Lessons from Libby, Montana: Mining, Asbestos, and Public Health

Alaska Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE-AK)

Listen to Lessons from Libby, Montana: Mining, Asbestos, and Public Health, recorded 7/24/13

Listen to the follow-up discussion with Dr. Brad Black and Michelle Boltz have offered a follow-up on “Lessons from Libby, Montana” recorded 8/8/13.

About the call:

Lessons from Libby, Montana: Mining, Asbestos, and Public Health

There is no scientific evidence suggesting that safe levels of asbestos exposure are attainable. Asbestos exposure is linked to the development of numerous respiratory diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural disease. A federal report on asbestos in Ambler, Alaska recommends that gravel in a local quarry not be used due to asbestos contamination and subsequent public health risks. Yet there are reports that this gravel is being used for road and infrastructure construction in the Ambler area.

The Alaska State Legislature recently passed HB 258 which provides “immunity for the state and for landowners, extractors, suppliers, transporters, and contractors for certain actions or claims arising in connection with the use of gravel or aggregate material containing naturally occurring asbestos in certain areas” – allowing use of asbestos contaminated gravels for development projects.

Dr. Brad Black, Medical Director, and Michelle Boltz, Nurse Practitioner with the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD) in Libby, Montana discuss health risks of asbestos exposure and how exposure to a unique type of asbestos known as Libby amphibole asbestos has resulted in hundreds of illnesses and deaths from occupational and non-occupational environmental exposures associated with vermiculate mining and milling operations resulting in the entire town being designated as a Superfund site and public health emergency. Listen to this call recording to learn more about asbestos related disease, how this issue is relevant to Alaska and how we might apply lessons from Libby, Montana. We will also share resources for identifying potential health risks associated with asbestos fiber inhalation and models of community response to widespread asbestos contamination.

This call is presented by ACAT’s Alaska Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE-AK).


Michelle Boltz is a Nurse Practitioner with the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD) in Libby, Montana. She provides asbestos related health screening and chronic asbestos disease management for local and long-distance patients. Michelle is part of four generations who have made Libby, Montana their home. She received a Master’s of Science in Nursing through Washington State University and practiced family medicine in Noorviq, Alaska before returning to Montana in 2011. Working closely with CARD’s team of providers, Michelle has developed specialized skills in monitoring Libby amphibole asbestos disease while encouraging overall health and wellness.

Dr. Brad Black was the local Libby, Montana physician who was acting as the county health director when the issue of asbestos disease in Libby was publicized in 1999 and is the medical director of the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD).  Dr. Black has a wealth of information on the issue of asbestos in Libby ranging from historical political & geological/mineralogical factors and years of perspective on asbestos health effects from an individual and epidemiological standpoint.


Organizations –

Report –

Handouts & Resources from Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD) in Montana –

YouTube Videos –

Demonstrations of Pulmonary Strengthening Techniques:
Demonstration of how the Respiratory System Functions
Demonstrations of Recognizing and Preventing Exposure to Asbestos
Libby Specific Public Announcements

Libby Legacy Project has many videos, go to YouTube and type in “Libby Legacy Project” for the list.

A Personal Story: http://www.livingwithgrace.us/larryhill.html

State of Alaska Information

Ambler Mining Access Road State of Alaska website

For more information, contact:
Ryan Anderson, P.E., Design Group Chief, DOT&PF
2301 Peger Road, Fairbanks, AK 99709-5316
(907) 451-5129
[email protected]

Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities presentation on Ambler Mining District Access (pdf)

About the Ambler Mining District


The Ambler Mining Access road is estimated to cost up to $510 million dollars ($2 million a mile) to construct.

The July 2013 NovaCopper Economic Assessment is based on mining copper, zinc, lead, gold and silver. Read more.

No Comprehensive Health Impact Assessments have been conducted.

Related Actions:

Petition congress to support the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013

Related Events:

See ACAT’s Event Calendar.

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