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Andrew Alden

Libby and the Serpentine Killers

By July 2, 2010

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A newspaper article has been making the rounds about the sad situation in Libby, Montana, a touchstone of anti-asbestos activism. Here are a few reasons why it is irrelevant to the situation in California, where lawmakers are trying to undeclare serpentinite as the state rock (see the previous post).
  • Libby was not the site of an asbestos mine, but a vermiculite mine. Huge amounts of finely ground mining waste were what endangered the population.
  • The harmful mineral at Libby was a fibrous variety of tremolite, which has no industrial use as asbestos. It was a contaminant. The only reason it can be called "asbestos" is because its fine, needlelike particles fall under the EPA regulations for asbestos.
  • The rock in Libby was not serpentinite.
  • The most common mineral used for asbestos that occurs in serpentinite is chrysotile. Careful medical studies have not shown any substantial harm from chrysotile dust.
  • Asbestos regulations do not distinguish between chrysotile and genuinely harmful minerals such as crocidolite and tremolite.
I don't expect you to accept this at face value; my facts are documented in a paper by Malcolm Ross and Robert Nolan in GSA Special Paper 373, Ophiolite Concept and the Evolution of Geological Thought. The proposed law in California ignores this science and makes a formal finding that was dictated by mesothelioma law firms. They would like to have the hammer of a law that encourages long lawsuits, armed with fear of the word "asbestos." All I have in opposition is the love of a fascinating rock type. UPDATE: A post on the Looking for Detachment blog is a handy link to a variety of posts about the serpentinite reclassification. It also notes the interests of a landowner in California.


July 3, 2010 at 5:46 am
(1) John Marshell says:

We have the same problem in the UK. White asbestos, or chrysotile, is chemically the same as talc, use for years to powder the bottoms of babies, and not dangerous. The real asbestos, brown and blue, are banned to use for good reason but the white is lumped into the same bracket and this ensures that home owners have a very expensive job to replace any asbestos-cement product that always used the white. This completely safe product is deemed dangerous.

July 3, 2010 at 9:05 am
(2) mike crill says:

What Libby and this asbestos Holocaust has done is created a chance to make a hell of alot of money but at the price of downplaying this deadly exposure and selling Libby Mt as a safe place to live and raise a family.(knowingly killing more families) This has NOTHING to do with health and safety or stopping what was done to me and three generations of my family were told in 1999 when the Latency period became too much to hide.Libby Mt is a death town and who ever lives and breathes there will die from what they inhale/swallow…everyone…and WR Grace bought this mine in 63 for the Tremolite asbestos. This mine in Libby IS a asbestos mine and at the time they bought the mine, the Grace commission was the ones making the laws and rules governing asbestos. THIS is how THEY got away with this. They classified THEIR mine as a Vermiculite mine not asbestos. The Tremolite asbestos was there main product.They sold asbestos not Vermiculite…and WR Grace,EPA and OSHA KNEW from tests done in the 60 and 70, using Libby Tremolite on rats and rats died from Meso…proving THEN that Libby asbestos IS the cause of Meso.Terry Trent has been a Gladiator for the people and when Govt is as guilty as the Corporations that kills us…they continue to kill us…knowingly.Check out Libby Mike Crill, I tell the truth and save thousands from what is killing me. NO CHILDREN in Libby Mt. Children must be the priority to protect….Thank you for this story and I hope someday this Holocaust is taken seriously. after all, how many millions must die before this Holocaust ends???and Libby is for sale as safe….bunch of bastards.

July 6, 2010 at 6:46 pm
(3) NJ says:

Mike Crill:

>>>This mine in Libby IS a asbestos mine<<>>Gold miners discovered vermiculite in Libby in 1881


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