Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which has several distinct types. Among types of asbestos, there are essentially two subdivisions, which are serpentine asbestos and amphibole asbestos, which are premised on the shape and consistency of the natural mineral. Crysotile is the only type of asbestos which falls under the serpentine category. All of which, were mined for different uses.
Asbestos, as a mineral, was mined extensively for industrial use. Asbestos, while flexible, is extremely durable. It is also a very poor conductor of electricity and prevented temperature transfer. As such, it was used as an industrial insulation and within consumer products to enhance insulation of certain products and as a fire retardant. Unfortunately, asbestos was also found to be toxic and carcinogenic, responsible for a litany of health problems in those who were exposed to the material.
Among those most at risk for exposure were those who worked in both asbestos mines and mines which extracted minerals in close proximity to asbestos deposits. Asbestos, typically, is not immediately hazardous in its natural state as it is usually intact and not airborne. When the material breaks down however, microscopic asbestos fibers can be released into the air and inhaled by those in the vicinity. Asbestos is also found in the residual dusts of other minerals, such as vermiculite. This, disengaged asbestos, is hazardous in that it could also be easily inhaled.
In Libby, Montana, several people were exposed to asbestos in the W.R. Grace vermiculite mine that employed hundreds of the town’s employees. Vermiculite, similar to asbestos in consistency but no considered hazardous, is often found in close proximity of asbestos deposits as it was in Libby. Those who worked in the mine were inhaling asbestos fibers while extracting the vermiculite in the mine, causing health complications in many and even deaths attributed to this exposure. Miners were also bringing home residual asbestos dust on their clothing and person, endangering their families. Many of the wives and family members of mine workers were also made ill by washing their clothes or even simple bodily contact with the miners.
Unfortunately, Libby is not the only mine affected by asbestos exposure among its employees. Those who work in mines should be aware of the presence of different minerals that may be hazardous. Asbestos fibers, when inhaled, cling to the internal tissue surrounding the lung and abdomen, causing a scarring of the surface. Over time, this scarring can become asbestosis or the deadly cancer mesothelioma. Many of those who worked in the Libby or other mines have now developed these health conditions, and many have died as a result. Those who believe they may have been exposed should fill out the brief form on this page and receive a free information packet about asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. If you were wrongfully exposed, you may be eligible for financial compensation for you or your loved ones.
Last modified: December 09, 2009.