LIBBY — Patricia Denny and her husband, Jeff, had hoped one day to get an RV and travel across the country. Instead, at age 54, Jeff is forced into retirement due to a lung disease caused by the asbestos that has been polluting the small town of Libby for decades.
Jeff Denny’s lungs were damaged by the asbestos he inhaled when he participated in an Environmental Protection Agency-run cleanup of the asbestos contamination caused by the vermiculite mine that closed 30 years ago in this Cabinet Mountain community. Patricia Denny fears she will also develop an asbestos-related illness, given the number of residents of the city who have fallen ill. Barbed fibers, a byproduct of vermiculite, adhere to the lungs when inhaled.
According to the Center for Asbestos Related Disease, the Libby clinic that diagnosed Jeff Denny, at least 400 people exposed to Libby’s asbestos have died of asbestosis, mesothelioma or other lung diseases, and thousands of others have caused lung damage and illness. determined by asbestos. .
“It’s not a question of if, it’s when,” Patricia Denny said in an online message. “Once this barbed killer gets into you, he stays… and kills the area he invades.”
The company operating the mine, WR Grace, filed for bankruptcy in 2001, as thousands of lawsuits poured in after the extent of the contamination became known. Since then, the Montana Supreme Court has also held several other companies responsible, including the BNSF Railway, one of the largest railroad companies in the country. BNSF, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is liable for spreading asbestos amid the dust that blew from its cars while transporting vermiculite across the country for use in insulation and other purposes, according to court rulings.