We Need More Leaders Like Dr. Stephen Levin

February 22, 2012  |  Mesothelioma

Of all the medical causes that Dr. Stephen Levin could have chosen, he picked the American worker. For that we’re grateful.

In the wake of the 2001 World Trade Center collapse, Dr. Levin helped first responders gain much-needed access to better healthcare. He called on lawmakers to require bridge builders to wear respirators and protect themselves from lead poisoning.

He became America’s leading expert on asbestos-related disease and helped care for hundreds of its victims.

The world is a safer place because of Dr. Levin, who died Feb. 7 at his New York home.

Who will we turn to now to champion an American ban on asbestos?

Dr. Levin’s scientific and medical knowledge will not go unnoticed.

He led the charge in Libby, Mont., where a vermiculite mine laden with asbestos sickened and killed hundreds in the small town. Dr. Levin studied the air around the mine and found high amounts of the deadly mineral in the air.

The mine has been closed for nearly 20 years, but today the effects continue. Dr. Levin not only proved that the air was tainted but also treated many who complained of symptoms. As many as 400 of the town’s 2,600 residents could have died from asbestos-related disease, even those who didn’t work in the mine.

Dr. Levin was co-director of the Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He had held that position since 1987.

The center had become a leader in occupational medicine. Reports show that the clinic served as many as 4,000 patients each year.

Dr. Levin was one of the leaders in helping first responders of the World Trade Center collapse receive medical care. In the wake of the collapse, the rescuers had sifted through the burning rubble, inhaling asbestos and other carcinogenic particles. His studies and treatment of the thousands of police officers, firefighters and other rescuers brought attention to their respiratory illnesses.

In December 2010, Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named for a police officer who died after developing respiratory symptoms shared by other rescuers. The bill allocated more than $4 billion to provide treatment for the responders for years to come.

Dr. Levin’s important work showed that there is still a need to help the American worker. Despite the numerous advances, we need more experts like Dr. Levin who will be our voice for a safer world.

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