Nearly 90 percent of Libby, Montana, asbestos miners have lamellar pleura thickening
Previously home to one of the largest vermiculite mines in the U.S., Libby, Montana, residents have suffered significantly from mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Now, a new study points to issues with pulmonary functioning (respiratory disease) of Libby miners who were exposed to asbestos.
In fact, 87 percent of Libby miners had lamellar pleural thickening, which can lead to long-term respiratory issues. Lamellar pleural thickening is a lung disease caused by scarring of the pleura, the lining of the lungs. It can lead to chest pain and difficulty breathing. In addition to an increased likelihood of developing mesothelioma, LPT can lead to heart failure, including heart attack and stroke.
Study Used CT Scans to Increase Detection
According to the authors of the study, CT scans of hundreds of former miners revealed the easily-missed scarring. Previous studies had used chest radiographs to detect pleura thickening. CT scans are a more accurate and sensitive measurement that the authors believe revealed a different and serious type of pleura thickening.
While not everyone exposed to asbestos develops mesothelioma, the deadly cancer of the pleura, it is clear that the health effects of asbestos exposure are widespread and devastating. Even without a mesothelioma diagnosis (which is itself easily misdiagnosed) asbestos causes significant ill health effects through pleura thickening and other ailments.
The authors noted that the consequences of asbestos exposure and pleura thickening are “of national significance” since the vermiculite asbestos mined in Libby was shipped in open rail cars throughout the U.S. Workers in processing sites are also susceptible to pleura thickening, and anyone involved in the mining, shipping or manufacturing of vermiculite contaminated with asbestos is at increased risk.
The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.