Annual Conference by U.S. Victims' Group 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



It was totally fitting that the 5th annual conference of the Asbestos Diseases Awareness Organization (ADAO)1 took place in Manhattan Beach, a few miles from Los Angeles, California. For it was in this small town on the Pacific Coast that Alan Reinstein was, on June 16, 2003, diagnosed with mesothelioma. From the chaos, frustration and eventual tragedy that flowed from that diagnosis, a new grass-roots group – the ADAO – was born. The Reinsteins' despair and ignorance about asbestos spurred Alan and Linda to reach out to others who were faced with the same mountains to climb. In looking for potentially life-saving answers in a world ruled by commercial forces, who could you trust to tell you the truth about your medical, care and legal options? Who better to rely on than other victims? So, the Reinsteins reached out to their friends, local community and online resources. Together with another family affected by the asbestos scourge, the Larkin and Reinstein families founded the ADAO.

Those attending the events which were part of the ADAO's 2009 conference – the meet and greet session (March 27), the conference (March 28) and the remembrance service (March 29)2 – included many individuals from the Manhattan Beach community; friends who had been there for the Reinsteins during the tough times, helping them meet the physical, emotional and practical challenges that the unforgiving illness mesothelioma brings. The presence of Renée, Debbie, Mayor Portia Cohen – not Charley's Angels, but Alan and Linda's Angels – reinforced the message of solidarity and unity that the ADAO disseminates at its events, on its website and in all that it does. The weekend was a real family affair which kicked off with a social gathering on Friday night during which speakers, delegates and volunteers had the chance to get to know other members of the ADAO community. Also, introduced at this session was the youngest attendee of the weekend: Willow Zevon, the baby daughter of the ADAO's National Spokesperson, Musician Jordan Zevon.3 A delegation of five asbestos widows from Manchester, England participated in the 2009 events and brought with them their unique sense of humor and expressions of solidarity with the other families who have suffered from the asbestos plague. Vera Rigby, from the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group, addressed the Remembrance Service.


Vera Rigby

Saturday's program focused on advances to prevent, detect and treat asbestos-related diseases not just in the United States but also in Europe, Africa and Asia.4 Asbestos victims, medical professionals, technical and environmental experts, trade unionists and global activists shared information on a wide range of subjects including medical techniques and procedures which were being pioneered, political strategies which were possible in post-Bush Washington and the ongoing asbestos crisis in India and South Africa.5 Pulitzer Prize winner Andrew Schneider, whose articles on the asbestos contamination in Libby, Montana helped bring this public health disaster to national prominence, gave the keenly anticipated keynote address. Awards given to Senator Barbara Boxer, Dr. Stephen Levin, Margaret Seminario, Pralhad Malvadkar, Raghunath Manwar and Don Marz paid tribute to the men and women whose efforts have paved the way for the ADAO's campaign to ban asbestos and raise awareness of the needs of asbestos victims. As the information sessions came to an end, National Asbestos Awareness Week began with Senate Resolution 57 confirming that the ADAO's campaign had reached the attention of those at the highest levels of the federal government.6

Reflecting on the productive and busy weekend, Linda Reinstein, Co-founder of the ADAO, commented:

“In many ways this year's event felt like a homecoming. We are so privileged to have the support not only of those individuals who have been affected by asbestos throughout the country but also of concerned citizens – like our friends in Manhattan Beach – who have seen the grief caused by asbestos and have taken steps to educate themselves and their communities about the silent killer. We could not even begin to do the work we do without the moral as well as the practical and financial support from the ADAO community. We have been gratified by the positive feedback we have received from the 2009 conference and look forward to 2010 when we will be reaching out to people in Chicago, Illinois who have, like folks throughout the U.S., experienced the devastation caused by asbestos.”


Linda Reinstein (left) with Conference 2009 Partners.


April 2, 2009




3 A scrapbook of selected images from the weekend are available at:

4 As in previous years, the ADAO conference was videoed and will be available in June 2009 on ADAO





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