The small town of Libby, Montana, is known as the epicenter of environmental asbestos exposure and asbestos-related diseases. For nearly 70 years, a vermiculite ore mine operated in the town. Vermiculite ore was contaminated with asbestos, exposing tens of thousands of people, and it has led to an extraordinarily high rate of asbestos diseases, including mesothelioma cancer.
Fortunately, many people living in this town and in other areas of Montana can get a free screening to see if they’re at risk of an asbestos-related disease – and the screening will even come to their area for convenience.
The Center for Asbestos-Related Disease (CARD) was established in Lincoln County, which is the county of Libby, to track asbestos-related disease incidence and offer health screenings to residents at risk. Thanks to a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Center for Asbestos, CARD can provide free asbestos-related disease screenings to everyone who qualifies under the grant. CARD provides these screenings at the non-profit organization’s offices in Libby.
The information about the asbestos screening clinic was reported in the Clark Fork Valley Press and Mineral Independent.
Qualification criteria for a free test includes:
- No prior diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease
- Proof of residency or job occupation in Lincoln County at least 10 years ago for at least six months total (cumulative or consecutively)
Screening tests consist of a chest X-ray, autoimmune blood tests, a breathing test, an extensive review of health and exposure history, and an interview with a trained health care provider. If there is suspicion of an asbestos-related disease, you’ll receive a follow-up computed tomography scan (CT scan) of the chest.
Asbestos Screening Goes ‘Mobile’ for Montana Residents
The free asbestos-disease screening is available to anyone who meets the above criteria. There are potentially many people living in other areas of Montana – or even other states – who lived or worked in Lincoln County and have asbestos-related damage to tissue near their lungs. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that, when disturbed and broken apart, can enter the body and get stuck in lung tissue, or the lining of the lungs or abdomen.
The asbestos screening clinic is going “mobile” to accommodate people who qualify but cannot visit Libby for testing. CARD received grant funding to take the screening on the road and visit nearby counties.
The next stop is Sanders County, Montana, on April 27 at the Bear Creek Resort in Thompson Falls.
If you believe you may qualify for an asbestos-related screening, call (406) 293-9274 for more information. You can also visit the CARD website. There is a minimum number of participants required for a mobile screening clinic to operate, so you’re encouraged to call the phone number to inquire if interested.
The Story of ‘Libby Amphibole’ Asbestos
From 1924-1990, the W.R. Grace vermiculite mine in Libby helped the town garner its unfortunate and deadly asbestos reputation. A town of fewer than 3,000 people by the last U.S. Census population count, CARD estimates that more than 80,000 people were exposed within Libby’s town limits.
There have been more than 2,500 asbestos-related deaths among residents or workers in Libby.
Vermiculite ore was manufactured and sold as insulation. While the vermiculite included asbestos – which is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer – industrial leaders welcomed the mineral’s presence due to its fire-resistant and durable qualities.
Not until the 1980s did the general public – including miners, construction workers, electrical workers, insulation workers, manufacturing plant workers and others who handled or worked near asbestos – learn that asbestos can cause cancer and is one of the most dangerous substances in the world.
Libby Asbestos Exposure Still Leading to Mesothelioma Cases
Asbestos diseases like mesothelioma take time to develop after exposure. For instance, mesothelioma cancer can take up to 50 years for the first tumor to form. This means workers exposed in the 1970s or 1980s may only just now begin to experience mesothelioma symptoms or be diagnosed with the disease.
In Libby, Montana, the danger of asbestos was especially relevant. The asbestos in the W.R. Grace vermiculite mine was labeled “Libby amphibole asbestos.” Workers at the mine – along with their families, local loggers, mill workers, and people living and working in and around Libby – were likely exposed.
W.R. Grace recently proposed a $18.5 million settlement in the state of Montana’s environmental damages lawsuit. W.R. Grace received an onslaught of lawsuits once asbestos diagnoses began happening in bulk from Libby workers and residents.
Libby amphibole asbestos still exists in many old homes and office buildings throughout the country. For decades, it polluted Libby by way of piles of excess vermiculite and dust in vacant lots and fields.
- Mobile asbestos screening clinic coming to Sanders County. Clark Fork Valley Press and Mineral Independent. Retrieved from: https://vp-mi.com/news/2023/apr/05/mobile-asbestos-screening-clinic-coming-sanders-co/. Accessed: 04/17/2023.
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