The Montana town of Libby has become synonymous with the catastrophic effects of asbestos exposure. The town’s population was routinely subjected to toxic asbestos dust due to its close proximity to the town’s major source of income, a vermiculite mine. Now, after exposure to asbestos has killed hundreds of people in Libby, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has imposed a new cleanup standard stronger than any previous standard used to address airborne asbestos.
The new plan put forth by the EPA would declare that airborne asbestos concentrations exceeding two-100,000ths of a fiber per cubic centimeter constitute a health risk. Previously, the EPA would respond to action only when an amount greater than one-tenth of a fiber per cubic centimeter of the airborne substance was reached.
W.R Grace & Co. is the Maryland chemical company responsible for the town’s pollution. The chemical company operated the mine for decades and is contesting the EPA’s new standards. The chemical company claims that other sites will be subjected to costly cleanups like the one in Libby. Currently, the Superfund cleanup in the Montana town has cost $447 million and has been ongoing since 1999. It is expected to last for several more years.
Asbestos advocates have long been calling for the EPA to place a ban on asbestos, but the asbestos industry has been successful in striking down all proposed bans due to its powerful lobbying efforts. The EPA’s proposal for stricter asbestos cleanup standards is a great step towards the goals of asbestos advocates throughout the country and is already being widely contested by the asbestos industry.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the new EPA cleanup standard could affect more than 200 industrial sites across 40 states that also use asbestos-containing vermiculite. EPA officials also said that the proposed standards could affect other types of asbestos found in communities throughout the U.S. Asbestos advocates certainly look to press the EPA to apply the standards to their fullest extent, applying them to every type of asbestos currently used in the country.
Baron and Budd sponsors several asbestos and mesothelioma advocacy organizations and is pleased to see the EPA taking stronger measures against the asbestos industry. Baron and Budd is in favor of any measure that gets the U.S. closer to banning asbestos, and will continue to watch the EPA’s progress with Libby, Montana and other asbestos sites throughout the nation.
For more on the EPA and the laws regarding the levels of asbestos, visit here.