Montana is home to almost 1.1 million residents, and its economy is built on agriculture. Around 1/3 of the state's agricultural income is from, crops, in particular, wheat. Other popular industries include oil, gas, coal mining, hard rock mining, petroleum mining and lumber—all of which used asbestos historically. The state is also an important source of gold, silver, copper, and lead, and is the leading producer of talc—an asbestos-like substance.
Mesothelioma Cases in Montana
Montana’s mesothelioma annual mortality rate is above the national average of 11.1 people per million and currently stands at 11.6 people per million.
However, it’s interesting to note that only 182 Montana residents have died from mesothelioma between 1999 and 2013, which is lower than other nearby states. Mesothelioma can take between 10-50 years to develop, and as the harmful effects of asbestos only came into mass public awareness in the 1980s, there are, unfortunately, bound to be more Montanan cases emerging in the coming years.
One of the most well-known tragedies involving asbestos in Montana is the Libby mine. Owned by corporate giant WR Grace, the Libby mine was one of the nation’s largest mining sites—and one of the nation’s most significant disaster zones. The town’s economy was based on the logging industry, but in 1919 miners found vermiculite in a mountain, which was used as an insulation material for lofts and walls.
WR Grace purchased the mine in 1963 and produced 80% of the world’s vermiculite. However, naturally-occurring asbestos fibers were amongst the mineral, and over time these fibers embedded themselves in the lungs of many Libby residents. An article published in 2009 claims that out of a population of 2,600 people, at least 200 have died from asbestos exposure and a further 1,000 have an asbestos-related disease.
Not only was the asbestos damaging to those working in the mines, but it was also detrimental to people in the village who were breathing the same air day after day. WR Grace went bankrupt after receiving more than 100,000 asbestos-related claims.
Asbestos Use in Montana
Montana has 19 asbestos mines and natural deposits, meaning it’s possibly the most notorious area of asbestos-usage in the US. Despite Montana’s size, the state is sparsely populated, so many rural areas will be untouched by asbestos entirely.
Montana is also heavily supported by the following industries, which all used asbestos:
Many major cities were severely affected by the overuse of asbestos, including Billings, Butte and Missoula. Montana is notorious for its mines, and its high mesothelioma rate is partially due to these mines.
The vermiculite mines in Libby were open for decades and vastly contributed to the rise resulting in asbestos-related deaths in Montana. Clean-up began in 1999 and took almost 15 years to complete. The EPA estimate that around 10% of the town have died from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related cancers. Other mines in the area include the United Sierra Division of the Cyprus Mines Corporation, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, the National Mining and Exploring Company in Helena and the Stillwater Mining Company in Billings.
Oil refineries have also contributed to the rates of mesothelioma as the asbestos was commonly used in pipe fittings. Six power plants in Montana have been identified as having contained asbestos, though due to the extent of the state-wide damage, many expect more to be named in the future.
Due to Montana’s vast forests, the lumber and paper industry has always thrived. Unfortunately, asbestos was commonly used in the machines used to produce such materials, which put workers at high risk. Today, other substances are used to comply with health and safety procedures.
Montana Asbestos Laws and Regulations
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) administers the asbestos laws, rules and regulations for the state. They work under the Asbestos Control Program, which was instigated in 1989 when the true extent of the asbestos damage became apparent.
Nowadays, the Montana DEQ states that a licensed contractor must complete all asbestos activities. An individual must complete an EPA asbestos training course or other approved programs by Montana DEQ to become accredited. This includes those who wish to handle demolitions, renovations or contracting when asbestos-containing materials are involved. It is essential that asbestos is removed safely and responsibility to avoid danger to the individual and those in the surrounding area.
So far, Montana residents in Bing Timber, Billings, Culbertson, Missoula, Ronan, Kalispell, and Victor have filed lawsuits to seek compensation for negligence around asbestos.
In Montana, there is a three-year statute of limitations to file a personal injury or legal wrongful death lawsuit once mesothelioma has been diagnosed. The best way to submit for compensation is to seek out a lawyer specializing in mesothelioma cases. Failure to act upon a claim will result in not obtaining the compensation you’re eligible for.
Retaining a Montana Mesothelioma Lawyer
Montana has set up a special mesothelioma claims court to deal with the abundance of asbestos-related claims. The hope is that the court will help in overseeing cases with speed, and will reach a verdict in good time. As mesothelioma becomes more prevalent in Montana, many cases can be settled out of court. However, it is in the patient’s best interest to file a claim as soon as possible and seek the correct legal aid.
For more information on asbestos exposure in Montana, contact our Justice Support Team today.