Steve McQueen was the King of Cool. But do you know how he died?

Steve McQueen? Super cool. Asbestos? Definitely not.

Do you remember the actor Steve McQueen?

I mean, who doesn't remember Steve McQueen? OK, maybe people born after he died in 1980 wouldn't remember him. For those people, I will speak in the universal language of pictures. Spoiler alert: He's pretty cool.

Steve McQueen being cool on the set of "Wanted: Dead or Alive":


CBS Television, public domain

Steve McQueen being cool with his Jaguar and his horse, NBD:

CBS Television, public domain

Steve McQueen being cool while looking straight into my soul:

Steve McQueen being cool doing his own motorcycle stunts for the movie "The Great Escape":

There is even a song about how cool Steve McQueen is. You can listen to it right here. It goes:

"I wanna be, the coolest man you've ever seen. I just wanna be your Steve McQueen."

Hopefully we are now all on the same page.

Steve McQueen was the King of Cool.

He was an avid race car enthusiast and earned a fair bit of cash while motorcycle racing in the 1950s. In 1974, he became the highest-paid movie star in the world. Everything he did was just. so. cool. Acting, racing, smoking cigarettes (which, let's be real, is not cool, but people thought it was cool, so we'll give him a tiny break).

But McQueen died of lung cancer in 1980.

"Ah-hah!" You say. "This is why you shouldn't smoke cigarettes! Because of the lung cancer and stuff." That is accurate. You shouldn't smoke cigarettes because of the lung cancer and stuff.

BUT WAIT — there's more to it.

McQueen's type of lung cancer is directly related to asbestos exposure.

In 1947, McQueen joined the Marine Corps, but he didn't totally lose his rebellious side.

Steve McQueen being cool playing a guy in the Navy in "The Sand Pebbles" in 1966.

After running off with a girlfriend for a couple weeks while he was a Marine, McQueen was put into the brig and later spent quite some time scraping asbestos off pipes on a ship. He was also exposed to asbestos while wearing fire-retardant racing suits.

In 1979, McQueen was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma.

"Ugh," you say. "That is not what is supposed to happen to totally cool Steve McQueen, because asbestos is very uncool."

You're right. Asbestos is decidedly not cool.

What's so uncool about asbestos? Let's review:

  • Today, asbestos-related diseases kill up to 15,000 Americans each year (a figure based on both federal death records as well as estimated deaths likely due to asbestos) and at least 107,000 people worldwide.
  • Most people don't show symptoms of an asbestos-related illness until at least 10 years after their exposure to asbestos.
  • Despite the fact that its health effects have been widely documented, asbestos is not banned in the U.S.
  • 30 million pounds of asbestos are still used in the U.S. each year.

What could be less cool than that?!

But that's the thing about asbestos: It's legal, still used in the United States, and kills the cool dudes.

Asbestos did not care how cool McQueen was, how famous he was going to be, or how much of a movie star icon he would become. Asbestos is horrible and scary for everyone, and dozens of countries all over the world have banned it — but not the U.S.

In 2012, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization awarded McQueen the Warren Zevon "Keep Me in Your Heart" Memorial Tribute Award. Below, you can watch the tribute video made for that occasion. It has an interview with McQueen's widow, Barbara, as well as a quote from Jordan Zevon, a spokesperson for the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.

As Zevon says, "We're celebrating a tough guy who died from this disease that even takes the tough guys away from us."

Steve McQueen? Super cool. Asbestos? Definitely not.

More
True
EWG Action Fund

Some people apparently don't understand just how unbelievably good Serena Williams is on the tennis court.

Why they don't understand this is unclear. She holds more open era Grand Slam titles than any other tennis player, male or female. She's set Olympic records, ranking records, age records, prize money earnings records—the woman is a record-breaking machine. (Fun fact: Williams is the highest paid female athlete of all time, having earned $86 million in prize money during her career. The next highest is Maria Sharipova, with $38 million in prize money. If that's not total dominance, I don't know what is.)

Her list of tennis championships is a mile long. You don't even have to follow tennis to know that Serena Williams is a freaking powerhouse of a tennis player, not to mention one of the greatest athletes of all time.

And yet, there are dudes who believe they could take her on.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
Alie Ward

Your dinner plate shouldn't shame you for eating off of it. But that's exactly what a set being sold at Macy's did.

The retailer has since removed the dinnerware from their concept shop, Story, after facing social media backlash for the "toxic message" they were sending.

The plates, made by Pourtions, have circles on them to indicate what a proper portion should look like, along with "helpful — and hilarious — visual cues" to keep people from "overindulging."

There are serval different styles, with one version labeling the largest portion as "mom jeans," the medium portion as "favorite jeans," and the smallest portion as "skinny jeans."

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

The 2013 documentary "Blackfish" shined a light on the cruelty that orcas face in captivity and created a sea change in the public's perception of SeaWorld and other marine life parks.

This "Blackfish" backlash nearly deep-sixed SeaWorld and led Canada to pass a law that bans oceanariums from breeding whales and dolphins or holding them in captivity. Animals currently being held in Canada's marine parks are allowed to remain as well as those taken in for rehabilitation.

Podcaster and MMA announcer Joe Rogan saluted Canada's decision on a recent episode.

"First of all, what assholes are we that we have those goddman things in captivity? A big fucking shout out to Canada because Canada, mostly probably through the noise that my friend Phil Demers has created in trying to get MarineLand shut down, Canada has banned all dolphin and all whale captivity. It's amazing. I hope the United States does it well, I hope it goes worldwide," Rogan told his guest, economist and mathematician Eric Weinstein.

Keep Reading Show less
Planet
Youtube

Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities