The vermiculite form of asbestos will be the subject of a study conducted by the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences funded by a $2.1-million award from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Over the course of three years, the effects of vermiculite will be studied. This form of asbestos is believed to be one of the most toxic. It is of special concern to those living near a now defunct vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana. The asbestos products from that mine as well as the mine itself have come under fire during recent years for the increase in asbestos-related diseases linked to them. The study will closely examine the toxicity of vermiculite asbestos.
The mission of the Hamner Institutes is to promote public health by studying the safety of chemicals and drugs. They also look to develop new drugs and diagnostic techniques. Hamner Institutes has been around since 1974. At its founding it was known as the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology (CIIT). Started by eleven major members of the chemical industry, its initial aim was to study the effects of chemicals on health and the environment. Today, the work of the Hamner Institutes is done with the assistance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). They also work with several other industries to determine the health and safety effects of several chemicals. Since 2007, Hamner Institutes has partnered with the EPA to study over 320 chemicals in the EPA’s ToxCastT program. These chemical studies have acted to predict the potential exposure and influence these chemicals had on a whole body based upon testing done in test tubes (in vitro). From its initial beginnings predicting the effects of chemicals on public health and the environment, the Hamner Institutes has expanded its work to include pharmaceuticals. In September 2008, it established the Hamner-UNC Center for Drug Safety Sciences. This program seeks support from drug companies who wish to fund a safety initiative.