Is Libby air safe to breathe?
EPA Results Inconclusive
by KLCB News Radio
July 14, 2006
Is the air in Libby safe to breathe?
The answer to that question is inconclusive, according to the draft internal U-S-E-P-A Region 8 working document entitled, "Summary of Asbestos Levels in Ambient Air in Libby, Montana."
According to the report, Libby amphibole asbestos is, in fact, found in Libby's ambient air.
The report says the source of the fibers is not known with certainty, but the report says it is likely the particles are wind-borne from soil and dust around the community.
The concentration levels do not appear to be substantially different from location to location within the city limits.
The report says the levels of Libby amphibole asbestos in Libby's air are similar to levels of asbestos observed in outdoor air in other locations. The report does not identify those other locations. They could be Los Angeles, Seattle, or someplace in the southwest desert. The report does not say. Further, those levels are most likely based on chrysotile, and not tremolite found in Libby. It is an apple and oranges comparison probably not worth the paper it is written on.
Further, the report says the data is too limited to determine if there is any trend toward reduced levels as a result of on-going EPA cleanup activities. Again inconclusive.
Based on those inconclusive results, according to the EPA, individuals exposed for a lifetime to the observed concentrations of Libby asbestos in the ambient air would fall within the range the EPA considers acceptable cancer risk.
Because there are pathways to Libby asbestos exposure in addition to ambient air, the EPA concludes cumulative risks will be higher than for ambient air alone.
The EPA says the report is preliminary and their goal is further data collection and analysis to strengthen the report, which the EPA admits is incomplete due to a lack of seasonal and geographic representation over time, with other deficiencies.
Is the air in Libby safe to breathe? The answer to that question is inconclusive.
Article courtesy of Duane Williams, KLCB News Radio, Libby