Saturday, June 27, 2009
Toxic Cleanup in Montana
With all the emphasis on the economy and health care reform, we don't hear as much about toxic clean-up anymore or the critical work of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The towns of Libby and Troy, in Northwest Montana are depending upon the EPA to clean up a vermiculite mine (opened in 1923) that was contaminated with toxic asbestos. The population of Libby was largely unaware that the hazy smoke created by the vermiculite processing plant in the town also contained tremolite asbestos which has been linked to mesothelioma, a cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen and heart.
The EPA issued a public health emergency on June 17th for Libby and Troy and stated the conditions in the town present a significant threat. Since the closing of the mine in 1990, approximately 400 Libby residents have died from asbestos-related diseases such as malignant mesothelioma. With a population of fewer than 3,000, nearly 2,000 people in Libby have become sick with an illness related to asbestos exposure.
“This is a tragic public health situation that has not received the recognition it deserves by the federal government for far too long. We’re making a long-delayed commitment to the people of Libby and Troy. Based on a rigorous re-evaluation of the situation on the ground, we will continue to move aggressively on the cleanup efforts and protect the health of the people,” said Lisa Jackson, the new EPA administrator.
The mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment. Prior to 1970, when the EPA was formed, the government was not organized to protect people from pollutants that harm health and degrade the environment. The EPA was assigned the daunting task of repairing the damage already done to the natural environment and to establish new criteria to guide Americans in making a cleaner environment a reality.
Long Live the EPA and good luck to the citizens of Troy and Libby Montana.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 8:21 AM