(The following blog post is an extension of a Letter to the Editor published in The Western News on May 1 2015.)
Montana’s two U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steven Daines highlighted “Asbestos Awareness Week.” Their article appeared April 3rd in Libby, Montana’s newspaper, The Western News, especially honoring the many people who are ill and have passed away painfully suffering from various illnesses due to asbestos exposure.
While I appreciate their kind comments and concern for Libby folks, I was heartbroken when I read the following excerpt from their article:
“While asbestos is no longer mined in Libby and no longer legally used in manufacturing, in America”, Black said, “it’s important to keep up the campaign for awareness.”
“Asbestos is still mined and used in products in other places around the world,” Black said. “The diseases are still there. They keep happening. People need to be aware of this. It’s another preventable disease we could wipe off the books if we go after it.”
According to the EPA website, many products are made using asbestos here in the United States (not in Libby). There is a widespread misconception about asbestos in the USA. Most people believe that the government banned asbestos. It is NOT illegal, as many people think. It was banned for a brief period of time, but the 1989 ban on asbestos was overturned in 1991, and it is still used in many products that are made and used in the USA. The following information is quoted directly from the current EPA website: http://www2.epa.gov/asbestos/us-federal-bans-asbestos
Examples of asbestos-containing products not banned
The manufacture, importation, processing and distribution in commerce of these products, as well as some others not listed, are not banned (in the U. S).
|> Cement corrugated sheet||> Cement flat sheet||> Clothing|
|> Pipeline wrap||> Roofing felt||> Vinyl floor tile|
|> Cement shingle||> Millboard||> Cement pipe|
|> Automatic transmission components||> Clutch facings||> Friction materials|
|> Disk brake pads||> Drum brake linings||> Brake blocks|
||> Non-roofing coatings||> Roof coatings|
In order for “Asbestos Awareness Week” to be truly effective, our senators need to do their homework—and then join Washington State’s U.S. Senator Patty Murray from Washington State and others in getting asbestos banned again—permanently–so others do not go through the anguish and pain that Lincoln County residents have endured for most of the past century.
There is too much misinformation out there about asbestos. Libby cannot have endured all it has, lost so many people over so many years, to have the rest of the country thinking that America is safe from asbestos illnesses and deaths.
Libby’s cleanup efforts are a wonderful thing. People can again feel safe here, come and enjoy the beautiful lakes, rivers, forests and big blue skies in the most beautiful place I have ever known. In the meantime, the rest of America cannot continue being exposed where they live, to products used in automobiles and construction. These tainted products may very well be marketed in Libby as we speak—and that is more than just unfair. It is criminal.
(For recent information on the EPA inspection site at Libby, Montana, visit The Western News article published on May 1, 2015)
H. M Bowker,
Author of mystery novel I Can’t Breathe!
and former Libby resident