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2012 EPA Research Progress Report

Asbestos Toxicity Estimates to Help Protect Health in Libby, Montana

In 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson declared a public health emergency in Libby, Montana. This unprecedented action by an EPA Administrator recognized serious health risks, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and decreased lung function, posed from exposure to Libby Amphibole asbestos present in the community from past mining and vermiculate processing. 

EPA started cleanup activities for the contaminated former Libby mine in 1999, and the area was listed as a Superfund site in 2002. Throughout that time, Agency researchers have worked closely with partners from EPA’s Region 8 Office (serving Montana, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) and the local community to support those efforts and better protect public health.

In 2011, EPA released the IRIS Toxicological Review of Libby Amphibole (External Review Draft). This health assessment, when final, will support cleanup and related risk management initiatives at the Libby Superfund site. 

The draft assessment presents conclusions about potential human health hazards for cancer and non-cancer health effects, and it provides toxicity values that will be used to help characterize risk in areas where people may be exposed to Libby Amphibole asbestos.

The draft assessment has undergone rigorous peer review and incorporates a transparent process including ample opportunity for community and stakeholder involvement and public comment. An explicit part of the process was to engage the affected community in the review process. Those efforts continued well into 2012.

In February of 2012, EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) held a public peer review meeting on the draft Libby Amphibole asbestos assessment and held two public teleconferences of the SAB Libby Amphibole Asbestos Panel in May to discuss the Panel’s report on its review of the draft assessment.

EPA scientists will consider public and peer review comments as they finalize the assessment. The final assessment will help the Agency secure the best path forward for cleaning up Libby Amphibole asbestos and for protecting public health at the Libby Superfund site.

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