Montana (MT) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

In the state of Montana, asbestos related activities are regulated by federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Additionally, the State of Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), along with local agencies including county health departments and city building departments, all participate in monitoring and regulating the handling and disposal of asbestos containing materials. Not every aspect of the regulations are handled by every facility; the responsibility is divided to best protect asbestos workers and the public.

The Montana DEQ Asbestos Control Program oversees permissions for asbestos abatement projects, accreditation of asbestos-related occupations, and provisions for the public regarding compliance assistance. The EPA further delegates the Asbestos Control Program to administer emission standards for asbestos.

The state of Montana identifies asbestos as the group of naturally occurring minerals that includes chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, actinolite, and tremolite. Asbestos ore is mined and added to many building products due to its fireproofing, chemically resistant, and insulating properties.

Asbestos Health Concerns

 Since the late 1800s, asbestos has been used in a variety of building and construction materials, but in recent years, beginning in the late seventies and early eighties, the use has declined. Although the United States and other nations have recognized the associated health risks surrounding asbestos exposure, there are still many products on the market that contain asbestos in a non-friable form. For more information on the asbestos ban and phase out, visit http://www.epa.gov/asbestos

Asbestos has been used in a wide variety of materials for the purposes of strengthening and insulating. Asbestos contains unique properties of condensation control, chemical resistance, friction protection and fireproofing. Additionally, asbestos has been used for sound dampening, decoration and texturing in many materials. Asbestos has been used as a component in over 3,500 types of materials. Any material containing more than 1% asbestos is considered an asbestos containing material (ACM). Most often, asbestos is found in thermal systems of homes and buildings, such as in pipe or boiler insulation, surfacing and fireproofing materials, and miscellaneous materials such as floor and ceiling tiles.

Asbestos is a human health concern because it is a carcinogen, meaning that it causes cancer. When friable asbestos is disturbed, the fibers become airborne and stay in the air for a long time. Asbestos fibers are very small, and under a microscope they have the appearance of sharp or curly needle-like strands. Asbestos can be both inhaled and ingested. Both introductions to the body carry significant damage and long-term health concerns. Asbestos causes illnesses including asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural plaques, lung cancer, and cancers of the digestive and urinary systems.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the membrane lining the chest and abdominal cavity and is specific to asbestos exposure. The asbestos fibers are inhaled and cause scarring of the linings. These scars eventually develop into cancer. There is no cure for mesothelioma. The people most at risk of developing mesothelioma are workers who are or were exposed to high levels of asbestos over an extended period of time. There have been, however, cases where people who never came into direct contact with asbestos through their job, became infected through an indirect method. In these cases, contamination usually resulted from a spouse or child coming into contact with asbestos fibers caught on the clothing of a worker.

The latency period for asbestos related illness is long, generally 10 to 30 years. Other factors can contribute to the likelihood of contracting an asbestos related illness. Smoking, for instance, can dramatically increase the chances that a patient will contract an asbestos related illness due to the diminished ability of the body to rid itself of fibers.

Asbestos Abatement Procedures

 The terms friable and non-friable in reference to asbestos containing materials relate to the ability of dry asbestos to be crumbled or reduced to a powdered state with simple hand pressure. According to Montana State and Federal regulations, all friable asbestos materials are dangerous and should be encapsulated or removed by a professional asbestos contractor. Even non-friable asbestos can be rendered friable during demolition and renovation activities.

Owners or operators of structures that are suspected to contain asbestos material, regardless of its form, are required to enlist the assistance of a certified asbestos inspector. The Montana DEQ provides several options for individuals with suspected asbestos containing materials present in residential or business structures.

Any plan to demolish or renovate a structure requires an inspection of the area to determine whether there is asbestos containing material present and what condition the material is in. Individuals with no plans to demolish or renovate are also encouraged to schedule an inspection, particularly if the building was erected prior to 1980. Depending on the nature of any asbestos containing materials found in a structure, an owner or operator may choose not to have materials removed which are non-friable and unlikely to be disturbed. However, if the asbestos is not removed, the contaminated site should be monitored and checked periodically to ensure against it becoming a hazard.

Asbestos containing material may also be subjected to encapsulation. Encapsulation is a process in which the asbestos is surrounded with a substance that causes the fibers to be embedded, thereby reducing or eliminating the hazard of the material becoming friable. Another form of encapsulation is called enclosure. This means that the area is closed off permanently with an airtight seal, which prevents the material from releasing asbestos fibers into the surrounding area.

Removal is the final option for dealing with asbestos containing material in the state of Montana. Structures scheduled to undergo demolition or renovation are required to retain a professional asbestos contractor for the removal. Removal entails the complete physical extraction of the asbestos containing material and proper disposal in accordance with state and federal regulations (1).

Libby, Montana, the W.R. Grace Company, and Montana Asbestos Abatement

The W.R. Grace Company in Libby, Montana, mined asbestos for many years without following proper safety protocols for its workers. The result is a long line of individuals, both workers and residents of Libby, who have been poisoned by asbestos dust.

Workers in the mines were unaware of the invisible asbestos fibers that they were bringing home on their clothes to their families. The entire town was liberally infected with huge doses of asbestos dust throughout the operational period for the W.R. Grace Company. Even vacationers who spent substantial time in Libby were placed in danger. New cases are still surfacing due to the long latency period of asbestos illnesses.

The asbestos that contaminated Libby was tremolite, a particularly dangerous form. The fibers are far more toxic than other forms of asbestos and produce greater scarring to the pleura of the lungs. The pleura of the lungs, when healthy, is flexible and thin. When scarring occurs and spreads, the pleura can become ridged and thick. This limits the lungs’ ability to expand and exchange oxygen. Fluid is also a concern, as it accumulates and makes breathing difficult.

Asbestos is responsible for three primary diseases: asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. All are incurable and fatal. Other diseases and cancers may be attributed to asbestos exposure, but due to the long latency period, it can be difficult to determine whether asbestos is the culprit. It is known that the tremolite asbestos found in Libby is by far the most dangerous of the asbestos mineral family. Libby represents the first time that physicians were able to determine the dangers of "second hand" asbestos exposure to family members from mine workers (2).

'Montana (MT) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources' Sources:

  • "Frequently Asked Questions" Montana Department of Environmental Quality. 6 Dec 07. 25 Jan 08.http://www.deq.state.mt.us/asbestos/acpFAQ.asp
  • "Libby, Montana - A History of Asbestos Disease", "Asbestos from Libby a Far More Toxic Variety" Roger G. Worthington P.C. 2 Nov 05. 25 Jan 08. http://www.mesothel.com/pages/libby.htm