Even Extremely Low Levels of Asbestos Fibers Dangerous

Libby, Montana â?? Federal officials expect they can finish the risk study for guiding the asbestos-tainted Libby cleanup by the end of year 2014. A scientistsâ?? panel recently said that even a miniature amount of asbestos fibers can create lung problems in human beings. The long-anticipated document will decide when the cleanup of asbestos-containing dust from the vermiculite mine of W.R. Grace outside the northwestern Montana can end. Numerous people in and close to Libby have either sickened or died because of their exposure to asbestos fibers. So far, the cleanup has cost at least $447M since it began in year 1999. Deborah McKean, a toxicologist with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says, if possible, they will complete the risk study much earlier â?? perhaps by this year end. However, before that the EPA should do extra work recommended recently by the Science Advisory Board (SAB), a team of scientists from outside. The SAB has spent approximately one year deliberating the preliminary findings of the agency. In the meantime, the cleanup is grinding on. Between 80 and 100 properties in Libby are lined up for the work this year, according to Rebecca Thomas, the project manager of the EPA. Many properties in the area still require to be addressed. The list could expand substantially based on the risk studyâ??s outcome. Work on the vermiculite mine site, located outside the town, hasnâ??t started. The mine was closed in year 1990 and it remains W.R. Graceâ??s responsibility. In spite of many deaths in Libby, the SAB said that the Environmental Protection Agency was right in using lung scarring for determining the amount of asbestos that poses a health risk. This could have implications even beyond Libby. A number of sites all through the United States got or processed the vermiculite from Graceâ??s Libby mine. Millions of houses in the country used it as insulation. According to the SAB, the EPA should collect more information for backing up its position. The industry groups and Grace itself have sharply criticized the proposal of the EPA for more stringent standards. The companies say the new standards are totally unjustified and almost impossible to achieve. The agency hasnâ??t yet responded formally to these comments. However, McKean says she doesnâ??t expect any significant change to the EPAâ??s newly proposed standards. She says the final standards will be established only after the additional work. After that, the study will take another 6 months to complete, she said.

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