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Asbestos detected in wood chips

Over the years, a town in Montana has suffered the devastating effects of asbestos exposure. The town has spent over $370 million on cleaning up the toxic materials, and the project is still years from completion. About 400 people have died and 1,750 have been sickened as a result of the toxic exposure to asbestos.

That's why a recent re-test of huge piles of wood chips sold by a Montana Superfund landscaping site that are being sold in the town has provided a bit of relief for residents. After receiving concerns from local officials, the Environmental Protection Agency took a closer look at the wood. Initially, they tested the materials and found that asbestos was present, but the precise levels were not reported.

Because of the town's unique history with asbestos, the EPA tested the wood chips again order to specify the levels. They found that there was a "very low level" of asbestos present and most agreed that this was good news. "There is simply no measured exposure," says one EPA representative.

However, at least one city official is still quite wary. Citing a history of negligent and mistrustful behavior on the part of the EPA, the man claims that he does not fully trust the recent test results. With so many residents using the wood around their homes and children, the risk that may be posed is too great and he has refused to sell the chips.

No further action has been planned on the piles of wood chips. There has been no decision made on whether or not they will continue to sell the materials. Based on the history of asbestos exposure in the town, it is likely that most residents will be wary of using the chips.

The city has been identified as the deadliest site in the nation for asbestos exposure relating to a Montana Superfund site. It was reported last July that more than 15,000 tons of the wood chips were sold across the country, even though testing showed an unknown amount of asbestos present.

Those who work in or around the construction industry have an elevated exposure to asbestos, since at one time the fiber was used widely in building materials. Because of this elevated risk, many people who work in construction, remodeling and demolition exhibit a higher rate of developing mesothelioma, a cancer of the linings around the lungs and internal organs.

A person who has been exposed to asbestos through use of a specific product may seek financial compensation from the company who manufactured or sold the product. Although a lawsuit cannot undo damage that has been done, it can be helpful in dealing with medical costs and other expenses.

Source: ABC News, "EPA: Low Asbestos in Wood Chips From Libby, Mont.," Matthew Brown, Jan. 13, 2012

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