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September 26, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

It seems W.R. Grace thinks Libby residents are just peachy:

W.R. Grace to asbestos victims: You’re not sick

LIBBY — Roughly 700 of the 870 Libby area residents enrolled in W.R. Grace’s medical plan got letters earlier this month saying they either don’t have asbestos-related disease anymore or may not be as sick as they think they are.

The surprise letters came in two forms from Grace, the former owner of the vermiculite mine in Libby that exposed miners and the community to deadly asbestos.

One letter informed plan members that a review by medical experts indicated that they had no asbestos-related condition. The second letter acknowledged the presence of an asbestos-related “condition or illness.” Each letter provided a synopsis of what benefits are available.

“I’ve been cured by Grace. It’s a miracle,” asbestos victim Bob Stickney said tongue-in-cheek. “I don’t know how they can say at first you have asbestos disease, and now you don’t.”

Grace’s medical experts continue to use guidelines developed for people exposed to chrysotile asbestos, which differs significantly from the amphibole asbestos found alongside the vermiculite formerly mined near Libby, said Alan Whitehouse, a doctor at the CARD clinic.

Amphibole asbestos affects the lungs differently, Whitehouse said. Most Libby asbestos patients suffer from pleural disease, which can progress rapidly and have major health impacts as the plaque encompasses the lung “like an orange rind” and restricts breathing, he said.

Grace’s experts make their decisions based on X-rays alone, which don’t tell the whole story, Whitehouse said. He called the letters telling patients they don’t have asbestosis “nonsense.”

“That’s an attempt to minimize what you have,” he said.

I should point out that Whitehouse was the first doctor to really pay attention to the problem in Libby.

Apparently Grace still hasn’t figured out they can’t just sweep this under the rug anymore. They didn’t even bother to make up a lame excuse like smoking this time.

As Matt said, sick.

Categories: Montana
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