Missoula Conference Puts Human Face on Libby Disaster

In a recent presentation at the “Reclaiming Human Health by Restoring the Planet” conference, survivors of the asbestos catastrophe of Libby, MT delivered a clear message: It was hard to see the “slow-moving disaster” happening and it is not yet finished.

Dr. Brad Black, the Medical Director at Libby’s Center for Asbestos Related Disease, shared his thoughts about the medical community’s initial reaction to flood of hospitalized residents with what they first thought were complications due to asthma.  After a spike of deaths, they learned the severity of the crisis and its links to asbestos exposure.

“All the deaths hit hard to a doctor who treats patients suffering from asbestosis and other diseases borne of their exposure to the poisons. But last year’s death of a 56-year-old man, a close friend of Black’s who played in piles of dredged asbestos as a kid, was especially painful,” according to The Missoulian.

“He was simply a youngster who played in it,” said Black. “And we’re going to see many more like that.”

Libby, a small town in MT, is home to about 3,000 residents and also the asbestos mines owned by W.R. Grace and Co. While in operation, the Grace mine produced approximately 80 percent of the world’s vermiculite. It was widely used in a brand of attic insulation known as Zonolite, and the United States government estimates that more than 35 million homes may still contain Zonolite or another asbestos vermiculite insulation.

This has come at a tremendous cost to Libby residents as more than 200 residents have died from mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases like asbestosis and pleural plaques. When asbestos fibers are released into the air, they can be inhaled into the peoples’ lungs, causing permanent and devastating damage.

Only 25% of Libby residents who suffer from asbestos-related diseases are former miners. Another 25% are their family members. The other half are average citizens who would have been exposed to asbestos by playing on the Little League field near the mine; by running on the track which was composed of vermiculite slag; by taking advantage of the free vermiculite material offered by Grace for use in home gardens; or simply by living their daily life and breathing in the air.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, contact an experienced mesothelioma attorney. Mesothelioma attorneys have helped thousands of mesothelioma victims win compensation to cover last wages and medical costs. A qualified mesothelioma attorney can help you get the compensation that you and your family need and deserve.