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Although asbestos has been added to the government’s most dangerous chemicals list, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could take up to three years to warn citizens of the dangers in Libby, Montana.
Linda Reinstein, CEO and President of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, said it’s “inexcusable that the EPA is willing to wait years before telling homeowners they’re at risk of exposure to deadly Zonolite.”
Zonolite is the mica-like vermiculite that was heavily tainted with asbestos in the Libby mines. The ore was made into wall and attic insulation as well as gardening and other home products.
“There’s no reason to wait. We’ve known the facts about asbestos-contaminated wall and attic insulation for decades. The time is now for the EPA to warn an estimated 30 million homeowners about the asbestos in their attics,” said Reinstein.
Over 480 deaths in the Libby area can be attributed to asbestos exposure. More than 8,000 people developed symptoms of asbestos-related diseases due to the mines. The Centers for Disease Control and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration say there’s no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Drs. James Lockey and Alan Whitehouse, leaders in occupational, environmental, and pulmonary medicine, recently conducted research showing even the smallest amount of exposure can result in illness and death.
A senior EPA spokesperson stated, “It’s too early to say what the result will be and what action the EPA will take.” Asbestos laws and regulations like the “Toxic Substances Control Act requires these chemical risk evaluations be completed within three years.”
“The new law says the EPA has up to three years to study its top ten picks, but it surely doesn’t mean they need to take three years,” said Dr. Celeste Monforton, a top public health researcher at George Washington University. “Asbestos is one chemical for which evidence of harm is overwhelming and there’s no compelling need for more study.”
“We can’t make up for the damage that was done by past government failures with this material,” said Gerald Mueller. “But we should do everything in our power going forward so that people don’t suffer again because of this. It’s still out there. It’s all over the country.” Mueller was in charge of running and reporting on meetings for Libby’s Community Advisory Group.
According to Dr. Monforton, “An EPA warning about Zonolite-contaminated asbestos is long overdue and well within the EPA’s authority.”