Steve McQueen’s Widow Discusses How Mesothelioma Took Movie Star’s Life
Barbara Minty McQueen, widow of movie star Steve McQueen, will appear next Tuesday at a U.S. House of Representatives staff briefing to discuss how mesothelioma took the life of her husband and why the United States should ban asbestos. She’ll appear at the briefing along with experts on public health and occupational safety.
Inhaling asbestos fibers causes serious respiratory disease including lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs and abdominal cavity. Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year and there is no known cure for the disease.
McQueen, one of the most charismatic film stars of the 1970s, was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in 1979 at the height of his fame. A proud veteran, McQueen had served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1947 to 1950. McQueen believed that he was exposed to asbestos while removing insulation from the massive pipes in a ship’s hold while working in the Washington D.C. Navy Yard. Veterans account for approximately a third of the people diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Shipyard workers have an elevated risk of exposure to mesothelioma. It’s also possible that he was exposed to significant amounts of asbestos in New York and Hollywood sound stages. McQueen died in November 1980 at age 50, less than a year after his diagnosis.
“Mesothelioma is a horrible disease,” said Barbara McQueen in a statement issued by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, an advocacy group for families dealing with mesothelioma. “It robbed me of my life and future with Steve and took away an icon beloved by millions around the world.:
Barbara McQueen noted that most people think that asbestos has been banned in the United States, but that is not accurate. Although asbestos has not been mined in the U.S. since 2002, the country imported 1,100 tons of chrysotile asbestos in the first half of 2011 for manufacturing needs, according to government records.
“I want to ask President Obama and the Congress to get off the bench, get in the game and immediately ban the importation and use of asbestos,” she said. “By coming to Washington, D.C., I want to bring awareness that asbestos is still legal in the U.S. and continues to kill. It can kill a movie star, a musician or a construction worker. It takes no prisoners.”
Barbara McQueen an author, photographer and former model, has written a new book “Steve McQueen: The Last Mile… Revisited,” in which she details their life together and the film star’s battle with mesothelioma and the physical and emotional pain he endured while seeking cancer treatment in the United State and Mexico.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer declared asbestos to be a human carcinogen more than 30 years ago. Asbestos causes an estimated 107,000 preventable deaths each year around the world, according to the World Health Organization.
For information about treatments for mesothelioma, click here.