Earlier this week, the L.A. Times covered at length the ongoing health and environmental disaster in Libby, Montana. The situation in Libby is one of the saddest, deadliest asbestos-related emergencies in U.S. history.
The ordeal began in 1963, when W.R. Grace bought a vermiculite mine in the town. While mining this material to make insulation, the company set loose clouds of asbestos dust as a waste product that blanketed the nearby town. Despite warnings of hazardous conditions throughout the entire town, the EPA and other federal regulators implemented no significant policies or actions until after 1990, when the mine finally closed. What is left in present day is a town devastated by asbestos-related illnesses and one of the largest Superfund sites in the country.
The numbers out of Libby are shocking:
- Health workers estimate at least 400 people have died of asbestos-related diseases — from mine workers to their family members to kids exposed to asbestos dumps around town parks and playgrounds. Libby’s total population is approximately 3,000.
- More than 1,500 residents have been diagnosed with asbestos scarring on their lungs.
- The cost of ongoing clean-up throughout the entire town – now spanning more than a decade – has exceeded $333 million.
The article linked above has additional figures and details, and is a sobering read. You can also read more about the Libby, MT asbestos crisis here.
In the end, while this is an extreme case of widespread devastation and the dangers of asbestos exposure, the message is still clear; asbestos is a known killer and for far too long we sat idle, not taking action to keep the material out of our towns and homes.
There’s no better time to take action than the here and now. It’s simple – use our form to sign a letter to Congress urging them to ban asbestos, or make your own story heard about how you’ve been affected by asbestos.
Asbestos caused a nightmare in Libby. It’s time we make sure our country wakes up and doesn’t let it happen again.