‘Asbestos knows no boundaries’: Alton’s Miles for Meso rallies awareness

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ALTON IL— As far as the Amentos are concerned, asbestos knows no boundaries.
“There’s no safe amount of exposure,” said Marilyn Amento Saturday morning at Alton’s 10th annual Miles for Meso event. “My husband died from being exposed to asbestos in our town.” Her husband died in his 50s from mesothelioma.
Marilyn pointed out that not everyone exposed to asbestos contracts mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart and abdomen. Exposure to asbestos fibers through inhalation is tapped as the main cause of the disease. “Back home there are mountains of asbestos kids used to play on. It’s on cars, in the air, on the ground, it’s everywhere,” she said. “We come out here to raise awareness more than anything.”
Her son Joe Amento III was 10 years old when his father, Joe Amento Jr., died. His sibling was 8 years old.
This year marks the second Miles for Meso race for Marilyn and Joe III, traveling from Ambler, Pennsylvania, a small manufacturing town outside of Philadelphia where her family has lived for years. “Take baby steps. Start talking to people locally, and make your way up to state and federal reps,” said Joe Amento III of how spectators can help. As a 25-year-old participant this year, he raised the most funds individually. As a team, he and his mom were also among the top fundraisers. The pair were among many participating in either the 5K race or 3K fun run/walk through historic Alton Saturday morning, in celebration of September’s National Mesothelioma Awareness Day.
“I keep getting older as these kids get younger,” said Godfrey participant Mark Cleary. Despite two knee surgeries, the 77-year-old ran a roughly 30-minute time and won third place in his age division. “It’s great getting the community together, keeping the memories of people alive,” said Evelyn Campbell as she served up sweet treats, alongside her sister Yvonne Campbell, newest owner of My Just Desserts. Vendors delivered a taste of downtown Alton, amid other event features, including an acrobatic performance by the Jesse White Tumblers.
“We had our best registration year ever. Over 1,200 entered and probably over 1,500 people came out to support us,” said Todd Adamitis, chief operating officer and race director. “This race has always been about awareness, volunteerism and community. We really tried to spotlight some restaurants this year and it was a huge success.”
Simmons Hanly Conroy national law firm presented the event, and Metro Tri Club coordinated. All proceeds benefit mesothelioma awareness and research. Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was the fifth-year designated beneficiary. “It’s legal, but lethal,” said Linda Reinstein, CEO and co-founder of ADAO. She cited 40,000 Americans lost their lives in 2016 to the incurable, but preventable disease.
This comes as President Donald Trump’s administration recently worked to roll back regulations on deadly chemicals, excluding risk evaluation of asbestos’ presence in the environment and instead focusing on risk factors of direct contact of potential asbestos-ridden products, with no consideration for assessment. The move means the potential disposal of harmful chemicals may not factor in when it comes to a restriction, and air, ground and water risk contamination by exposure.
“If you don’t evaluate, how do you know the risk?” said Reinstein. “We want them to do their jobs.” Her efforts are driven by personal experience and the fight for knowledge, as her husband Alan died after a 2003 mesothelioma diagnosis. Her fifteen years of dedication has propelled a cumulative $130,000 raised for ADAO. This year’s Alton event is to generate more than $25,000. “We are committed to the fight for our community, because we have the truth and it’s enough,” she said. “I’ve buried my husband because of this and have watched others do the same.” Attendees were able to pen EPA letters at the event, in support of an inclusive asbestos-tainted products ban with no exceptions.
During the event, Reinstein presented John Simmons, chairman of the law firm, with a U.S. flag that flew over the capitol last year. With the help of U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, the display honored mesothelioma survivors, victims and their families, and will fly again later this month. Simmons and Adamitis presented Reinstein and other ADAO leaders the oversized check, after race winners were awarded medals. Top women and men finishers received up to $500 in cash prizes.
Mike Mattmuller, six-year ADAO volunteer, has come a long way since being diagnosed at a young age. He came to Alton for his first year racing, from a town outside of Baltimore. As a survivor, and participant he said it was “amazing to see the support.”“I was shocked, being diagnosed at 29. Being so young was quite tragic,” said Mattmuller. “I get involved so others don’t have to go through what I have.” Mattmuller, now 36, has survived four rounds of chemotherapy and surgery of his lung and diaphragm, while sustaining a career and supporting a family over an 18-month recovery period.
“We want this ban,” he said. “My two-year-old daughter plays with Crayons and makeup. It’s (asbestos) found in both.”

Brittany Johnson, bjohnson@thetelegraph.com Published 7:23 pm CDT, Saturday, September 22, 2018
Reach reporter Brittany Johnson at 618-208-6460, ext. 1396.

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