Purpose of review: The vermiculite ore formerly mined in Libby, Montana, contains asbestiform amphibole fibers of winchite, richterite, and tremolite asbestos. Because of the public health impact of widespread occupational and nonoccupational exposure to amphiboles in Libby vermiculite, numerous related studies have been published in recent years. Here we review current research related to this issue.
Recent findings: Excess morbidity and mortality classically associated with asbestos exposure have been well documented among persons exposed to Libby vermiculite. Excess morbidity and mortality have likewise been documented among persons with only nonoccupational exposure. A strong exposure-response relationship exists for many malignant and nonmalignant outcomes and the most common outcome, pleural plaques, may occur at low lifetime cumulative exposures.
Summary: The public health situation related to Libby, Montana, has led to huge investments in public health actions and research. The resulting studies have added much to the body of knowledge concerning health effects of exposures to Libby amphibole fibers specifically and asbestos exposure in general.