Asbestos exposure is the direct cause of mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer that develops in the lungs, abdomen and heart. It can take 20-50 years to develop, which delays diagnosis.
Although it’s a rare cancer, nearly 43,000 people die each year from mesothelioma – including famous names you may know.
Scroll through to find out who! You’ll be surprised to find out which celebrities you know have died of mesothelioma.
An American rock singer-songwriter and musician, with hits such as “Werewolves of London” and “Johnny Strikes Up the Band.”
In 2002, he was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Zevon’s son, Jordan, suggests that it may be from Zevon’s childhood and playing in the attic of his father’s carpet store. He died in 2003 and his son, Jordan is now a spokesman for ADAO (Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization). Jordan often has to correct misconceptions of his dad’s death:
“There’s just so much misinformation out there about mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases. People see the late-night commercials and they equate it with sailors and factory workers, and Dad basically never worked a non-musical day in his life. And since then, we’ve found out that the whole thing about asbestos is that when it’s dry, a single asbestos fiber can get in your lungs and sit there, and 20 years later you’ve got mesothelioma…It’s not banned; people think it is, but it’s not, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
American actor Paul Gleason is most famously known for his role in “The Breakfast Club” as the Saturday detention teacher. He also starred in numerous movies, such as “Trading Places, “Die Hard,” and “Miami Blues.” He had a strong 50-year acting career in both television and movies.
As a teenager, Gleason worked on various construction sites for his father, a building contractor. According to his daughter, this is where he came into contact with asbestos. In 2006, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma and passed away only one month after his diagnosis.
Merlin Olsen’s career started in football with the LA Rams where he played for 15 seasons as a leading defensive star. His career continued successfully as a commentator, announcer and actor, starring in “Little House on the Prairie” and other TV shows.
In 2009, he was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma (cancer that attacks the abdomen). During his lifetime, Olsen did some construction work, which is where it’s speculated that he worked around asbestos dust. However, the Olsen family also filed a lawsuit against a number of businesses including NBC Studios and 20th Century Fox, alleging the companies negligently exposed him to asbestos. Olsen died within one year of his diagnosis at the age of 69.
Ed Lauter was a famous American actor who appeared in more than 200 films and TV episodes, starring in “The Longest Yard,” “Family Plot,” “ER”, “Shameless” and much more. During his 40-year career, Lauter worked with many of Hollywood’s biggest stars, from Jim Carrey to Alfred Hitchcock.
Lauter was diagnosed with mesothelioma just five months before his death. Unlike other mesothelioma victims, Lauter never worked in a high-risk industry such as construction, so it’s hard to determine where and when he was exposed to asbestos. One speculation is that he may have been exposed in his early 20s when he served in the military.
However, after his death at the age of 74, Lauter’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against numerous corporations such as CBS, NBC and Ford Motor Company. The lawsuit accuses CBS and NBC of having asbestos in the studios where Lauter filmed over many decades. Ford Motor Company was included due to the fact that asbestos is made with many auto parts such as brakes, and Lauter owned Ford vehicles of the years.
Also known as “The King of Cool,” Steve McQueen was an iconic actor, known for his roles in “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Great Escape” and “The Cincinnati Kid.”
McQueen was also an avid race car and motorcycle enthusiast. He often did many of his own car stunts in his movies, including the motorcycle chase in “The Great Escape.” He also considered being a professional race car driver and often competed in professional car races as a hobby, winning quite a few of them. McQueen also competed in off-road motorcycle races, such as the Baja 1000 and Elsinore Grand Prix.
In 1979, he was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma and McQueen blamed his diagnosis on asbestos exposure. He was exposed to asbestos throughout his lifetime, starting in the U.S. Marine Corps where one of his jobs was to remove asbestos lagging from pipes aboard a troop ship. McQueen also believed that asbestos was used in movie sound stage insulation. He was also exposed to asbestos as he often did a lot of his own motorcycle repair work and motorcycles pipes were lined with asbestos. Another factor may have been the flame-retardant suits that were constructed with asbestos, which was very common at the time.
McQueen passed away only a year after his diagnosis at the age of 50.
When Steve McQueen was a minor, he spent some time at the California Junior Boys Republic reformatory school in Chino, CA. Although he had a bumpy start when he first joined the school, he ultimately became a role model. At the age of 15, he was elected to the Boys Council for the school.
After his success as an actor, he returned to Boys Republic, where he made occasional visits to the school to play pool, speak about his experience and spend time with the students. It was later reported that he had an unusual reputation for demanding free items in bulk from movie studios, after he signed up to do a film. It was these items – such as electric razors or jeans, that he would turn around and donate to the Boys Republic school. In his later years, he donated big items from movie studios to the school and made occasional visits to the school to spend time with the students.
A-Tech Consulting will be participating in The Steve McQueen Car Show hosted by the Boys Republic on June 2, 2018.
A-Tech has partnered with the Boys Republic to continue to raise awareness of asbestos dangers. Many lives, like Steve McQueen, have been lost due to lack of education on asbestos and its negligent exposure. As an environmental consulting firm, A-Tech continues to spread the word on the dangers of asbestos and provides asbestos assessments, surveys and clearances to ensure a safe environment for you.
Interested in attending? Click here for a free ticket to the event courtesy of A-Tech!
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Egan, L. (2017, August 27) Popular Movies Filmed Using Asbestos. Retrieved from https://www.mesotheliomalawyercenter.org/blog/popular-movies-filmed-using-asbestos-leading-actors-death/
Bradley, P. (2016, July 5) Asbestos Killed Warren Zevon – Now His Son Is Fighting to Ban It Once and for All. Retrieved from http://www.laweekly.com/music/asbestos-killed-warren-zevon-now-his-son-is-fighting-to-ban-it-once-and-for-all-7094069
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Povtak, T. (2011, August 24) Famous People Who Battled Mesothelioma. Retrieved from https://www.asbestos.com/blog/2011/08/24/famous-people-who-battled-mesothelioma/
Steve McQueen. (2018, May 13) Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_McQfa>