A Tennessee woman has become quite the activist, thanks to her husband’s battle with something the couple referred to as “The Monster”. In this case, the demon was asbestos, a once widely-used toxic material that took the life of Randy Roberts, who developed deadly mesothelioma after working with asbestos-containing materials for more than 15 years.
Today, his widow, Wendy Roberts, spends her time writing emails and letters to the U.S. government, drafting petitions, and helping with fundraisers for other mesothelioma victims, notes an article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, all in the hopes of finally achieving a ban on asbestos use in the United States.
On June 22, Wendy saw the U.S. get one step closer to a total ban when Pres. Barack Obama signed a bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act that will make it easier for the EPA to outlaw so-called “dangerous substances” such as asbestos.
“I promised Randy that I would fight The Monster for him,” says Wendy, 56. “I hope this new law will prevent people suffering the way he did. But I wish the battle had been won long before now, so my husband could be here with me.”
Randy was a hard worker, his wife points out. The couple was looking forward to one day retiring and traveling the U.S., with Pebble Beach Golf Course as Randy’s first planned stop, Wendy explains. But a stint working for a carpet maker was what likely caused Randy’s early demise.
At that workplace, he was responsible for cleaning giant dryers of lint and other debris after the carpets were treated with chemicals and flame retardants. Roberts shoveled out the dryers and then scrubbed them until they were clean again.
In a lawsuit, the now defunct carpet maker was named and the company settled with the Roberts family out of court. They knew they were in the wrong, Wendy says.
“After the deposition [with individuals from the company], each carpet company lawyer walked by me as he left and each said, “‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry’ very softly,” Wendy recalls. They had tried to prove that he was exposed to asbestos somewhere else, she explains, but it all came down to the carpet company and the presence of asbestos in those large dryers.
There was no disputing the evidence, even 30 years after Randy worked there.
It was shortly after that that Wendy joined the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, founded in 2004 by Linda Reinstein, whose husband also died of asbestos-caused cancer. But the organization’s work towards achieving a ban was too late for Randy. “The Monster” got him about three years after his diagnosis and he died at age 56, proof that mesothelioma is not just an old man’s disease.
Roberts’ case is just one of so many where the evidence clearly shows that companies that used asbestos in their workplaces were often quite aware that what they were doing was wrong and was harmful to their employees.
Still, the use continued. The only way those like Roberts can fight back against “The Monster” are through lawsuits that will hopefully result in some compensation for victims and their families/survivors.