Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Mobile asbestos screening clinic coming to Sanders County

| April 25, 2023 1:00 AM

Libby, Mont., was home to a vermiculite mine for more than 70 years. The mine closed in 1990, but the damage was already done. The vermiculite ore, processed in various plants around the country and sold as insulation, was contaminated with a distinct form of asbestos now known as Libby Amphibole. This insulation is still found in many old homes and buildings around the country today. Workers at the mine and their families, local loggers and mill workers, and those living and working in and around Lincoln County were potentially exposed to this amphibole asbestos. There is a markedly higher prevalence of asbestos-related disease in this population. Although the EPA spent years cleaning up many of the contaminated areas, individuals may still be at risk due to exposure many years prior. Asbestos-related diseases can take 10 to more than 40 years to develop. Many people have come and gone from this area over the years and may not even be aware of the risk.

The Center for Asbestos-Related Disease (CARD) in Libby was established to screen those potentially exposed within Lincoln County, Mont., and to provide ongoing care to those who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related disease due to Libby Amphibole. Under a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CARD can provide free asbestos-related disease screening for everyone who qualifies under the grant. To qualify you must have no prior diagnosis of asbestos-related disease and have proof of being present in Lincoln County for at least six months total duration at least 10 years ago. This can be cumulative over several visits or periods.

Because it is often hard for some people who do qualify to make it to Libby, CARD has received grant funding to take the screening process on the road. Mobile clinics will be coming to various towns near you. The next stop will be Sanders County, Mont., on April 27 at Bear Creek Resort in Thompson Falls. Screening consists of a chest X-ray done onsite by a mobile radiology company, autoimmune blood tests, a spirometry breathing test, extensive health and exposure history, and an interview with a trained provider. If there is suspicion of disease, a follow-up CT of the chest may be ordered. This is all free for those who meet grant criteria. This is the same screening process that takes place at CARD, just without the hassle of having to make a long drive and possibly bear the cost of staying overnight.

If you spent time in Lincoln County and think you may qualify for asbestos-related disease screening, please call 406-293-9274 for more information. Additional details about CARD can be found on our website at www.libbyasbestos.org. There is a minimum number of participants from any given area required for the mobile clinic to be arranged, so please call and let us know as soon as possible if you are interested. Our staff will be happy to help you determine your eligibility.

The Center for Asbestos-Related Disease (CARD) has emerged as a national center of excellence in addressing health care issues associated with Libby Amphibole (previously called tremolite) asbestos. The CARD Clinic evolved in response to raised awareness of widespread asbestos exposure in the Libby area that surfaced in 1999. After the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) screenings during 2000 and 2001 identified the high number of lung abnormalities, it became apparent to the community that long-term pulmonary care needed to be established in Libby.