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CARD is Performing Asbestos Screenings Throughout Montana

Published: October 7, 2022

Asbestos exposure screenings are being performed in Libby, Montana. The Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD) is going around the state offering screenings to people who cannot or are not willing to travel. Libby, Montana was heavily contaminated with asbestos because of a contaminated vermiculite mine operating in the area. It is one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in the world, leading to the largest asbestos cleanup project in American history. The restoration is mostly completed but people are still struggling because of their exposure to carcinogenic asbestos fibers. Libby has the largest percentage of asbestos-caused lung diseases and respiratory diseases in the country.

Mining is no longer occurring in Libby since it ended around 1990, but the asbestos released by the mine has been a problem for the area since the mining ended. People who lived in the area during the mining are still at risk of developing mesothelioma since it takes 20 to 60 years after exposure to develop symptoms. CARD is a nonprofit that was created in 2000 to help with diagnosing and caring for people in Libby that have asbestos-related diseases. Around 800 residents are screened on an annual basis at the CARD clinic. Around 25 percent have been diagnosed with a condition related to asbestos.

The conditions most often seen include asbestosis, pleural plaques, pleural effusion, COPD, mesothelioma, and atelectasis. Asbestos exposure can also cause conditions including lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, and ovarian cancer. Around 2,400 people, which is around 15 percent of the population of Lincoln County, have been diagnosed with some type of asbestos illness at CARD. Many patients continue to be monitored by the organization.

CARD is now traveling around Montana to help people with asbestos related diseases. Many people moved away from Libby and still need medical help, so CARD created a mobile clinic. The mobile clinic saw 13 people in Billings, Montana and 33 people in Missoula. The mobile clinic will be occurring October 10-12 in Kalispell, Montana, which is around 90 miles from Libby. There will be future dates for the clinic and the clinic might visit areas out of Montana. The clinic offers free screening to people who spent at least six months in Lincoln County at least 10 years prior.

The screening involves a chest X-ray, spirometry breathing test, full physical exam, CT scan of the chest (when necessary), and a full blood panel of tests. The results are read by a CARD medical provider, who is trained to notice early symptoms of asbestos caused diseases. CARD medical staff is made up of doctors, physical assistants, nurses, respiratory therapists, and researchers who have been trained in asbestos diseases. The clinics have added research, which helps diagnostic and treatment advances for asbestos diseases. Around 700 people from Libby, Montana have died because of some asbestos-caused disease. Some worked in the mine while others just lived in the area. Early testing is extremely helpful for treatment success. Symptoms don’t usually present themselves until much later after exposure, which makes it harder to treat. If the disease is caught early, more people than usual (less than 1/3) will be able to receive surgery, giving patients a better chance at a longer survival.

NBC Montana Staff, “Asbestos screening clinics planned in Kalispell this October” NBC Montana (September 14, 2022). [Link]
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