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We Only See What We Are Looking For, Pt. 1

It is more than a little ironic that someone would have to move into Libby, Montana, the Superfund site and location of a vermiculite mine that contained asbestos, and which contaminated much of the town and its people, in order to be diagnosed with asbestos scaring of your lungs.

Such was the case of a man who retired to Libby. You see, he had lived in Henderson, Nevada. He was police officer in Las Vegas, and he enjoyed outdoor activities, riding ATVs and mountain bikes. 

He lived south of there, where asbestos deposits have been identified on the surface, and asbestos can blow in the dust. When he suffered lung problems, he would never have guessed asbestos was the cause.

And neither did any of his doctors. Because doctors in that area would not have much experience looking at patients who had been exposed to asbestos, his breathing difficulties were linked to smoking. After moving to Libby, doctors there recognized the scaring as the precancerous signs of asbestos damage.

Doctors in Libby are deeply experienced in diagnosing asbestos-related illnesses, and this raises an important fact. If a patient does not appear to have been at a high risk for asbestos exposure, doctors are far less likely to attribute some lung diseases to that, and may instead suggest that it is due to smoking or other undetermined causes.

Asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma are troubling, because they are so deadly, and because the latency period is often measured in decades, meaning the exposure could have happened 20 or 30 years ago, and the victim may have long forgotten that they may have been exposed.

These diseases are also insidious because asbestos can affect other parts of the body, cause a wide range of illnesses such as ovarian cancer, heart disease and auto immune diseases. In Libby, doctors were aware of the threat posed by the asbestos, so would recognize other illnesses triggered beside mesothelioma.

And the prospect that there is asbestos-laden dust located just south of the city of Las Vegas apparently has some people worried.


Source:,"I-Team: Ex-officer suffers ill effects of asbestos," George Knapp, Matt Adams, May 9, 2015

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