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Types of Asbestos Exposure

People can be exposed to asbestos in their workplace, in their communities, or in their homes. ATSDR’s work related to asbestos exposure is focused on four sources of exposure:

Libby Vermiculite — Vermiculite ore mined in Libby, Montana contained amphibole asbestos. People were exposed to the asbestos at and near the Libby mine. Other people were exposed when more than 200 sites around the country received and processed vermiculite from the Libby mine. Exposure to asbestos-contaminated vermiculite from Libby occurred through workplaces, communities, and households.

Naturally Occurring Asbestos — In some places such as El Dorado Hills, California, asbestos occurs naturally in soil. People may be exposed to asbestos fibers when asbestos-contaminated soil is disturbed where they live, work and play.

World Trade Center — At the request of the New York Department of Health, ATSDR conducted air and dust sampling in the Lower Manhattan area after the September 11th tragedy to determine if residents were being exposed to hazardous materials.

Other Asbestos Exposure — Asbestos has been used in commercial applications and to make automotive, building, and consumer products. Asbestos-containing material may release asbestos fibers into the air during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling. For more information on occupational exposure, see Asbestos Exposure and Your Work.

Libby Vermiculite

In 1999, The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was asked by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to evaluate human health concerns in Libby that were related to asbestos exposure. DHHS was acting on requests received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Montana Congressional delegation.

Sample of vermiculite ore mined in Libby, Montana

Vermiculite mining in and near the city of Libby, Montana began in the 1920s and was continued by the W.R. Grace Company from 1963 until 1990. The vermiculite ore mined in Libby was contaminated with tremolite asbestos.

Libby Medical Testing

ATSDR has conducted a testing program to identify and examine people whose health may have been affected by asbestos. This project, a part of the Libby Community Environmental Health Project was undertaken by ATSDR with cooperation of the DHHS Region VII Office, EPA, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, and the Lincoln County Environmental Health Department. Read more about the ATSDR medical testing and results. If you are interested in participating in medical screening in Libby, Montana, please call the Montana Asbestos Screening and Surveillance Activity (MASSA), a program funded through an ATSDR grant to the state, at 1-800-797-6143 or 406-293-5060. The MASSA office is located at 609 Mineral Avenue, Libby, Montana.

Mortality in Libby

A mortality review was conducted by ATSDR which compared death rates for residents of the Libby area with those in Montana and the United States for selected diseases associated with exposure to asbestos (1979–1998). The review found that for the 20-year period examined, mortality from asbestosis was approximately 40 times higher than the rest of Montana and 60 times higher than the rest of the United States.

Tremolite Registry

An asbestos-related disease registry has been created listing individuals with asbestos-related disease or those at high risk of developing asbestos-related disease because of exposure to asbestos. The registry will be used to share information with those in the registry on any new therapies or diagnostic tools developed and to help policymakers and researchers better understand and prepare for treating those with asbestos-related illnesses.

Naturally Occurring Asbestos

Naturally occurring asbestos refers to those fibrous materials that are found in the rocks or soil in many areas. People can be exposed to asbestos where they live, work, or play through routine activities that crush asbestos-containing rock or stir up dust in soils containing asbestos fibers.

Some examples of these activities are as follows:

  • Working in the yard or garden
  • Digging or shoveling dirt
  • Riding bicycles, off-road vehicles such as four wheelers, and dirt bikes on unpaved surfaces
  • Running, hiking, and playing on unpaved surfaces
  • Driving over unpaved surfaces

For more information go to the Naturally Occurring Asbestos web site.

World Trade Center

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), at the request of the New York Department of Health, conducted air and dust sampling in the Lower Manhattan area after the September 11th tragedy to determine if residents are being exposed to hazardous materials. ATSDR's "Final Report on Air and Dust Sampling in Lower Manhattan" has been released. The Fact Sheet, Executive Summary, and the Full Report are available.

Residential Area Air and Dust Sampling Locations, Lower Manhattan
November 4 - December 11, 2001

ATSDR designed a sampling plan and conducted sampling of residential air and dust in Lower Manhattan. Above is a map showing the sampling locations. To view an interactive map of the sampling site locations, visit the New York City Department of Environmental Protection's page on Air Monitoring in Lower Manhattan



For more information on asbestos findings in the World Trade Center area, visit

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