EPA’s failure to act in the best interests of Americans and protect citizens stands out as one of the most prominent issues of political and fiscal concerns.

Despite the EPA’s slogan advertising “40 years of protecting health and the environment,” recent developments have exposed discrepancies in that promise. Best exemplifying that failure, the EPA has not properly alerted as many as 35 million homeowners of a dangerous carcinogen they might have in their homes. 
That material, known as Zonolite insulation, was produced in Libby Montana for decades, despite an internal 1982 EPA report warning of the dangers of this material. That mine remained open an additional eight years because of the organization’s unwillingness to take action and publish the report. Eventually, as the years accumulated, the EPA’s poor handling of the situation became even more dangerous to the organization as more and more individuals became sick.
Today, more than 400 deaths in the small settlement of Libby have been attributed to the mine’s production of this material. What makes Zonolite so dangerous is that the primary material used in its production, vermiculite, was contaminated with asbestos fibers. When individuals are exposed to asbestos, the material can embed in the tissue surrounding organs, leading to the development of a cancer known as mesothelioma. Unfortunately, mesothelioma symptoms remain latent for 20 to 50 years, often appearing only in the cancer’s later stages, making treatment difficult.
However, the EPA’s inaction has not only devastated the small town that mined for the material, but the millions of homes that potentially hold this particular brand of insulation in their walls and ceilings. From 1919 to 1970, more than 70% of all U.S. vermiculite produced came from this mine in Libby. Actions such as the EPA and federal government’s funding for winterization in homes, which involved the use of large amounts of insulation, indicates their responsibility in spreading this threat, helping to explain their hesitancy to alert homeowners.
As more and more Americans begin to exhibit symptoms of mesothelioma, we must face the reality that our government cannot always be trusted to fulfill its responsibilities to citizens. This situation, growing from one small town’s tribulations to a national catastrophe, represents yet another example of our government’s unwillingness to take action until the situation becomes too great to ignore. The EPA’s clear downplaying of the situation that began in Libby and has since spread across the country is completely overshadowed by painful realities, such as the devastating mesothelioma life expectancy those infected with this toxin can expect.
As a nation, we must not content ourselves to silently accepting the government’s failure. After witnessing the EPA’s efforts to transfer responsibility to individuals, instructing visitors to Libby to simply “leave it alone,” we must hold our officials responsible for their failings. With the last three EPA administrators promising to issue formal warnings of the situation in Libby yet doing nothing, we must realize the time to wait for our government to account for their mistakes is over. As illustrated by this national disaster, we simply can no longer afford to let the government tell us to breathe easy while we choke on the lies that attempt to free them from responsibility.   

Krista Peterson is a 23 year old recent graduate from the University of Central Florida. She is an aspiring writer focusing her passion on the health and wellness of communities. Krista uses her writings to spread awareness of modern health issues and seeks inspire others to take action. 
Her passion comes from her family, some of whom have been diagnosed with cancers and other illnesses. 
In her free time, I enjoy reading, writing, doing yoga, and spending time with my family and 3 dogs.

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