Mesothelioma-causing asbestos exposure results in US$130m to help affected residents

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After declaring a public health emergency for the town of Libby, Montana in June of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are planning on spending more than $130 million on cleanup efforts and improving the health care system in the area.

To date, approximately 400 Libby residents have passed away from asbestos-related diseases such as malignant mesothelioma. In addition to Libby, the nearby town Troy is also intended to benefit from the public health emergency funds.

Asbestos exposure has affected the area because of W.R. Grace & Company’s nearby toxic vermiculite mine that was contaminated with asbestos. Workers in the mine not only exposed themselves, but family members as well by unknowingly carrying home asbestos fibers on their clothes. Other locations such as fields, roads, playgrounds and gardens were contaminated with asbestos-laced soil as well.

According to the HHS, about 500 people out of the 3,900 that currently live in Libby and Troy have asbestos-related problems. Approximately 50 new cases are reported each year and nearly 2,000 people in Libby have been affected by asbestos since the official closing of the mine in 1990.

While the EPA has had the authority to announce a public health emergency since 1980, the one declared for Libby and Troy is the first of its kind.

The funds for the public health emergency will span over a five-year period with the EPA contributing approximately $125 million. Another $6 million will be spent by the HHS on medical assistance.

The EPA has been working in Libby since 1999, the first year an Emergency Response Team was sent in to investigate the concern over asbestos-contaminated vermiculite. Since that time, the EPA has been working closely with the town to clean up contamination and improve human health.

Additional information about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure may be found through the Mesothelioma Center.

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