Radiographic evidence of nonoccupational asbestos exposure from processing Libby vermiculite in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Bruce H. Alexander, Katherine K. Raleigh, Jean E Johnson, Jeffrey H. Mandel, John L. Adgate, Gurumurthy Ramachandran, Rita B. Messing, Tannie Eshenaur, Allan N Williams

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20 Scopus citations


Community exposure to asbestos from contaminated vermiculite ore from Libby, Montana, occurred in many processing sites in the United States, including a densely populated urban residential neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota. We examined exposed community residents who never worked at the plant or never lived with a plant worker for radiographic evidence of lung changes consistent with asbestos exposure. We obtained posteroanterior chest radiographs to identify the prevalence of pleural abnormalities consistent with pneumoconiosis, as determined by consensus of two National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-certified B-reader radiologists. We estimated cumulative asbestos exposure (fibers per cubic centimeters × months) with air dispersion model data and activity-based modeled exposure estimates for vermiculite processing waste contact. We modeled associations between pleural abnormalities and asbestos exposure using multiple logistic regression to adjust for year of birth, sex, and potential occupational asbestos exposure. Radiographs were obtained for 461 participants. The prevalence of pleural abnormalities by B-reader consensus was 10.8%. A history of direct contact with the waste and ever playing in the waste piles was associated with pleural abnormalities {odds ratio [OR] 2.78 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.26, 6.10] and 2.17 (95% CI: 0.99, 4.78), respectively, when adjusted for background exposure}. The regression coefficients for log-transformed measures (fibers per cubic centimeters × months) of background exposure and activity-based exposure were 0.322 (95% CI: 0.078, 0.567) and 0.063 (95% CI: -0.013, 0.139), respectively, when adjusted for each other, and 0.283 (95% CI: 0.104, 0.463) for cumulative exposure from all sources. These results support the hypothesis that community exposure to asbestos-contaminated vermiculite originating from Libby, Montana, is associated with measurable effects based on radiographic evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-49
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012


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