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(c) 2022 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Saga of Asbestos in LIbby Montana


The plight of the workers of Libby Montana may have been highlighted by efforts of Senator Harry Reid in the recent Senate Health Care Reform legislation, but it goes historically much deeper. While the hazardous of asbestos may have been studied for over a hundred years, it wasn't until a newspaper article 1999 did horrors of Libby become nationally recognized.

A a recent lecture Aubrey Miller, M.D. spoke on the plight of Libby and its people. An environmental epidemiologist and a captain in the U.S. Public Health Service board-certified in occupational medicine, Miller currently serves as the chief medical officer in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of the Commissioner's Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats. Previously, he worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as a regional health administrator, coordinating multi-agency emergency responses, such as the Libby situation.

"It's the worst site in EPA history in terms of human health......Even though asbestos has been studied for 100 years," he added, "the science and regulations were developed from worker studies for workplace settings and thus were not very useful for environmental situations and non-worker exposures."

Eddy Ball, a reporter covering the Miller's lecture to a capacity audience concluded, "Politics and financial interests further complicate the regulation of such environmental hazards as Libby's. For instance, there was ample evidence accruing for many years that environmental asbestos contamination was hazardous and that the Libby situation was 'a predictable surprise.' Based on his experiences Miller is convinced that 'there must be other Libbys occurring under our noses' in the U.S. Miller stated we need to challenge dogma and preconceptions about environmental exposures and who is at risk in order to identify disease and provide honest and useful solutions for our communities."