Vermiculite, a completely safe, naturally occurring mineral was involved in one of the worst environmental disasters in the country. Vermiculite by itself is completely harmless in addition to being lightweight, fire-resistant, and odorless. It can also be expanded between eight and 30 times its size when heated. These properties make vermiculite a unique and useful material for many different industries.
Some vermiculite uses include
- Animal feed
A deposit in Libby, Montana was the largest in the world and 70 percent of all vermiculite sold in the United States between 1919 and 1990 was from Libby. There was a problem, though, with this source of vermiculite. It was contaminated with tremolite asbestos, a particularly dangerous form of asbestos. When the vermiculite was mined, millions of asbestos fibers were sent into the air sickening miners, their families, and townspeople.
Not only was asbestos sent into the air, ore from the mine was donated to schools to make running tracks, an ice rink, and was mixed with other materials to make baseball fields. Every day kids were exposed to asbestos when they played outside. A “popping plant,” where ore was taken to expand, was located next to baseball fields. This created more dust for children to inhale while they were playing.
W.R. Grace, the company that owned and operated the mine, knew that the vermiculite was contaminated with asbestos and was dangerous. It kept this information from the townspeople until hundreds died and more than 1400 others were diagnosed with asbestos related diseases. It did not want to lose money, so it continued to let people die while the company made money. People’s lives were considered less important than the company’s profits.
For many years companies like W.R. Grace poisoned people to make a profit. If you were one of them and were exposed to asbestos and now have mesothelioma or lung cancer, let Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C. fight for the compensation you deserve. Call 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form to speak to an attorney and learn your options.
Joann Walters, “Welcome to Libby, Montana, the town that was poisoned” The Guardian (March 7, 2009). [Link]
“Protect Your Family from Asbestos-Contaminated Vermiculite Insulation” Environmental Protection Agency [Link]