Libby, Montana has the unfortunate reputation of being the site of one the biggest environmental disasters in the history of the United States. A town of just a few thousand people, Libby has seen some 200 of its residents die from diseases directly attributed to asbestos cancer exposure. Several hundred more Libby townspeople are dying right now of asbestos poisoning.

Vermiculite with Asbestos causing Cancer

Libby is in the heart of the Kootenai Valley in the far northwest corner of Montana, about 50 miles from the U.S.-Canada border. It was the location of a vermiculite mine, the source of the asbestos. The mine was the main employer of the Libby population. W. R. Grace & Co. operated this vermiculite mine and processing mill from 1963 to 1990.

Asbestos Danger Was Kept Secret

Officials at W.R. Grace & Co. knew about the dangers of the mine’s asbestos, but did not reveal this information to the mine’s workers or to the residents of Libby. The company kept fighting to keep the truth about the asbestos from becoming known, even as Libby’s townspeople began to contract mesothelioma cancer, lung cancer, and asbestosis at alarming rates.

It wasn’t until successful lawsuits brought down W.R. Grace and seven of its executives were indicted on criminal charges that the truth was finally widely known. The federal government conducted a health screening which revealed that nearly one-third of the town’s population (more than 1,500 individuals) had lung abnormalities possibly caused by asbestos exposure.

The Damage Continues Affecting Victims of Asbestos Cancer

The tragedy of the asbestos poisoning in Libby has been described in books and at least one documentary film. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has spent millions of dollars in an effort to clean up the mine, now a Super Fund site. W.R. Grace & Co. makes annual payments to a local hospital to help screen and identify further victims of asbestos poisoning.

Since the symptoms of asbestos cancer diseases such as mesothelioma take many years, even decades, to manifest, new cases of mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer continue to be identified in Libby. The townspeople are worried about their children, many of who grew up on playgrounds covered in vermiculite.

Learn More about Libby and Other Asbestos Tragedies

The disaster at Libby is not the only example of the asbestos crisis looming in the U.S. Thousands of people are diagnosed with an asbestos cancer disease each year. If you are an asbestos cancer victim, contact mesothelioma treatment centers to learn about the options available to you.

Asbestos in Libby Montana (english) / Asbesto en Libby, Montana (spanish)