The worst instance of asbestos contamination in the US took place at the Libby mine in Libby, Montana. Nearly half of the residents of this small town have symptoms of asbestos related illness and the local risk for developing an illness is 60 times the national average. Vermiculite ore was mined in Libby and while this is not a form of asbestos, there were significant deposits of asbestos that were disturbed during the mining process. This was not only a risk to miners in the poorly ventilated shafts, but also residents of this and other surrounding towns, as asbestos friable when disturbed and quickly becomes airborne.
As of 2009, Libby is now a Superfund site, with all of its residents eligible for Medicare payments for medical expenses. From the Libby mines, tons of vermiculite contaminated with asbestos was transported to other states where it may have caused asbestos related illnesses for workers there as well.
Most litigation against the owners of the Libby mine is still ongoing, which a huge burden placed on them for paying out asbestos lawsuits.
The rest of the state does not have a particularly high risk for asbestos exposure, but Montana asbestos laws reflect the need for proper asbestos abatement, precautions taken in the workplace and effectively deposing of removed asbestos containing material.
How does asbestos affect the lungs?
Since asbestos is not broken down by the body, it will remain in the lungs for a number of years. This will cause scarring and other damage. This scaring leads to asbestosis, which causes the lungs to develop a leathery surface and as such, unable to drain fluid from the lungs. The presence of asbestos can also lead to a cancer of the lungs lining, which is known as mesothelioma. This is a highly fatal disease that is only caused by asbestos contamination.
Asbestos in the home
Asbestos can be found in a number of applications in the home as an insulator and fireproofing agent. It is generally not dangerous in many of the applications as it will be sealed in concrete, drywall or other tough materials that ensure the airborne fibers will not escape. In the event of the destruction of the property, or intentional demolition, all of these materials are liable to escape, posing risks for all around the site. Due to the, Montana asbestos law ensures that proper notification and precautions are taken for asbestos abatement before any significant renovation or demolition.
What agency enforces Montana asbestos laws?
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality bears the responsibility or accrediting and certifying asbestos experts to perform asbestos abatement. In addition, the DEQ will collect information on demolitions and renovations, ensuring these projects are safe before they are approved. This is not necessary for single family homes. No structures may be burned for demolition or fire training if it contains asbestos, as this facilitates the spread of the dangerous fibers. The agency is funded through fees collected for project permits, license fees, audits and grants from the EPA.