A Matter of Fact: Making the Asbestos Debate Mainstream

A Matter of Fact Interview

Every once in a while, you get an email that makes you yell out loud. I received one of those emails a few weeks ago, and I literally screamed when I read it.

Hi Heather,

I am Soledad O’Brien’s executive producer in Washington, D.C. We wanted to do an interview about the dangers of asbestos and the potential changes by the EPA. I was wondering what your schedule is like in the next couple of weeks. We tape on Thursdays in Washington, D.C.

Please let me know!

SOLEDAD O’BRIEN!? The Soledad O’Brien! She’s a hard-hitting journalist whose compassion shows through in all she does, and a woman who isn’t afraid to talk about the hard stuff. She was contacting me to talk about my thoughts on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to allow new uses of asbestos on her show, A Matter of Fact.

It’s never really been a secret how I feel about this administration’s stance on asbestos and the other toxic chemicals and regulations they’ve found themselves involved with. I have published op-eds in The Guardian and The Progressive, which were picked up and shared by other publications throughout the country. I did a video with Greenpeace last year airing my concerns about the EPA, and now, Soledad O’Brien wanted me to appear on her show.

Setting the Stage

Mary Hesdorffer, the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, which happens to be in Washington, D.C. and is a short distance from the Newseum, was also looped in for the taping.

We were able to coordinate our schedules to be in D.C. for taping the next week. I’ve learned from doing different media appearances and podcasts that things either move super fast, or at a snail’s pace. This one happened to move super fast. Before I knew it, I was flying to Washington, D.C., and taping Ms. O’Brien’s show at the prestigious Newseum Broadcast Studios. Mary and I met up earlier and rode to the studio together. After wandering around for a little bit, we finally found our contact who brought us back to the green room.

Ms. O’Brien was taping three episodes of A Matter of Fact that day and we were the last interview. To have this issue taken up and talked about by someone with a show as big as Ms. O’Brien’s tells me that people are taking notice.

This Matters More than Ever

I’ve been around the mesothelioma community, and educating people about the dangers of asbestos, for the better part of a decade. I’ve seen the devastation asbestos-related diseases cause firsthand, and the idea that the EPA is even thinking about allowing new uses of asbestos when it should be banned makes my blood boil.

I told Ms. O’Brien that I have lost 13 people I know to mesothelioma just this year. The amount of pain, suffering, and loss is not something I talk about often, but it is something I deal with on a near daily basis.

But when Soledad O’Brien takes notice and offers me a place on her show, that tells me I am doing the right thing. I refuse to stay silent because too many people have been. Through no fault of their own they can’t fight anymore, so I will be their mouthpiece. I will champion the cause for all of those who can’t.

I’m not going to lie, being on her show was a rush, and even more so was seeing it on television. My eternal thanks go to Soledad O’Brien for pushing the envelope and talking about the difficult topics. Hopefully, other journalists follow her lead and this will not be the last time you see me on a show like this. If you didn’t catch the segment and would like to watch, check it out here.

I’m confident I will be getting more emails that make me yell out loud, and more opportunities to tell people about the amazing mesothelioma community. It’s more important now than ever to shed some much-needed light on a topic that has needed it for far too long.