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In Libby, asbestos is still wreaking havoc—this time, in contaminated wood

When asbestos tainted the vermiculite ore in Libby, Montana, it took years of cleaning to try to make the town safer for residents after the W.R. Grace mine and factory (for mining and processing vermiculite insulation) shut down. Now the Associated Press reports that more than 15,000 tons of bark and wood chips potentially contaminated by asbestos have been sold, used in and trucked out of Libby in the past decade.

Matthew Brown reported on July 5 that “an AP investigation found that the federal government has known for at least three years that the wood piles were contaminated with an unknown level of asbestos,” and “the EPA did not stop the removal of the material until the AP began investigating in early March.” For the town of Libby, asbestos exposure is a persistent menace.

Though the EPA does not want to investigate the contaminated scrap wood that was packaged and sold, saying they “no longer had jurisdiction because the material is now classified as a commercial product, Senator Max Baucus said he would launch his own inquiry into the asbestos-contaminated bark and wood chips, saying: “The people of Libby have already been poisoned in the name of greed and I won’t allow them to be poisoned again because of negligence.”

For now, Libby residents who have used the wood chips and discounted lumber in their yard and home have been cautioned not to disturb the wood when it is dry, to avoid to disturbing the asbestos.

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