Wednesday, June 23, 2010


For years it was known that the mine near Libby, Montana was an asbestos hell hole.  The federal and state governments knew it.  WR Grace, which ran the mine, new it. Yet, for decades it stayed open until 1990 anyway.  Many modern mines "allow" miners to shower after work.The mines of Libby did not offer showers or clothes to their employees. This means that every miner took his or her own clothes home at the end of the day, after they had been used in the mines all day. While dirt may be one issue, the bigger issue is that the clothes had been contaminated by asbestos while they were in the mines all day. Once the clothes were contaminated, the fibers were trapped and taken home to be "shared" with other members of the family, particularly those that did the laundry.

Libby has been so contaminated by asbestos that individuals who do not have any connection to the mines are now turning up with asbestos-related disease symptoms. So far, more than 2,600 people have been treated at the free asbestos clinic in town since it was opened. The town's population is only about 2,700.

The following is from the High Country News.


The environmental health disaster in Libby, Mont. -- where decades of vermiculite mining and milling spread deadly asbestos fibers throughout the community -- continues. In May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a plan to dig up or cap asbestos-laden soil at two more sites where the ore was processed. And thanks to Montana Sen. Max Baucus, D, the nation’s health insurance reform law has begun providing Medicare coverage for Libby victims, regardless of their ages. These updated statistics show why the town of 3,000 is considered "the deadliest Superfund site in the nation’s history."
At least 400 Number of people who have died of asbestos -- related lung ailments linked to the Libby mining, a number that continues to grow.
About 1,500 Number of people -- both current and former residents -- whose chest X-rays reveal "the faint, cloudy shadows of asbestos scarring on their lungs" due to exposure in Libby.
15 to 20 Number of people newly diagnosed each month with illnesses related to Libby asbestos; the illnesses appear to be "particularly ... virulent" and new diagnoses are expected to continue for 10 more years.
$333 million Amount spent on cleaning up the pollution in Libby since the effort began 10 years ago; the total, paid by the most recent mining company, W.R. Grace, and the federal government, continues to grow.
1,250 Number of homes and businesses that have been at least partially cleaned up.
850 Number of homes the EPA plans to revisit to do additional cleanup.
2 Number of asbestos-related funerals attended so far this year by Gayla Benefield, a leading victims’ advocate; her mother died of asbestos-  caused illnesses, and "every adult member of her family more than 47 years old (including Benefield herself) has been diagnosed with asbestos scarring. The latest, her older daughter, got the news in February."
0 Number of people who have been convicted of any criminal charges related to the spread of the asbestos. 

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