BIOE 103 Case study: Asbestosis in Libby, MT

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1 BIOE 103 Case study: Asbestosis in Libby, MT Don't feel sorry for us in Libby; use it as a lesson and don't let it happen to you. Gayla Benefield Libby Resident

2 Let s review man-made environmental disasters in the United States and what the US learned

3 The Dust bowl was probably America s greatest man-made environmental disaster Millions of people displaced. Lessons learned: Soil management in US is much better. But same area may be making similar mistakes with irrigation in the region.

4 Worst accident at nuclear power plant in US History: Partial meltdown of reactor at Three mile island in 1979 Consensus in peer reviewed literature: no cancer deaths from accident Accident had big impact on public s view of nuclear energy. Led to increased regulation of nuclear power plants. Lessons learned?: Maybe. Some say people are now too afraid of nuclear power.

5 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: 1989 ~260,000 barrels of oil spilled in Prince William Sound, Alaska Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and other regulations required companies to have accident plans and to use double walled oil tankers

6 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill suggests to instructor Exxon Valdez lessons may have been forgotten Law passed in 1990 required oil companies to have detailed response plan for oil spills. Instructor doesn t believe British Petroleum had one.

7 Love Canal, NY School built on toxic waste dump Government reports and peer reviewed papers: no increase in birth defects or cancer Experience led to EPA Superfund program to clean up toxic waste sites

8 Gulf of Mexico Dead zone Kills marine organisms in large area of Gulf of Mexico Lessons learned:???

9 Human death toll for these disasters fortunately was small Today we are going to discuss the man-made environmental disaster that killed the most people in United States history

10 And it took place in Libby, Montana Libby, MT Population 2600

11 Dr. Frances Kelsey prevented thalidomide tragedy in U.S.

12 Libby, MT did not have a similar hero EPA scientist entering a house in Libby, MT 1999

13 Four questions to consider What happened? How could it happen? Did we learn from this disaster? What can we do to prevent similar problems in the future?

14 Seattle Post-Intelligencer broke story November 18, 1999 First it killed some miners. Then it killed wives and children, slipping into their homes on the dusty clothing of hard working men. Now the mine is closed, but in Libby, the killing goes on.

15 Paul Peronard EPA on-scene coordinator tells his wife: This is just pure bullshit. If something this bad had happened, we d know about it. Hell, everybody would know about it. It s got to be bullshit

16 Paul Peronard 1 year later "This is certainly the largest incident at a single facility or workplace involved in terms of number of deaths and illnesses that I know of anywhere in the world."

17 1. What happened in Libby?

18 WR Grace Company is a chemical conglomerate with annual sales of billions of dollars

19 You may have heard about this company In the 1970 s and 80 s, WR Grace dumped trichloroethylene into a pit behind a factory in Woburn, MA. Five children died of leukemia. EPA declared WR Grace at fault. Fined WR Grace $10,000 for lying to EPA.

20 W.R. Grace and previous owner mined vermiculite in Libby since 1923

21 Vermiculite used to insulate millions of homes EPA estimates 35 million homes have vermiculite insulation

22 Grace advertised it as The safe insulation

23 No need for mask

24 A child could install it!

25 Milling of the vermiculite ore was very dusty It was so unbelievable. The amount of dust... you can't even describe how much it was. When it'd get six, eight, 10 inches deep then they'd send a sweeper in there to sweep it down. Les Skramstad It's just like farm dust, it's not harmful. Earl Locick, plant manager

26 Les Skramstad, mill Sweeper: There was probably anywhere from 6 to 10 inches of dust on the floor, and it hung over everything. It was like walking on a mattress

27 Vermiculite contains asbestos Asbestos fibers Sharp Very small Do not break down in body

28 Asbestos fibers damage lung tissue Scar tissue develops Tissue loses ability to expand / contract Condition called asbestosis Asbestosis may take decades to develop May be caused by short-term (months?) exposure

29 Exposure to asbestos also causes mesothelioma (cancer of pleural membrane)

30 By all accounts, these are painful and frightening medical conditions

31 Libby asbestos was exported to hundreds of plants around the country Joe Darabant, 1949 (Age 25) Johns-Mannsville Plant, New Jersey Made asbestos shingles & pipe coverings using asbestos from Libby, MT

32 Joe Darabant Age 65 Forced to retire at age 50 due to weak heart

33 Death toll in Libby: 400? Hundreds of cases of asbestosis 2000 people may eventually die

34 Clean up efforts in Libby continue

35 2. How could this happen?

36 Working at the mine was dirty. But jobs highly sought after "You had to read the obituary column to get a job. "It was a terrific place to work. -Les Skramstad He came through the door and he was just filthy, just covered in the stuff," - Norita Skramstad

37 Early history of mining in Libby 1913 Vermiculite discovered 1923 Mining begins 1959 Zonolite x-rays all employees 48 / 130 have respiratory problems 1961 Montana Board of Health identifies vermiculite as containing high concentrations of asbestos 1963 WR Grace purchases mine 1964 Grace begins annual x-rays of employees

38 What to do with workers with diseased lungs? "If we minimize their exposure to dust... chances are we may be able to keep them on the job until they retire, thus precluding the high cost of total disability," Jan. 5, 1968 Internal Memo marked personal and confidential Peter Kostic Safety Chief

39 1976 Research 10 out of 10 hamsters exposed to tremolite asbestos from Libby developed extensive fibrosis Dr. William Smith Fairleigh Dickinson University

40 University Research not made public All results of our tremolite study will be reported solely to W.R. Grace & Company and any publication of the findings will be made by mutual agreement. - Disclosure clause for research performed at Fairleigh Dickinson University

41 1982. Harvard studies 30 years of mortality data for W.R. Grace "Our major problem is death from respiratory cancer. This is no surprise." Henry Eschenbach W.R. Grace official Commenting on a 1982 Harvard Study reviewing 30 years of mortality data for mine

42 1978: Scotts Company Marysville, OH Four employees diagnosed with rare lung condition at plant using Libby vermiculite as soil conditioner

43 Scott s funds research at University of Cincinnati Results Widespread pleural disease found among Scotts workers Libby Vermiculite blamed Scott s response Scotts switches ore sources in 1980 Scotts contacts Environmental Protection Agency

44 EPA responds by doing nothing

45 Why didn t the EPA do something? Um, because we re a bunch of chickenshits There s no real good reason for why we didn t do more. Paul Peronard

46 EPA Review (Jan 2001) concludes EPA's efforts were hampered by fragmented authority and jurisdiction EPA was hindered internally by ineffective communication. EPA was impeded by limitations of science, technology, and health effects data. Other issues were given higher priority EPA website, accessed Oct 31, 2007

47 Montana labor leader blames President Reagan Reagan's EPA administrators were way too cozy with industry. - Don Judge, Secretary of Montana chapter of AFL-CIO

48 Ronald Reagan elected President 1980 CEO Peter Grace appointed by President Reagan to chair investigation on government waste 28,000 page Grace Commission report recommends cutting funding for EPA

49 Government Accountability Office decides it was error in judgment EPA misjudged the extent of contamination in Libby GAO Report, 2001

50 Did corporate cover-up play a role? "As soon as [W. R. Grace] management got the word the inspectors were coming, we stopped everything and spent the next few days shoveling and hosing the vermiculite dust out of sight so the inspectors wouldn't see how bad the problems were. -Butch Hurlbert, Former mine worker Source: Seattle PI August 18, 2000

51 Criminal charges filed in 2005 Conspiracy, knowing endangerment, obstruction of justice Largest criminal trial in U.S. Environmental history Henry Eschenbach Jack Wolter Bill McCaig Robert Bettacchi Health and safety director in Grace's industrial chemical group Former Grace vice president Former general manager of the mine Grace senior vice president O. Mario Favorito Former general counsel for the corporation Robert Walsh Senior vice president.

52 Grace paid 250 million dollar fine to EPA for cleanup of Libby

53 WR Grace officials acquitted of all charges May 2009 Critics have argued decision was affected by judge s decisions to limit evidence presented at trial

54 How could Libby residents let this happen? Libby resident, Gayla Benefield remembers 1954: Dad gave his job to me as a birthday present. He had been out of work all summer and things weren t looking good. He was so proud the he had finally gotten the job that he had wanted, and coincidently it occurred on his birthday. Mom and Dad explained to me that the job meant that in twenty years Dad would receive a pension and that they could retire and live comfortably in their golden years.

55 Her father died 20 years later of asbestosis Perley Vatland

56 The mine was almost a fraternity To work for the mine was almost a fraternity. Your fellow miners became your friends. Children played together, families visited. Gayla Benefield

57 Corporate generosity If any community organization needed anything, W.R. Grace was always the one to jump to the forefront."

58 It was hard to raise a question It was hard to raise a question of any business operating in Libby that provided jobs, so it was a difficult atmosphere to try to advocate for workers. In one way or another, they d blackball you, and basically that was not an uncommon behavior. Dr. Brad Black Libby, Montana

59 Environmentalists not wanted "The environmental politics of the nation don't always go over well in small towns," The environmental laws have hurt the logging industry, and that has cost us a lot of jobs. Tony Berget Mayor, Libby

60 Some analysts have cited willful blindness among citizens of Libby as contributing cause to tragedy For further information, see link below for a provocative discussion Th

61 3. Have we learned the danger of asbestos and the importance of honesty? Asbestos from Libby was used to fireproof the World Trade Center

62 Much of 9/11 dust was asbestos from Libby

63 EPA said air is safe I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C. that their air is safe to breathe. -Christine Todd Whitman Administrator, EPA September 18, 2001

64 but later changed its mind EPA "did not have sufficient data and analyses" to declare air safe The White House "convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones" - Nikki L. Tinsley, EPA Inspector General, 2003

65 Recent research has shown air was unhealthy 69% of the nearly 10,000 first responders had new or worsened lung problems after September 11 Source: ABC News July 19, 2007

66 And what about the insulation in 35 million homes? For the child playing in the attic or the cable or telephone installer, or anyone doing renovations, the risks are enormous. Dr. Aubrey Miller U.S. Public Health Service physician

67 2002: EPA wanted to declare Public Health Emergency Christine Todd Whitman was prepared to notify homeowners that vermiculite insulation is dangerous

68 But ended up doing little more than publishing a brocure EPA publication number 747-F

69 Seattle PI attributed decision to intense efforts from Bush White House Thousands of pages of e- mails, letters and reports document intense efforts from the White House to block the declaration [of emergency].

70 Asbestos remains in millions of homes EPA recommends not disturbing it I feel sick at heart when a young father tells me he just rewired his house, crawling through the vermiculite insulation in his attic day after day, tracking dust and asbestos throughout his home. - Keven McDermott EPA, Environmental Services Unit, Pacific Northwest Region

71 "It took my mother 17 months to slowly suffocate If what has occurred in Libby serves as a lesson to other communities, it will be worth it. - Gayla Benefield

72 The End

73 Study guide Be able to describe the history of asbestosis in Libby, MT. Be able to describe the symptoms and causes of asbestosis. Be able to define and describe: pleaural membrane, mesothelioma. Be able to describe a lesson that this case study supports. Be able to describe a plausible reason for why the health effects of asbestos in Libby were not widely recognized until

74 Sample exam questions Describe the health affects of asbestos exposure. What evidence is there that the owners of the asbestos mine in Libby, MT were aware that their workers were exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos dust? 74

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