$8 million asbestos study in Libby

19 Jun 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

After years of ignoring the dangers of asbestos, and the resulting nationwide epidemic of asbestos disease, including , there is a renewed interest in studying this deadly material. This week, the Billings Gazette announced the federal government will fund an $8 million study to understand the health effects of low-level exposure to asbestos. The study will be based in Libby, Montana, where more than 200 people have died to date as a result of asbestos mining operations in the town, and hundreds more people suffer from asbestos related diseases.

The Libby program, dubbed the , is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The study is expected to span 5 years with a goal of expanding knowledge about the potential and real health issues of asbestos exposure.

Libby already has proved a tragically rich source of knowledge about long-term exposure to high levels of asbestos, as the EPA’s initial examination and cleanup of the town focused on miners with direct exposure to the substance in their jobs, as well as people who handled asbestos mineral and were exposed to asbestos dust secondarily on a daily basis.

But, the Gazette reports, too little is know about exposure to lower levels of asbestos. EPA officials hope that results of the study will benefit not only the residents of Libby, but people throughout the country.

In April, the Minnesota state legislature approved $4.9 million for its own five-year study, to be conducted under the direction of the University of Minnesota, in connection with unusually high levels of mesothelioma affecting Iron Range mine workers. A large question in the area is whether dust from the taconite mined there – a fibrous mineral similar to asbestos – could also cause mesothelioma.

A key part of the Minnesota research will be an examination of previous asbestos exposure among mine workers, which will expand the base of knowledge about the affect of asbestos on health, in addition to the new studies about the effect of taconite.

According to the Billings Gazette, among tests to be included in the Libby study are a comparison of film and digital chest X-rays to determine which is best for assessing the lungs, a comparison of the health of people exposed to Libby asbestos in childhood versus people who weren’t, an expanded evaluation of Libby residents who were exposed to asbestos, an assessment of whether the health problems related to asbestos exposure extend beyond lung disease.

Researchers in Libby also hope to make improvements to public health tracking systems and patient health record databases, to better link exposure information to health conditions, the Gazette reports.

Gayla Benefield, perhaps one of the best-known residents of Libby for her early outcry about the health effects of asbestos on the people in her town, says she is happy to see an emphasis on research.

She was a charter member of the board of directors of the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD), a not-for-profit clinic governed by a volunteer community board and devoted to healthcare, outreach, and research to benefit all people impacted by exposure to Libby amphibole asbestos. She only recently retired from her position with that organization.

“This is something I’ve wanted from the onset – more study and more research,” she says. “I’ve been especially interested in how much or how little of the (asbestos) fiber can cause meso, and I’ve been really concerned about the schools having been contaminated.”

The key, Benefield says, is to detect mesothelioma at its earliest stage, when there is still time for treatment to prolong life. When people around her in Libby began being diagnosed, she says, their mesothelioma was so advanced that many died within days of the diagnosis.

“We all – everyone in Libby – live under the threat of developing mesothelioma,” she says. “They’re never going to get all that (asbestos) fiber out of Libby, or anywhere for that matter, homes with asbestos insulation, so the research is the big thing. Any and all research having to do with mesothelioma is fantastic. A dream come true.”

6 Responses to “$8 million asbestos study in Libby”

  1. asbestosnews

    This is very exciting news! The more we can learn about asbestos and mesothelioma the better. The situation in Libby is very regrettable and it is unfortunate that so many were and still are affected.

  2. Wendi Lewis

    Thanks for commenting, asbestosnews. I know those of us who work to raise awareness about asbestos diseases like mesothelioma are encourage by news like the $8 million research study in Libby. The more we know, the closer we can come to finding a cure.

  3. Mike Crill

    How bout spending that money on relocating folks of Libby and then stopping the continued deadly exposure to MORE people/families who continue to be lied to that Libby is a safe place to live and raise a family.Lets invite more people to Libby is suffer and die from exposure to Tremolite asbestos.WHEN is the concern going to be to stop killing people????Haven’t enough human beings suffered and died and are dying,like me…8 million to study what??? What the hell more needs studied.Keep this in mind.EPA objective is:”How can WE downplay the exposure” and then “How much money came be made”(David Newman testimony).And since 1999, when we all learned why we are sick and dying,over 300 people/families will continue this tree of death.Doesn’t anyone care about those people???I know alot of people didn’t care about us…and still don’t.I tell all to stay away from Libby.Best I can do to save people from this horrible deadly way to die.Libby is not safe to anything that breathe.Thank you

  4. mesotheliomatreatmentcenters

    Glad they have funds to research mesothelioma, a cancer that killed many in Libby Montana

  5. Mike Crill

    What IS wrong with 8Million being spent is that it doesn't cost a dime to tell all people the truth that Libby causes Meso.Tremolite asbestos causes Meso.Living and breathing Libby air causes Meso.Children born and raised in a asbestos contaminated environment ARE more at RISK of developing Meso.Children MUST be the priority to protect.There has been over 300 Million spent on Libby.Not one human being has/is protected.Wouldn't be more of a priority to stop people from such a exposure? Sure isn't be telling lies that Libby Mt is a safe place.That will never end Meso.Spend 8MILLION relocating people and then study all you want in Libby.End result is and always will be”Libby Mt is not a safe place for anything that breathes.Stay away…Gee…look how much money I just saved someone??? Your welcome.

  6. Mike Crill

    What IS wrong with 8Million being spent is that it doesn't cost a dime to tell all people the truth that Libby causes Meso.Tremolite asbestos causes Meso.Living and breathing Libby air causes Meso.Children born and raised in a asbestos contaminated environment ARE more at RISK of developing Meso.Children MUST be the priority to protect.There has been over 300 Million spent on Libby.Not one human being has/is protected.Wouldn't be more of a priority to stop people from such a exposure? Sure isn't be telling lies that Libby Mt is a safe place.That will never end Meso.Spend 8MILLION relocating people and then study all you want in Libby.End result is and always will be”Libby Mt is not a safe place for anything that breathes.Stay away…Gee…look how much money I just saved someone??? Your welcome.