Beautiful Libby, Montana is known as the most deadly Superfund Cleanup site in the country. The town is the site of the W.R. Grace vermiculite mine that once employed 200 town people The mine was allowed to contaminate the entire town with airborne asbestos particulate -called Tremolite Asbestos. The EPA has been cleaning up the mess for about 11 years now. After a long trial, the officers of W.R. Grace Co. narrowly averted conviction on criminal charges leveled at them for the widespread incidence of Mesothelioma in Libby, not only among the employees of the mining operation, but the town’s people, as well. It was not uncommon to see clouds of asbestos contaminated dust blowing around town that emanated from the mine. Even the kids at the Little League field were affected.
Fear and Loathing in Libby
Lately, Libby is in the news again. Apparently, two huge piles of wood chips on the edge of town were up for grabs and used as a garden mulch all over town. It has been reported it was even packaged and sold commercially in a wide area. It has recently become known that the wood chips are contaminated with asbestos.
The giant piles of wood chips came from a lumber mill that took thousands of trees from a forest contaminated with asbestos from the nearby mine. Studies by the EPA and university researchers have found the forests around Libby are tainted with asbestos at least eight miles from the mine. The barbed asbestos fibers lodge themselves in cracks and crevices in the bark until they are released when disturbed or burned.
The potential for more contamination has frayed nerves in Libby (Pop. 3,000) and further eroded confidence in the government to clean up the mess that, to date, has killed an estimated 400 people of Mesothelioma and related Lung Cancer and sickened 1,750.
Ok. I can empathize with the unfortunate circumstances in Libby. So, then how much exposure is there where I live?
Good question. Building materials containing asbestos were used in home and building construction for decades. Much of it is still in place. Learn to recognize asbestos building materials in your home (if any). They are especially dangerous and pose the highest risk during home renovation activities.
The stakes are high. Asbestos exposure can result in lung cancer and mesothelioma after a long gestation period. Don’t risk your lungs by being complacent about asbestos remediation. Get the facts.
About Asbestos: Just what is it, anyway?
Asbestos is a natural fibrous silicate mineral for its heat-resistant properties. Once ingested, usually by inhaling, the asbestos fibers become lodged in the lining of the lung where they remain, often resulting in the diseases mentioned in relation to the fine folks in Libby.
- ASBESTOS CEMENT, ROOFING SHINGLES and HOUSE SIDING.
- FLOOR TILES (vinyl asbestos, asphalt, and rubber), the backing on VINYL SHEET FLOORING, and ADHESIVES
- STEAM PIPES, BOILERS, and FURNACE DUCTS
- CEMENT SHEET, MILLBOARD, and PAPER used as insulation around furnaces
- PATCHING AND JOINT COMPOUNDS
There are other examples, as well. The general consensus of opinion regarding the topic is: THE BEST THING TO DO WITH ASBESTOS MATERIAL IN GOOD CONDITION IS TO LEAVE IT ALONE! For conditions less than good, as an alternative to removal, encapsulation is sometimes a viable option.
- Learn about the possible hazards of Asbestos in the home and how to recognize it by accessing the following article: July is Asbestos Safety Month
- Asbestos remains on the list, without a single one of its forms escaping scrutiny.
The main point to walk away with about asbestos is, as a homeowner, it is prudent to be aware of asbestos and to be able to recognize it. If you know where to look for it -or, know what to suspect, samples can be taken and tested, confirming or disproving its presence. A remediation plan can be worked out, if required. As mentioned above, sometimes the best course of action is to encapsulate it, which isn’t difficult and might not be a big financial concern. Some people take the Ostrich’s “head in the sand” approach and ignore it. To do so is to risk the health of the whole family.
One other consideration is the one about trying to do it yourself. Licensed remediation technicians are trained in methods that prevent the particulate from becoming airborne and escaping into the atmosphere. Without the proper training, it is questionable whether you could complete the task without releasing airborne particulate into the atmosphere. Said atmosphere might be the one your kids are using as an air supply. If you insist on doing it yourself, seek the proper knowledge to reduce the risk of damaging your own health and the health of those around you. And, one last thing. Disposal of asbestos containing materials is regulated. Because of that, there is probably some expense involved. Do the rest of us a favor and don’t just chuck it on the side of a country road.
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