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EPA proposes strict asbestos cleanup standards (part two)

Last week, we began a discussion of the Environmental Protection Agency's recent proposal for the cleanup of asbestos in Libby, Montana, a former mining town in which at least half of the population - and most likely more - has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis and related diseases. The cause of those ailments is the town's proximity to the W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine, which spread asbestos throughout the town for many of the 30 years it was in operation.

As previously discussed, the EPA proposal has been met with much resistance by the company and others who say it sets an unjustifiably high and costly standard for asbestos cleanup. Under previous regulations, the EPA required that asbestos be airborne in amounts no greater than one-tenth of a fiber per cubic centimeter. The Libby proposal would require that airborne asbestos concentrations not exceed two-100,000ths of a fiber per cubic centimeter.

The reason for this significant change, the EPA says, is that the asbestos spread throughout Libby is a different type than in most other asbestos contaminations in the U.S. As a result, the proposal is, for the first time, dealing largely with non-cancerous illnesses such as asbestos instead of mesothelioma and other lung cancers.

Regardless of the reason, W.R. Grace officials have vehemently opposed the proposal, saying that it is unnecessarily strict and that it will cause similar costly cleanups to be performed in other parts of the country.

The EPA will announce its final decision next year. Hopefully, the nearly 2,000 Libby residents who have fallen ill as a result of the asbestos exposure throughout the town won't have to wait much longer for cleanup to be done in their town.

Source: WMBF, "EPA pushes tough asbestos standard for Mont. town," Matthew Brown, Sept. 27, 2012

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