Cousins Produce Mesothelioma Documentary about Secondhand Exposure Grandmother
A pair of cousins whose beloved grandmother died unexpectedly from secondhand mesothelioma have produced a 75-minute documentary profiling her struggle as well as that of others affected by exposure to asbestos.
The film, entitled “Dirty Laundry”, will be featured this week at the San Luis Obispo (California) International Film Festival and will appear at the Kansas City Film Festival next month.
Conor B. Lewis and Zack Johnson acquired footage for their film by cycling some 4,000 miles from Astoria, Oregon to New York City, stopping along the way not only to conduct interviews with Iva Lewis’ doctors and family members, but also to speak to researchers and others involved in the treatment of and fight against aggressive asbestos-caused cancer.
The pair also made stops in two of the locations hardest hit by asbestos exposure – Libby, Montana, where hundreds died due to the asbestos-tainted W. R. Grace and Co. vermiculite mine; and Ambler, Pennsylvania, home of the Bo-Rit Superfund Site and the so-called “White Cliffs of Ambler”, where manufacturers allowed asbestos waste to pollute a 30-acre site surrounded by hundreds of homes and thousands of individuals.
The cousins wanted to produce “Dirty Laundry” because they wanted the public to better understand their grandmother’s story and the story of those like her who are/were sickened by secondary exposure to asbestos.
Iva Lewis’ husband worked for 35 years for the Shell Oil Company in Roxana, Illinois, and because of his job as a pipe insulator, he was exposed to asbestos every day.
Hence, he brought asbestos dust home on his clothes, and when Iva shook them out before washing them, she inhaled tiny asbestos fibers, which eventually caused her diagnosis of mesothelioma.
The pair notes that during their 78-day bike ride they were able to meet scores of people like their grandmother that were touched by asbestos in one way or another.
And while they wanted their documentary to focus on Iva’s plight and on the disease in general, they were also able to uncover facts about the negligence and greed of companies that continued to use asbestos-containing products for decades without any regard for their employees, even though – in countless cases – they were aware of the dangers of the mineral.
The cousins, along with producer Bryan Lemon, hope that the documentary will prompt further discussion about the plight of mesothelioma sufferers and about the use – and possible ban – of asbestos-containing materials.
They want the public to know that mesothelioma is more than just a disease mentioned on late-night attorney ads and that the battle is real for the thousands in the U.S. who die of this disease each year.