Libby, Montana was the site of a vermiculite mining and processing operation from the early 1920’s through 199 0. While it was in operation, Libby was the world’s largest source of vermiculite.
The commercial uses of vermiculite include insulation, fire proofing, and as a soil conditioner.
Libby vermiculite is contaminated with amphibole asbestos.
This has resulted in asbestos-related morbidity and mortality in vermiculite workers, their family members, and residents with neither occupational nor para-occupational exposure.
Reports of pervasive asbestos-related health outcomes in Libby prompted a concerted response by the federal government in 199 9. A large component of this response was community-based screening conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in 2000 and 2001 in which 7,307 persons were screened.
Additional screening was funded by ATSDR via a grant to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services 2003-2008 and to the Lincoln County Health Department 2009-201 1. Libby was subsequently declared and environmental public health emergency and language was included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Public Law 111-148; https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ppacacon.pdf) to continue to make screening available to persons with potential past exposure to vermiculite while they resided in the Libby area.
Persons with positive screening results may be eligible for Medicare benefits.
The present notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) is to provide supplemental funding for screening activities currently being funded under the ACA.
That screening program is expected to result in improved survival of participants with asbestos-related cancers, reduced rates of smoking-related diseases, and improved quality of life for participants.