Region 8

Asbestos In Your Home

In Libby, the most common types of asbestos are the Libby amphibole (from the Grace mine) and chrysotile (associated with building products worldwide). Residents may encounter both types and should know what to do to protect their health and property.

Also visit the Asbestos Specialists page for information about licensed/certified asbestos inspectors, abatement contractors, laboratories, trainers and landfills.

Living With Libby Asbestos Until the EPA Removes It

Inside – If you have vermiculite in your home, you should assume it is contaminated with asbestos. Sealed in the attic or walls, it poses little threat to you. However, if cracks or other openings are present, fibers can be released which could create a health risk. There is also a risk to residents or others who may be exposed during home repair, renovation or demolition. You can minimize exposure by:

  1. Sealing cracks and openings with caulk.
  2. Preventing access to vermiculite-filled attics or crawl spaces.
  3. Postponing remodeling that might release vermiculite (like installing light fixtures in ceilings, adding openings to vermiculite-filled walls, or running pipes through vermiculite-filled spaces).
  4. Carefully sweeping (after wetting) any vermiculite that filters into living spaces.

Outside – If you have vermiculite in your garden or asbestos ore in your yard or driveway, you should minimize any disturbance to those materials. This includes digging in the soil and driving, walking, parking or playing on the ore.

EPA is removing "accessible" vermiculite from homes and businesses in Libby. These are places where exposure to vermiculite is possible as a result of daily human activity. In certain cases, EPA is leaving vermiculite in place in inaccessible areas such as walls, attics and crawlspaces and is taking measures to seal the vermiculite in place.

In situations where the disturbance of vermiculite must occur, contact the EPA or a certified professional before proceeding with any work.

The EPA continues to look for mine-related asbestos sources and contamination in Libby. We sampled nearly all Libby residences and businesses in 2002 and 2003.

As a resident, you are most likely to contact this material in the form of contaminated vermiculite (used as insulation or a soil amendment) or asbestos ore (used as decorative landscape rock or driveway gravel).

If you know or suspect you have these materials on your property, and were not contacted by the EPA, please call the EPA Information Center at 406-293-6194.

Identifying and Handling Other Types of Asbestos in the Home

The building industry uses, or has used, thousands of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) such as roofing and siding, fire protection material, residential building materials, heating and electrical wire insulation, appliance components, sheet flooring, ceiling and floor tile, caulk and drywall. As late as 1989, the use of asbestos products in the U.S. exceeded 55,000 tons per year.

Asbestos in the materials used in new construction is almost always chrysotile asbestos and is not related to the Grace mine. With the exception of the contaminated vermiculite discussed above, the biggest asbestos health threat in homes is from older ACMs, such as pipe wrap and furnace insulation, ceiling tiles, ceiling and wall texture, fireproofing and wallboard. These materials are easily flaked (friable) and can be damaged, allowing asbestos fibers to be released. Other ACMs that are less friable and present a smaller hazard are floor tiles, linoleum, asphalt roofing and cement asbestos siding.

If ACMs in your home are in good shape and are not in danger of being damaged, it may be best to just leave them alone.

Damaged or easily friable ACMs should be handled with care and repaired or removed by professionals. Your best source of information on this subject is the Asbestos Control Program at the Montana DEQ. ExitThey can provide you with information on asbestos, including state requirements for removal, transportation and disposal and certification of contractors, consultants and laboratories.

Additional information on asbestos can be found in the EPA booklet "Asbestos in the Home - A Homeowner's Guide" and in the pamphlet "Asbestos in Your Home," co-authored by the EPA, the American Lung Association and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Both pamphlets are available in Libby from the EPA Information Center at 108 E. 9th Street. They provide information on sources of asbestos as well as sampling, handling, repairing and removing asbestos containing materials from your home.

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