5 Famous people who died from exposure to asbestos
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral compound that has been used in various products and building materials for decades. It wasn’t until the 1970s that health professionals realised it was responsible for several cancer illnesses and other health conditions.
While it has spelled the end of many everyday people’s lives, it has also taken some famous people too. Read on to learn which celebrities and famous people died due to asbestos exposure.
American actor Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen, or the King of Cool, as he was also known, was a major icon of the 1960s. He was an Academy Award nominee and was well known for his roles in The Sand Pebbles, The Cincinnati Kid, The Getaway, and The Magnificent Seven.
By 1974, Steve McQueen was the highest-paid movie star in the world and was in high demand by directors and producers alike.
However, in 1978, Steve developed a cough. He gave up smoking and went on antibiotics, but it continued to get worse.
By December 1979, and after filming The Hunter, he was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. There was no known cure for the asbestos exposure-related condition.
Steve initially blamed both movie stage insulation and racing driver attire and helmets for the exposure. However, he later thought it might have been the asbestos lagging he removed from piping on a troopship during his years in the marines.
While Steve underwent several unconventional treatment methods to cure his condition, he died after surgery to remove tumours at age 50 in 1980.
Veteran Australian mountain climber Lincoln Hall
Most Australians will know the name, Lincoln Hall, for he represents the heart and soul of Australia and is the very definition of determination.
Lincoln Ross Hall was a mountain climber, philanthropist, author, and adventurer. He was part of the first Australian expedition in 1984 to climb Mount Everest and reached the summit after his second attempt in 2006.
If that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Lincoln also wrote seven books, founded the Australian Himalayan Foundation, and spoke around the world about his experiences. By 1987, he had been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia.
Lincoln put himself in several dangerous situations during his mountaineering years, but it wasn’t the mountains that killed him; it was asbestos. Lincoln died of mesothelioma at age 56 in 2012, caused by asbestos exposure while working as a builder in the 1960s.
American film and television actor Paul Gleason
Most people remember Paul Gleason from the hit movie The Breakfast Club, where he played the role of assistant principal Richard Vernon. Paul also appeared in Trading Places, All My Children, and Die Hard.
In 2006, Paul died of pleural mesothelioma which he is believed to have contracted while working for his father on building sites as a teenager. He was 67 years old when he died in Los Angeles.
Australian country singer and parliamentarian Ernest Bridge
Ernest, or Ernie as most people knew him, was a talented country music singer and member of the WA Legislative Assembly for over 20 years. He represented the Labour Party then became a Labour Independent MP. He was also the first indigenous Australian to become a Cabinet minister in an Australian government.
But it wasn’t his parliamentarian achievements that made him a household name, but his illnesses that eventually took his life. Ernie was diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and pleural disease. He sued the WA government and a range of other companies in March 2013, stating that he got the conditions from asbestos dust and fibres while carrying out his ministerial duties. Ernie died that same month.
American singer, songwriter, and actress Donna Summer
Donna Summer, who rarely went by her actual name of LaDonna Gaines, was a singer, songwriter, and actress who shot to fame in the 1970s. She was a five-time Grammy Award Winner and sold over 130 million records. To this day, she remains one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.
Most people know Donna Summer for her 1989 hit “This Time I Know It’s For Real” as well as “Hot Stuff”, and “Love to Love You Baby”. Chart-topping hits such as these earned her the title of Queen of Disco.
Donna led a healthy lifestyle, but it was lung cancer from asbestos exposure that took her life on May 2012. She, along with thousands of others, was exposed to asbestos-contaminated dust in the vicinity of ground zero during the 9/11 terror attacks in New York.
Check out this amazing last dance aged 62, singing with David Foster (only 18 months before her death).
The non-discriminatory killer
Whether you’re famous or not, asbestos doesn’t care who it takes. While many countries have banned the use of asbestos materials, there is still a long way to go until it’s a thing of the past. Always take care around anything you believe could contain asbestos and contact experts for identification and removal.