An asbestos poisoning tragedy surrounding old mines in Montana has made it onto Business Insider AU’s “9 Deadliest Manmade Disasters in the Past 50 Years.” Toxic dust from the long-closed mines has contributed to over 400 deaths and 3,000 reports of asbestos-related disease so far.

The inclusion of this disaster on Business Insider AU’s list puts it on par with the Bhopal chemical leak and the Chernobyl meltdown. This only highlights how much of a danger asbestos can pose to humans.

Montana Mines Produced Both Vermiculite and Asbestos Dust

The main product of the infamous W. R. Grace and Co. mines was actually vermiculite, commonly used for aeration and moisture retention in potting mix. However, Libby vermiculite, in particular, happened to be tainted with naturally occurring asbestos. 

The toxic mineral circulated as airborne fibres within the vermiculite mines. In addition, W. R. Grace and Co. would distribute leftover vermiculite to playgrounds, gardens, and backyards, tainting them with asbestos. The US EPA had to launch a 19-year Superfund cleanup worth US$600 million to encapsulate most of the asbestos contamination.

Read the original list from Business Insider AU here.

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