Libby Asbestos Site
Libby, Lincoln County, Montana
Health Outcomes report on Libby, MT, and asbestos-related deaths
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Health Outcomes: The increase in deaths due to asbestosis during the 20-year period examined in this review was statistically significant. Excess asbestosis-related mortality strongly indicates that historical exposure to asbestos in Libby was much greater than health outcomes in other areas of Montana or the United States.
One of the questions raised by this review was why deaths due to lung cancer were not as elevated as those related to asbestosis. Current knowledge surrounding asbestos exposure and the association with lung cancer and asbestosis tells us that these diseases are two distinct pathologic processes sharing the same dose-related causative agent.
However, controversy remains as to whether asbestosis is actually a risk factor for lung cancer. Several factors could explain the elevated asbestosis mortality and lack of elevated lung cancer mortality in the Libby population.
Such factors include diagnostic biases, temporal variations in the two disease processes, differences in the dose-response relationship between the two outcomes, and differences in lifestyle choices among the decedents, particularly smoking.
There are no accurate state or national mesothelioma mortality rates to make comparisons with the Libby population. Therefore, it is difficult to evaluate precisely the degree to which mortality due to mesothelioma is significantly elevated in Libby.
Statistics on mesothelioma mortality are not routinely published because of problems in the diagnosis and classification of this rare disease.
Courtesy of the ATSDR and the CDC