A resident of Libby, Montana, was asked by the Environmental Protection Agency to remove a form of asbestos once mined in Libby from the Internet auction site Ebay®.
The seller, Brian Sherry, thought the order to remove the vermiculite ore chunk was absurd, saying, “It is an innocuous piece. It has nothing to do with the cleanup. They (EPA) should be more concerned with asbestos in houses with dust settling, not in the unexpanded ore.”
The EPA, however, does not agree with Sherry. Libby, Montana, home of the W. R. Grace vermiculite mine, where the specimen was extracted. Exposure to asbestos is dangerous when it is broken into tiny bits or fibers that can be inhaled. Once in the lungs, asbestos can lead to the development of many lung diseases, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other types of cancer.
Vermiculite is a mineral that flakes easily, even with the gentlest handling. It is feared that the asbestos in the specimen would pose a hazard to the party who won the bidding for it. Both the Libby EPA project manager, Mike Cirian, and the EPA’s Region 8 senior enforcement attorney, Andy Lensink, agree that the vermiculite is a potential threat as it is being sold on Ebay®. They are seeking routes other than buying the specimen themselves to prevent other people from selling toxic samples to the EPA in the future.
Sherry is indignant that the EPA wants him to remove his specimen. He intends to keep it on the site until it is sold, but Cirian and Lensink hope to persuade him to do otherwise.