“Plague” is the word that Montana Standard writer David McCumber uses to describe the mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases that have stricken the town of Libby. The writer recently published a remarkable elegy to the town of Libby, which has struggled with the aftermath of asbestos contamination for over 60 years, and where long-time residents continue to die despite the fact that the W. R. Grace & Co. mine has long been closed and the Environmental Protection Agency has announced modifications to the already-loose regulations that govern asbestos’ use.
The people of Libby and the surrounding area have been diagnosed with asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, and many other diseases since the asbestos contamination first began. Though the exact number of people affected is unknown, there have been hundreds of deaths attributed to the disease, with many suspecting that number is low. Another 2,400 have been sickened despite a massive cleanup that has been going on for over a dozen years, and which still has far to go. Ticking through what’s been done and what’s yet to be done, McCumber cites 8,100 properties checked for asbestos and just under a third requiring remediation. That cleanup is a remarkable endeavor, performed by trained professionals and involving the careful removal of enormous amounts of material, later to be replaced by uncontaminated dirt.
In light of the many mesothelioma deaths and asbestos-related illnesses, the town’s residents are struggling with the notion that the EPA has loosened restrictions on new uses of asbestos. They had hoped it would be regulated more, or even banned. The people of Libby are all too aware of the material’s impact, particularly around the area where the asbestos had been carried in open freight cars and carried along rail lines. The asbestos contaminated the transportation route, the forest around the mines, and the town below. All of that needs to be cleaned up, as well as the mine itself. Many are concerned that the funding will eventually run out but asbestos will continue to be found, even as more residents die.
Libby, Montana has the highest rate of asbestos contamination and asbestos-related death from mesothelioma and other diseases in the nation, but they are not alone in their struggle. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, we can help. Contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.