Montana State University Receives $18k for Asbestos Research

Illustration of mesothelioma research

Montana State University (MSU) received $18k for asbestos research as part of a $190,000 grant to increase quality healthcare. In addition to research, the funding will go towards education on environmental exposure from the National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIEHS) Superfund Hazardous Substances Research and Training Program.

“Too many Montana families have suffered at the hands of this deadly carcinogen and through this additional funding our researchers will have more tools at their disposal to study the effects of asbestos,” said U.S. Senator Steve Daines.

Asbestos refers to a set of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals—chrysotile, crocidloite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. Today, asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen and a threat to human health and safety.

Mesothelioma cancer is traced directly to asbestos exposure, which is a rare and aggressive cancer of the lung and inner body’s cavity lining. Pleural mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lungs and is the most common form of the disease. Peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma are less common and form in the lining of the abdominal cavity and the lining of the heart.

In fact, Montana has a longstanding history of asbestos. The small town of Libby, Montana is arguably “Ground Zero” in the war on asbestos. It’s where the W.R. Grace & Company operated asbestos mines for 30 years.

To date, nearly half the population in Libby has been diagnosed with asbestos disease, in addition to the 200 who have died as a result of exposure to asbestos-tainted vermiculite.

But the Libby asbestos mines were not the only industries in which Montana workers were exposed to asbestos. Anaconda is a company that mines and processes copper and aluminum—and both employ the use of asbestos in all phases.

Montana is also home to three oil refineries, where asbestos packing has been used in pipe fittings as well as the lining of protective clothing worn by refinery workers. Also, six Montana power plants have been identified as asbestos problem sites. Since asbestos isn’t only effective as a flame retardant, but also to electrical currents, many power plants utilized the hazardous substance.

As a result, numerous employees run an elevated risk of asbestos illness. This was confirmed by a 2003 study involving chest x-rays. 13% of the cases were found to have “abnormalities.”

Statics-wise, Lincoln County residents in Montana have experienced three times the rate of asbestos-related deaths in comparison to the next highest county—Yellowstone. Cascade and Missoula counties follow behind that where most of Montana’s population lives.