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EPA - Public Health Emergency Declared In Libby, Montana

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Thursday, June 18, 2009 12:04 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Asbestos, EPA, Toxic Substances, Environmental Pollution, Dangerous Products, Mesothelioma, Vermiculite


IMAGE SOURCE: W.R. Grace mine, Libby, Montana / CNN

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Lisa P. Jackson announced the agency has determined that a public health emergency exists at the Libby asbestos site in Montana.

Asbestos contamination has been cited in more than 200 deaths and illnesses in thousands more.

This is the first time the agency has made a determination under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as the Superfund, a 1980 statute that governs sites contaminated or threatened by hazardous substances.

The Libby site has been designated a Superfund priority since 2002.

The declaration comes just a month after W.R. Grace & Co. and three former executives were acquitted of federal charges that they knowingly allowed Libby residents to be exposed to cancer-causing asbestos from its now-closed vermiculite mine.

Libby’s 2600 residents will not be evacuated under the action.

The EPA will spend $125 million during the next five years to conduct house-by-house cleanups and improve health protections for residents with asbestos-related illnesses.

Investigations conducted by the federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry have found that asbestosis occurrences, a lung condition, near Libby, are drastically higher than the national average for the period from 1979 to 1998, said Jackson.

The EPA is working with the Department of Health and Human Services, which allotted a $6 million grant to provide asbestos-related medical care to the residents of Libby and Troy. The declaration also authorized the environmental agency to remove vermiculite, whose uses include insulating, from buildings there. #

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