Those familiar with the industrial disaster of Libby, Montana, know all too well the many lessons that can be learned from such an ordeal. But for the many people who did not live through or know someone who was impacted by what has been considered one of the biggest industrial disasters in America, there is a lot that we can learn.
Libby, a small town in Montana with a population of around 2,600, spent decades known as a mining town. Vermiculite (an ore) was found in the area in the late 1800s, and a company began mining it heavily in the early 1900s. Little did the miners know that they were being exposed to large amounts of asbestos. As time went on, the asbestos exposure that the miners experienced ultimately led to the death of many of them and their family members. After being exposed for so long, many of the residents were diagnosed with or died from illnesses such as asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer.
There are lessons we can learn from what happened in Libby, Montana, including:
- The dangers of mining.While many people realize that mining plays an important role in our society, they do not understand the dangers from asbestos exposure or other such risks associated with the industry. Asbestos exposure can lead to critical health conditions, such as mesothelioma cancer. While not all miners are exposed to asbestos, those who are find their health at risk.
- People other than miners are impacted.Miners often realize the risk of their profession. But many people are not aware of the risks that spread to family members and those who live in the area. The asbestos fibers were unknowingly taken home and into the community on the miners’ clothing. Additionally, the top layer of the mined soil contained asbestos, creating toxic dust that blew around the town.
- Such environmental destruction is costly. There has been a tremendous cost to the government, including $333 million in cleanup costs, according to CNN. W.R. Grace & Co., the company that operated the mine, reached a $60 million settlement for people in the area. Additional expenses have been incurred by those who have received a mesothelioma diagnosis and required mesothelioma treatment.
- Money is the driving force behind many secrets. W.R. Grace & Co. knew about the asbestos exposure and the dangers that it created. But the company fought to keep the dangers secret in order to maintain their profits. Even with 200 residents in the area dying as a result of the exposure, they remained quiet and continued mining.
- You have to be your own advocate. Most people would like to believe that their boss or the company they work for will to protect them. But what we have learned from Libby is that this is not always the case. Therefore, people need to be their own advocate in seeking justice by contacting a lawyer if they or someone they know has received a mesothelioma diagnosis.
The continued asbestos exposure that took place in Libby, Montana, resulted in many people dying and many others getting a mesothelioma diagnosis. While we cannot turn back the clock, we can do our best to learn from this tragedy in hopes of never repeating it.