The documentary film, Libby, Montana, details how an entire community became contaminated with asbestos, was lied to by the company responsible, blown off by the EPA, designated as a superfund site, blown off by the EPA, and devastated by asbestosis and asbestos-related cancers like mesothelioma.
WR Grace operated a vermiculite mine in Libby for 70 years, knowing that the vermiculite it was mining was grossly contaminated with asbestos. Town residents used it in their gardens as fertilizer, stuffed their attics with it, made wall board with it, paved their schools and preschools with it, and even baked cookies with it.
WR Grace managers and execs were generous to the community and woven into its civic structure – on boards, active in the city government, and in the community. They were considered good neighbors by Libby residents and warmly welcomed for decades. The entire time, they knew that asbestos was toxic. They knew.
The typical scenario
Dad works in the mine, comes home covered with dust, his kids hug his legs and breathe the dust, his wife washes his clothes and breathes the dust. The kids grow up to have kids who play on the asbestos-containing playground at the pre-school and even though the mine has been closed for years: voila! All three generations in a family have asbestosis and slowly suffocate to death.
Company doctors lied to employees about why they were having trouble breathing. Only when employees were seen by independent doctors and given death sentence diagnoses (asbestosis, mesothelioma) did residents begin to suspect their betrayal. They sued. WR GRace declared bankruptcy. The feds caught them hiding their assets offshore and overturned their bankruptcy protection.
In 2004, seven executives of the WR Grace company were indicted for endangering the lives of their employees.
Their asbestos-containing insulation, called Zonolite, is estimated to be in 30 million homes across the US.
The people of Libby struggled for years to obtain healthcare benefits and to get their homes, yards, schools, pre-schools and parks cleaned up. Because of the generosity of the WR Grace company, asbestos had been build, sprinkled or paved into everything: playgrounds, attics, parks, gardens. They are still struggling.
More asbestos facts
The infrastructure for regulating asbestos production and distribution and for enforcing what standards do exist has been watered down to the point of uselessness starting with the administration of Ronald Reagan.
Mesothelioma was inaccurately reported as lung cancer until a year ago.
In the book Anticancer, A New Way of Life, lung cancer is one of the cancers the author lists as “epidemic.” I’m finding it a helpful book, full of solid research and simple strategies you can adopt to protect yourself from developing cancer.
I’m just sayin’.