Beginning September 19, 2008, free health screenings for asbestos -related illnesses will end, and the clinic providing them to Libby residents, Montana Asbestos Screening and Surveillance Activities, will close. The clinic is part of an operation which went into effect five years ago after the town of Libby was discovered to be contaminated by asbestos from the site of an abandoned vermiculite mine. The mine, owned by W.R. Grace and Co., was responsible for much of the contamination of the town through its disturbance of the asbestos-laden soil. Hundreds of people were afflicted with lung diseases caused by asbestos exposure and many deaths were also attributed to the site. Since then, Libby has been listed as a Superfund site for clean up by the United States government. As a part of the federal funding to the site, testing for asbestos related diseases of residents and former employees of the mine has been provided.
Qualifying citizens of Libby were eligible for a health screening once every five years. More frequent screenings were given to those of advanced age and those who had worked at the mine. Now that the free screening program has ended, there still remains an option in the Libby Asbestos Medical Plan. Although it does not provide screenings, it will offer many other medical benefits which can be used by residents for payment for screenings and treatments of asbestos related illnesses. Those enrolled in the program have the option of choosing where they wish to have their screenings done, but like other medical plans, they will have to pay the balance if the screenings or treatments exceed the amount paid by the plan. Residents interested in the plan are encouraged to contact LAMP at 877-889-8405, the Environmental Protection Agency information center at 406-293-6194, or the Center for Asbestos Related Disease at 406-293-9274.