CARD sets rally and two-day symposium

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The Center for Asbestos Related Diseases invites the public to join it for the Third Annual Research Rally on Thursday, Oct.  11, at the Memorial Center in Libby.

The event will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The CARD staff, along with researchers partners and other asbestos related community groups, will provide a fun, interactive learning experience about Libby Amphibole Asbestos.  

Researchers from across the country, as well as local community groups, will be on-site to share information and visit with the community about their projects.

The Research Rally is an innovative way to engage community members and researchers in a fun and educational environment.  This communitywide, family-friendly event will encourage community members to interact with research teams, which promote understanding of projects.  

Many local organizations, such as the Libby Volunteer Fire Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Kiwanis and U.S. Forest Service will be on hand offering interactive games, project information booths and learning activities for this thought-provoking, fun-filled experience planned for all ages. 

There will be prizes, balloons, popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs and more. 

Also, CARD and the Libby Area Community Advisory Group (CAG) will host the second Libby Amphibole Symposium Friday and Saturday, Oct. 12 and 13.

While the Rally is informal and carnival-like, the symposium offers in-depth scientific presentations by experts participating from institutions such as Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Kent State University, University of Cincinnati, Idaho State University and University of Montana.

 Combined, these events bring an opportunity for scientists, researchers and professionals working with Libby amphibole, to interact with community members of all ages.  

Support from the Libby community has allowed CARD to achieve excellence in community-based asbestos health research.

 

 

 that is nationally recognized by these and other research partners.  Presentation topics will likely include autoimmune antibodies, disease progression, Libby amphibole mineralogy, and psychosocial topics.  The entire symposium will be open to the public for observation, and a question and answer session will be scheduled to give observers the opportunity to interact with presenters.  

 

CARD would like to thank all of those who support and participate in research projects at the Center for Asbestos Related Disease.  We hope that you will attend the symposium and rally to learn about the progress we are making toward better understanding of  asbestos related disease mechanisms, treatment and prevention.    

 could affect some of the 200-plus industrial sites in 40 states that also received asbestos-tainted vermiculite from Libby. More than 20 of those sites, posing the highest health risks, have already been cleaned once. Most of those were processing plants where the mineral was heated at high temperatures so it could expand and be used for insulation in millions of homes.

The GAO and asbestos experts said the EPA risk assessment could force more cleanups. And Grace representatives and health officials said the EPA proposal could apply to other types of asbestos found in communities across the country.

In a letter to the EPA last week, Grace Vice President Karen Ethier said the standard would have “inevitable” consequences beyond Libby.

“That broad application will, in turn, result in enormous, unexpected and unnecessary costs to building owners, farmers and other property holders, including the federal government,” Ethier said.

Manufacturing and trade groups and federal agencies including the White House Office of Management and Budget also have raised questions about the EPA proposal. They said the proposed threshold falls below even background asbestos levels seen in parts of the country.

Although the sale and manufacture of asbestos-containing materials is tightly regulated, the government has never established a safe level of human exposure for the type of the mineral found in Libby. While there are general cancer-based exposure limits for asbestos set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the EPA proposal for the first time sets a risk level for non-cancer illnesses, such as the debilitating and potentially fatal lung disease asbestosis. 

That’s a crucial issue in Libby, where a vermiculite mine and processing plants operated by W.R. Grace for three decades left the town coated in asbestos dust that has killed an estimated 400 people and sickened at least 1,700 more. Health experts say the death toll is bound to rise because of the long latency period of asbestos-related illness.

The vermiculite was mined by Grace from a mountain outside town and shipped across the country for use as insulation, fertilizer, fireproofing material and other commercial products. 

The mine closed in 1990.

Health problems first noticed in mine workers have since become pervasive in Libby, affecting spouses who laundered their husbands’ dust-covered clothes, generations of residents who played as children near Grace’s processing plants and others.

In public testimony and filings with the EPA, Grace has argued that less-severe lung problems considered a sign of asbestos disease can be confused with other health problems, such as obesity. The company maintains that the science used by the EPA to craft its proposal was flawed and has urged the agency to do more research before moving forward. 

The air is far cleaner in Libby today than it was when the EPA first arrived, removing thousands of truckloads of contaminated soil and replacing it with clean topsoil. But the agency has acknowledged some people in Libby are still at risk, particularly landscapers and others who stir asbestos-laden soil. 

Grace reached a $250 million settlement with the EPA in 2008 to cover cleanup costs in Libby and the surrounding area, although the company remains responsible for cleaning up the mine site. Company executives accused of knowing of the health problems in the town were acquitted of federal criminal charges three years ago. 

Arthur Frank, an occupational physician who has testified against Grace in asbestos litigation, said it was “disingenuous” for Grace to now argue against the EPA proposal. 

“I don’t even see why Grace gets a say in this matter. They’re the ones that caused this disaster,” said Frank, a professor at Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia. “The situation in Libby specifically shows that minimal pleural disease carries with it significant physiological changes in the lungs.”

The EPA has also proposed that a lung condition known as pleural thickening — caused when asbestos fibers lodge in the lungs and cause scarring — is an indicator of asbestos exposure that can lead to more harmful lung diseases including asbestosis.   

Grace scientists have said medical professionals can easily mistake similar ailments caused by being overweight for asbestos exposure. 

The EPA is to make a final decision on the standard for Libby sometime next year.

Earlier this week, the agency’s science advisory board reviewing the proposal requested only limited revisions after Grace asked to send it back to scientists for further study.

Agnes Kane, a member of the EPA advisory board and chair of its Libby asbestos panel, said the government and Libby can’t afford to wait.

“We certainly can’t sit around and wait for these types of studies to be done,” Kane said. “We have to use our best scientific judgment. It is necessary to proceed with the remediation of that Superfund site.”

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