Because asbestos is a mineral, it never goes away or breaks down. It may remain undisturbed for a long time, whether in a floor tile, steam pipe insulation or in the ground. But once it has been disturbed, what to do with the material becomes a larger problem.
You may have asbestos insulation wrapping your heating ducts, if your home is of a particular vintage. As long as those ducts and the material wrapped around them are undamaged and untouched, it poses little threat to those living in the home.
But should you cut or tear the material, the asbestos fibers can become airborne and inhaled. This begins the long wait to see if a person develops an asbestos-related illness, like mesothelioma. Which is why if you have asbestos in your home, you need to hire a properly certified asbestos abatement contractor to ensure the material is properly removed.
When the area with asbestos is not an air duct in a basement, but a mine that spread asbestos over an entire town, the cleanup is transformed to an entirely different level. The town of Libby, Montana is still waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a report with the toxicity values and Human Health Risk Assessment for the asbestos that blanketed the town.
The report was expected this year, but with December almost here and still no report, it appears that 2015 will be the earliest anyone outside the EPA will find out the numbers. The mine closed 24 years ago and Superfund site designation dates to 2002.
The governor complained in a letter that the slow pace means actions the state needs to take remain undone. The EPA responded that the process is complex and very time consuming.
The risk assessment will provide the risk for various age groups and the levels of exposure to each that would create an impact. The findings could trigger the need for additional cleanup of the dangerous asbestos in the Libby area.
Flatheadbeacon.com, "EPA: Complex Libby Asbestos Assessment Takes Time," Justin Franz, November 18, 2014