Tremolite is one of six forms of asbestos and a fibrous, silicate mineral that ranges from white to dark green in color depending on its iron content. Fibrous means that its structure is similar to fibers, namely elongated, stringy and not quite, what you may expect to see in nature. It does also occur naturally in the crystalline form typically associated with minerals.
What is the chemical structure of Tremolite asbestos?
The structure of Tremolite can be expressed as:
Ca2 Mg5 Si8 O22 (OH)2
This is a complicated compound, yet one that is able to exist in particles as small as five microns. Particles this small are generally indiscernible to the human eye, making its detection and eventually sickening of victims harder to pinpoint. Asbestos dust is generated through the regular use of asbestos in construction in manufacturing, as well as through mining activity.
What were the uses of Tremolite asbestos?
Tremolite was a versatile mineral that when manufactured into Vermiculite, could be used for insulation, fireproofing, filler, packing material, coatings and water absorption. This should give you an idea of its widespread use, as well as why mining asbestos used to be a lucrative industry. When working with Tremolite, tiny particles would enter the lungs of workers and others, including their families would suffer from indirect exposure. There is no safe level of exposure and Tremolite is uniformly toxic to the human body.
What is vermiculite and how might it affect me?
Vermiculite was one of the most common ways Tremolite asbestos made it into households. While today’s vermiculite has no asbestos content, Vermiculite, particularly under the name Zonolite, had toxic levels of this material. Zonolite was used to insulate walls and attics and was sold under a number of trade names to consumers. Those that have used Zonolite products have almost certainly been exposed to trace amounts of Tremolite asbestos. An estimate one million households have some form of vermiculite in their homes. As long as the insulation is not disturbed, there is only minor danger. Removing the vermiculite or otherwise disturbing it however, will also certainly spread dangerous particles into the air.
How does Tremolite affect the health of those that are exposed to it?
Lung tissue is damaged in a number of ways, most typically through smoking. Inhaling tiny Tremolite minerals does the same damage, except that the damage can never be repaired as the crystal will be embedded in the lung tissue. It make take up to forty years for the symptoms to full manifest, and when they do, the coughing and damage to the lungs appears to suggest emphysema, rather than the presence of a foreign toxic material. Those that have been victims of extended Tremolite exposure will having their lungs lose elasticity and take on the consistency of leather. Losing the elasticity in lungs affects the ability to breathe and fluid will also build up in the lungs. Those suffering from mesothelioma slowly suffocate from this fluid buildup and the difficulty of breathing normally.
How did the mining of Tremolite affect communities in the US?
In recent years, the high instances of asbestos related illnesses in Libby, Montana brought investigation by the government. Decades of mining Tremolite in the area contaminated the area and was present in the air, in homes and the in the soil. During that time, nearly 274 residents had died of asbestos related illness. The W.R. Grace and Company had been mining and manufacturing Zonolite since 1963, and predictably, forty years after, many Libby residents began to show signs of illness. This led to an EPA investigation and the declaration of the area as a Superfund environmental disaster, which entitled federal funding for asbestos abatement and studies on the levels of exposure in the area. This was followed by the EPA’s first ever public health emergency, which allocated another $130 million to the cleanup and medical expenses.
What was the legal ramifications of Tremolite asbestos mining?
In 2008, the EPA launched a $8 million dollar investigation into conditions in the area and upon doing so made the decision to declare the area a disaster zone. To date, $370 million has been spent on the ongoing cleanup of the Libby area. Litigation was not filed by the residents of Libby, as the company quickly settled with many businesses and property owners for $60 million.
Several employees of Grace & Co were put on trial for criminal conspiracy for failing to inform the residents of Libby of the potential harm of Tremolite asbestos knowingly released into the environment. When brought before a jury however, they were acquitted on all counts.
After the healthcare reform overhaul, found in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, victims of public health emergencies are entitled to Medicare payments, which apply to all Libby residents.
Is Tremolite a banned substance?
Tremolite is no longer used in any building material in the United States. Some countries still mine this mineral and use it for the purposes previously used in the US. This is why it is especially important if for any reason you have worked with insulation and construction abroad. You may not have the legal remedies available through the American legal system, but you will need to be aware of the health hazard and potential, long term consequences.
What should I do if I am exposed to Tremolite?
When you are exposed to Tremolite, you can sue for legal damage if you are able to prove that the employer, builder or other entity was aware of the potential consequences of exposure and did not take adequate preventions to minimize the health impact on the workers. Proving this through litigation will require a mesothelioma attorney that has worked with cases involving Tremolite asbestos exposure. Through this legal action, you will be able to recover compensatory damages and the court may impose additional punitive penalties on violators. Class action suits allow for the compensation of multiple injured parties. Generally you will need to opt out of the class action litigation before being able to pursue your own.