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ATSDR Press Room

Workers at the Former Zonolite and W.R. Grace and Co. Vermiculite Exfoliation Plant in Tampa, Fla., Were Exposed to Hazardous Asbestos Levels

Hillsborough County, Tampa, Florida

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Workers at the former Zonolite and W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite exfoliation plant in Tampa, Fla., from the 1950s to 1991 were exposed to hazardous levels of asbestos, according to a public health consultation from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

During those years, the plant, located at 3401 N. 3rd Ave., processed vermiculite mined in Libby, Mont. The vermiculite from Libby contained asbestos. ATSDR has linked some exposures to Libby vermiculite to respiratory illnesses.

Those who lived with former Zonolite and W.R. Grace workers while Libby vermiculite was being processed at the plant also were potentially exposed to asbestos. Workers may have carried home asbestos fibers on their hair and clothing. The degree to which household members may have been exposed cannot be determined.

ATSDR recommends that former workers and household members who lived with them learn more about asbestos and see a doctor with experience in asbestos-related lung disease.

Asbestos-contaminated waste rock was not observed by ATSDR staff members when they visited the site. Based on the results of the National Institute of Safety and Health on-site air samplings, current workers are not being exposed to asbestos, either from the products they are processing or through other indoor air exposures.

ATSDR is evaluating the former Zonolite and W.R. Grace plant in cooperation with the Florida Department of Health.

The plant now processes vermiculite from Virginia, South Carolina and South Africa. Studies of vermiculite from these areas show undetectable or very low asbestos levels.

The ATSDR public health consultation is available for review at the Robert W. Saunders Sr. Public Library, 1505 Nebraska Ave., Tampa. It also is available on-line at ATSDR Web site

ATSDR welcomes comments from community members about the health consultation. Questions and ATSDR's responses will be published later in a separate document. Questions must be submitted in writing to

Chief, Records Management Activity, ATSDR
Records Activity Branch, ATSDR
1600 Clifton Road, NE (MS E-60)
Atlanta, GA 30333

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral containing fibers, some so small they are invisible unless magnified. When inhaled, asbestos fibers can remain stuck in lungs for a lifetime. In some cases, asbestos fibers in lungs for many years can cause illness and even death from lung disease.

The former Zonolite and W.R. Grace site is part of ATSDR's National Asbestos Exposure Review (NAER). Under the program, more than 200 sites around the United States that received vermiculite ore mined in Libby from the early 1920s until 1990 are being evaluated. More information about NAER is available on-line at

For more information about the Zonolite and W.R. Grace Co. health consultation, community members can contact ATSDR Environmental Health Scientist James Durant or Health Communication Specialist Maria Teran-MacIver, toll-free, at 1-888-422-8737. Callers should refer to the former Zonolite and W.R. Grace Co. site in Tampa, Fla.

Community members can contact the Florida Department of Health by calling Connie Garrett or Lu Grimm toll-free 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon-Fri. at 877-798-2772.

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