Asbestos all around us
Libby is the most unsung of environmental disasters (HCN, 6/21/10). People know (or knew) about Love Canal and even Times Beach and Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, but no one has heard of Libby; and yet the exposures continue, as your "Data" stated. I have done work for the federal Department of Health and Human Services in Libby and knew the person who was the head of the Environmental Protection Agency response from Denver.
This disaster is horrible enough for Libby and its residents, but the issue that is far more significant than Libby itself is the answer to the question, "Where did all the vermiculite product end up?" It has been documented that at least half and maybe all of the sprayed-on insulation for the steel structure of the New York World Trade Center was made from Libby vermiculite, all of which was contaminated with asbestos. I helped my Dad blow vermiculite insulation into the walls of our home back in the '50s. Since Libby produced well more than half of the vermiculite used in this country, I can guarantee you we were exposed. Now I know as a health professional that all these exposures are well less than what those in Libby were (and are) exposed to, but just add up all the possible exposures in one's life. All I can say is I wouldn't want to have been living in Manhattan in 2001.
Patricia J. MacMillan