Sunday, January 28, 2007

Well Known Mesothelioma activist dies

Those that work or have ties to the asbestos mesothelioma community are today grieving the loss of Les Skramstad. Skramstad passed away in his Libby, Montana, home of mesothelioma. He was 70.

Lee is best known as one of the first people to suspect a connection between working in mines and mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer. A former vermiculite miner from 1959 to 1962, Skramstad’s warnings were largely unheeded until 1999 ,when a Seattle newspaper published an expose. In it was documentation showing dangerous levels of asbestos plus proof that officials knew about it.

Mesothelioma has a latency period extending from 10 to 40 years and often acts as a time bomb for those who worked in the affected mines. When the EPA came in, they declared the Montana town a Superfund site and called the contamination “the most horrific environmental disaster in this country's history.”

Vermiculite is a lightweight mineral used in insulation and gardening soil. Years ago it was used in 35 million homes as well as New York’s World Trade Center. The Libby facilities emitted about 5,000 pounds of asbestos into the air each day, often spreading as far as 30 miles. It was eventually shut down in 1990.

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