EPA Releases Promising Data About Air Quality in Libby, Montana

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released early results on research being done in Libby, Montana to monitor the air quality and make progress towards cleaning up a town that has dealt with an increased risk of deadly asbestos exposure for decades now.

The data, which was presented during a meeting at the Libby Memorial Center, was described as a preliminary “draft estimate.” The final draft of the information will be used to determine how dangerous the air is in Libby after decades of Amphibole asbestos mining and attempts to decrease the risk of asbestos exposure in the future.

“For more than a decade, EPA has worked in this community to clean up the pollution left behind by 40 plus years of mining operations. Under this administration, EPA has stepped up its commitment to provide the best science to finish the job of protecting the health and future of the people of Libby,” said Jim Martin, the EPA’s Regional Administrator in Denver. “Once we finalize these toxicity estimates, they will help guide remaining cleanup actions and identify exposure prevention practices to keep people safe.”

Early drafts of the studies found the current ambient air concentrations of Amphibole asbestos in Libby “do not appear to result in levels of risk above EPA Superfund targets.” The Superfund risk target levels are defined as a level of air quality that results in less than a 1 in 10,000 risk of developing lung cancer, or a hazard index less than 1 for adverse non-cancer health impacts, such as shortness of breath and chest pains.

The estimates also found that disturbing soil in the town with excessive mowing or digging without first watering the area down could release more asbestos fibers into the air and increase the level of risk. The EPA stressed that there was still a need for additional cleanup actions and that town residents should continue to follow EPA recommendations that prevent soils from being disturbed.

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