A new study of residents from Libby, Mont., the town where more than 1,500 people have fallen ill from asbestos-contaminated mines, links asbestos exposure with three autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.
Previous research found high rates of asbestos-related lung diseases, including the rare cancer mesothelioma, among miners in Libby. The town's mines once supplied the United States with most of its vermiculite, a mineral used for insulation and gardening. But that vermiculite was contaminated with asbestos also found in the ground there. Residents of Libby who didn't work in the mines, and workers across the country who processed Libby's vermiculite, also had a high incidence of lung diseases (SN: 7/12/03, p. 21: Available to subscribers at More Than a Miner Problem: Asbestos exposure is prevalent in mining community).