Starting nearly a century ago, vermiculite was mined outside Libby. Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used for various purposes, such as in building insulation and as a soil conditioner. Decades ago, it became apparent that the Libby mine was contaminated with a toxic and highly friable form of asbestos called tremolite-actinolite series asbestos. This type of asbestos would later become known as Libby Amphibole asbestos.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen. It’s been linked to a serious lung inflammation known as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer that affects the lining of internal organs. It can take up to 50 years for the symptoms of mesothelioma to present. Mesothelioma is incurable and results in death, usually within 18 months.
Thousands of miners, millers, and even residents of the town were exposed to massive amounts of this highly toxic form of asbestos for all of their lives. By the 1960s, the widespread despair caused by the mining of vermiculite was well known in Libby. Regardless, in 1963, W.R. Grace took over the mine.
Company executives were well aware of the dangers asbestos posed to those exposed to the toxic chemical. But vermiculite was a huge money-making operation for the chemical giant. Instead of protecting workers and the fewer than 3,000 residents of Libby, W.R. Grace distributed its leftover asbestos-laden vermiculite for use in local playgrounds, backyards, gardens, roads, and several other popular locations around town.
W.R. Grace executives lined their pockets with profits while the people of Libby grew sicker and sicker. Meanwhile, W.R. Grace’s covert actions remained hidden to the nation at large.
But in 1999, a group of journalists exposed what had been happening in Libby since the early 1900s in a series of articles titled, “Uncivil Action: A Town Left to Die.” It told the devastating impact the mine and W.R. Grace had on the small town — the thousands of people who had died through the years and the countless more who suffered serious chronic breathing problems.
As the magnitude of the health effect became known across the country, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stepped in. In 2009, the agency declared a Public Health Emergency in Libby — a first for the EPA. Work to clean the town and rid it of toxic asbestos continues today, more than a decade later.
Unfortunately, asbestos litigation continues to unearth corporations that put profits over the safety of their workers. That’s why Beasley Allen’s mesothelioma lawyers are so committed to helping those harmed by workplace asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, a known carcinogen. Those most likely to be exposed to this toxic mineral include miners, factory workers, railroad and automotive works, shipbuilders, plumbers, and construction workers. However, individuals using talc or even family members who live with someone who worked with asbestos are at risk.
Decades after the dangers of asbestos exposure became known, some companies continued to use products that contained asbestos and failed to protect their workers from exposure. Our experience shows that all too often, giant corporations are choosing profits over people.
If you have a client diagnosed with mesothelioma due to the negligent actions of bad corporate actors, let us put our resources to work for you. Our mesothelioma lawyers can competently and conscientiously assist you in handling mesothelioma lawsuits, no matter how large.