Thursday, December 11, 2008

Good News for OHN, Libby still in trouble

I have been following a fellow blogger named OHN for a few months now. Her blog is very touching and human. All I can say is if anyone close to me gets seriously ill, with the possibility of having cancer, I hope I can face life with the same strength and occasional humor she showed. Her writing made me laugh and cry... sometimes in the same post. Hats off to you, OHN.

Her husband had worked in a place where he had been exposed to asbestos, and her blog describes the turns her life took from the day the Dr told them about the mass in BigD's lung, through the fears of possible Mesothemioma (spelling could be wrong here) or other cancers, and finally the negative diagnosis. Her blog really got me thinking about all the families who have lived in, or still live in Libby, Montana.
When I lived in Kalispell, I had some good friends who had lived in, or even grew up in, Libby and nearby Troy, MT. Troy is only a few miles away from Libby and unfortunately has much of the same contaminants in the soil. We aren't just talking about the mine sites, but yards and playgrounds, too. We haven't been hearing much about the area in the past few years, but OHN's blog brought the memories of the heated town meetings that were broadcast on the Kalispell TV news. Also, the stories of the victims. A few years ago, victim stories were everywhere since it was the "News Of The Moment". Now it has been put back under the rug from where it had been pulled out of for awhile.

Here is Libby's story, the Readers Digest Condensed (Wiki) version:

Vermiculite, an ore found in the area in 1881, had been mined in the area since 1919. In 1919, E.N. Alley bought the Rainy Creek claims and started the Zonolite Company. Zonolite is a branded trademark product made from vermiculite. W. R. Grace and Company bought the Zonolite mine in 1963, prior to this logging was the leading employer in Libby. After W. R. Grace & Company closed the Zonolite mine in 1990, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Montana Department of Health and Environment sampled local soil and air and found no asbestos contamination. Further examination with improved equipment found that the samples had traces of fibrous tremolite, which is suspected in the scores of asbestos related ailments affecting area residents. The EPA has spent $120 million in Superfund money on cleanup. A documentary film by the name Libby, Montana was made regarding the asbestos exposure. W.R. Grace knew since 1956 that the dust was toxic and causing asbestosis, but did not release this information to the public, nor the workforce. They also knew that the people had died from the mine, were dying, and would die. Additionally, an estimated 35 million homes in the U.S. contain Zonolite insulation. has even more information. Here is how their web page starts:

Tiny Libby, Mont., depended for years on the jobs at a vermiculite mine. But the mine is closed now, and a P-I investigation shows the town is paying a tragic price for those jobs. Hundreds of former miners, their wives and children, and other townspeople have either died or been diagnosed with fatal illness from asbestos the mine released into the air. No one stepped in to stop the dying. Now the town wonders when it will end, and if the town's children are still at risk.

I am very happy OHN and her husband, BigD are on the road to recovery!
Tomorrow...I'll try to post something a bit "lighter" in subject.

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