A form of amphibole asbestos, tremolite is responsible for hundreds of cases of asbestos cancer diagnosed throughout the world, including in the United States. As with the other forms of asbestos that belong to the amphibole family, tremolite boasts sharp, needlelike fibers that easily enter the respiratory system when airborne, making it a particular toxic form of the mineral. This silicate mineral may range in color from creamy white to dark green, depending of the levels of magnesium or iron found in the mineral.
Tremolite asbestos is often found in vermiculite - a natural mineral that expands when exposed to heat - though vermiculite mines are now routinely tested for the presence of tremolite. In the U.S., tremolite-contaminated vermiculite was responsible for the death of several hundred miners in Libby, Montana who worked at the local W.R. Grace Vermiculite Mine, which mined material for use in the company’s popular Zonolite insulation, used in millions of houses nationwide.
As a matter of fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control note that for the period between 1979 and 1998, mortality from asbestos-related diseases was approximately 40 times higher in Libby than in the rest of Montana and 60 times higher than the rest of the United States. Indeed, not only miners but also residents of Libby were affected by diseases like mesothelioma as tremolite particles often circulated through the air and tailings from the mine were used on roadways and even in playgrounds, exposing all who lived in the area.
Even those who do not live or work in Libby can be affected by tremolite asbestos due to the fact that many products used in the construction industry may have contained asbestos-contaminated vermiculite. For example, those who participate in DIY jobs around their homes are subject to exposure if items such as asbestos-containing insulation are not removed properly by a certified professional.