Did you know April 1-7 was Global Asbestos Awareness Week?

I had no idea, until I started seeing a bunch of Google News alerts a few weeks ago featuring stories on retired sheet metal workers who were getting their lungs tested for mesothelioma, a type of cancer that typically affects the lining of the lungs or the walls of the chest.

Exposure to asbestos is the most common culprit, which is why the union-affiliated Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust has long worked with the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation to screen workers and raise awareness of the disease.

Randall Krocka, the institute’s administrator, says that thanks to the work of groups like the mesothelioma foundation, people who worked in HVAC construction decades ago when asbestos was common and are diagnosed today have a much better outlook than they once did.

The foundation attends many of the mesothelioma screenings the institute holds at sheet metal works union halls and training centers across the country.

“This is more of a proactive approach to help get sheet metal workers some support,” Krocka said. “It’s another resource or help with the members with a positive diagnosis and potentially peace of mind for those who have been screened or diagnosed.”

More details on the institute’s program is at its website