Libby is a city in and the county seat of Lincoln County, Montana, United States. The population was 2,628 at the 2010 census.
Libby’s economy has largely been supported by the use of natural resources, such as logging and mining. Tourism is playing an increasing role in the local economy. 17 miles (27 km) upstream from Libby is the site of the Libby Dam, one of the Columbia River Treaty Dams, finished in 1975. Libby is best known as the “City of Eagles”. Several eagle sculptures can be found all around town, including a 60 foot eagle on the edge of town.
Vermiculite, an ore found in the area in 1881, had been mined in the area since 1919. In 1919, E.N. Alley bought the Rainy Creek claims and started the Zonolite Company. Zonolite is a branded trademark product made from vermiculite. W. R. Grace and Company bought the Zonolite mine in 1963.W.R Grace closed the mine in 1990. In 2000 Federal government investigators subsequently found that air samples from the area had elevated levels of fibrous tremolite asbestos, which is suspected to have caused asbestos related ailments among current and former Zonolite employees, along with non-mine employees. 274 area deaths in the past 60 years are suspected to have been caused by asbestos contaminated vermiculite. In the following years, fewer than 17% of the residents who participated in the ATSDR screening study in Libby were found to have pleural abnormalities. W.R Grace closed the mine in 1990.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been overseeing the removal of asbestos-contaminated soils and other suspect materials in and near Libby since May 2000, and has spent $425 million in Superfund money on cleanup.
On June 17, 2009 the EPA declared its first public health emergency. This emergency covers Libby and nearby Troy. It will provide an additional $130 million in cleanup and medical assistance. The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes a provision which provided Medicare coverage to individuals of such public health emergencies.
Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory and fibrotic medical condition affecting the parenchymal tissue of the lungs caused by the inhalation and retention of asbestos fibers. It usually occurs after high intensity and/or long-term exposure to asbestos (particularly in those individuals working on the production or end-use of products containing asbestos) and is therefore regarded as an occupational lung disease. People with extensive occupational exposure to the mining, manufacturing, handling, or removal of asbestos are at risk of developing asbestosis. Sufferers may experience severe dyspnea (shortness of breath) and are at an increased risk for certain malignancies, including lung cancer but especially mesothelioma. Asbestosis specifically refers to interstitial (parenchymal) fibrosis from asbestos, and not pleural fibrosis or plaquing.