W.R. Grace and Libby mine located in Libby, Montana contained a deposits of asbestos that continues to receive attention from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today. While the cleanup effort in Libby has been extensive, the dangers of the mine are present throughout the nation. This is because the vermiculite containing asbestos mined from Libby was used extensively in insulation materials shipped to all parts of the country.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that, when exposed to extremely high temperatures, expands from 8 to 30 times its original size. The result is a lightweight, fire-resistant, and odorless product that was found very well suited for use in insulation placed in walls and attics. The source of the majority of asbestos sold in the United States from 1919 to 1990 was from the Libby mine. The asbestos that was used in insulation by W.R. Grace was sold under the brand name Zonolite. The Zonolite products included Zonolite Super 40, Zonolite Mono-Kote and Zonolite plaster.
In 1963, W.R. Grace took over operations of the mine. At that time, W.R. Grace was aware of the asbestos and that it caused health issues, but did not disclose this to workers or townspeople, and mining continued.
As a result of the widespread use of the asbestos mined from Libby, insulation containing asbestos ended up in homes across the country, where it may still remain today. Disturbing asbestos is dangerous because it releases microscopic fibers into the air which can then be breathed in. These fibers may remain in the lungs for many years before the harm they can cause is detected.
EPA Response to Libby
In 1999, the EPA began an extensive cleanup process of Libby. By 2010, the EPA had cleaned 1,460 business and residences, removing approximately 900,000 cubic yards of materials contaminated with asbestos. The EPA is currently operating a public comment period on its proposed plan for the continuing cleanup in Libby. This comment period ends July 8, 2015. This demonstrates the significant danger that the Libby mine and site continues to present, as 16 years after cleanup first began, the EPA continues to have concern over the site.
U.S. Department of Justice Response to W.R. Grace and Libby Mines
In 2005, W.R. Grace and seven W.R. Grace executives were indicted for knowingly endangering the Libby, Montana residents and concealing information of the health effects of the W.R. Grace mining operations. The criminal case lingered in the court system with pretrial proceedings reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. By 2009, W.R. Grace had paid millions in medical bills to Libby residents, but was acquitted of charges it knowingly harmed the people of Libby and participated in any cover-up.
Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma and other serious health conditions. If you believe you have been harmed by asbestos exposure and would like more information about your legal options, contact us today. The Throneberry Law Group provides compassionate legal representation across the country to victims of asbestos exposure.