Study: Mesothelioma Rates Affected by Asbestos Exposure at Montana Mine

Mine in Libby, Montana

Some forms of asbestos can be found among vermiculite ore, a naturally occurring mineral commonly found in mountainous regions around the world.

Vermiculite contaminated with asbestos was used in numerous different products, including insulation, soil additives and fertilizers.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has concluded that asbestos in all forms is “carcinogenic to humans.” In a recently published 2010 study conducted from 2000 to 2001, titled “Exposure to Asbestos-Containing Vermiculite Ore and Respiratory Symptoms among Individuals Who Were Children While the Mine Was Active in Libby, Montana,” researchers tracked any respiratory issues suffered by people who were children when the W. R. Grace mine closed in Libby, Montana.

Individuals that were studied were tested on whether they had participated in activities that included any handling or exposure to materials that could have been contaminated by asbestos-laced vermiculite.

Researchers from the study concluded without doubt that residents of Libby during the tenure that had an elevated incidence of lung-related diseases such as malignant mesothelioma. The subjects who were questioned fell into the age group of 10 to 29 years old. The results from the tests showed approximately a 10 percent increase over the national average with symptoms of lung cancer.

Many of the individuals from the study reported handling vermiculite insulation which coincided with having a cough, shortness of breath when walking uphill and coughing up bloody phlegm. Even children who were exposed to vermiculite while participating in recreational activities displayed elevated respiratory symptoms.

One interesting fact the study showed was the correlation between smokers and non-smokers and smoking’s effect on respiratory symptoms. Many of the subjects that had family members who smoked or smoked themselves did not show elevated signs of respiratory symptoms compared to those who did not smoke.

The results of this study show that anyone who was exposed to the asbestos-laced vermiculite extensively mined from the Libby, Montana mine are at a heightened risk of developing mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.


Joining the team in February 2008 as a writer and editor, Michelle Whitmer has translated medical jargon into patient-friendly information at Asbestos.com for more than eight years. Michelle is a registered yoga teacher, a member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine, and was quoted by The New York Times on the risks of asbestos exposure. If you have a story idea for Michelle, please email her at michelle@asbestos.com.

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