Long after a mine or company has closed down, those that contained or manufactured asbestos continue to put residents in the area in danger. Whether they improperly disposed of unsold or unused asbestos or their cleanup efforts fell short of expectations, there can still be a risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.
We have discussed the town of Libby, Montana, in this blog on a number of occasions. The town was previously home to an asbestos plant and mine, and for decades the area was covered in asbestos dust. In recent years, however, cleanup efforts have been in full force. One area that remains untouched, however, is a nearby forest. There are 35,000 acres contain tress that may be affected by asbestos. Research is being conducted in order to determine what can be done with these trees.
One solution that is being explored is to harvest the trees after removing the asbestos. Based on the number of trees in the forest, experts suggest that 425 million board feet can be produced if the trees are harvestable. However, people may still be concerned that the trees themselves are contaminated with asbestos, and any resulting product using the tainted materials would also be dangerous as well.
Authorities suggest, however, that the bark on the trees is the only part that has been affected by the exposure to asbestos. The wood underneath, they believe, should be safe.
The danger that this would present is that there are no concrete answers determining the actual level of contamination in the forest. The levels of asbestos that exist are difficult to measure and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning to continue researching the logging option while considering other solutions as well.
In this one town alone, 3,000 people have exposed to potentially harmful levels of asbestos that had been released in the air, absorbed in the soil and built into houses. About 400 people have died as a result of asbestos exposure, and 1,700 have been sickened. It is likely that others in the area will continue to develop asbestos-related illnesses for quite some time.
Source: The Republic, “Logging a possibility for asbestos-laden forest in northwest Montana,” Nov. 18, 2012
- Our firm works with victims and families across North Carolina and nationwide who have been affected by dangerous products that contain asbestos. For more information, please visit our page on products liability.