According to a recent news feature from Western News, H.M. Bowker has written a novel loosely based on her life in Libby, Montana. She has lost her father, two brothers, a sister and sister’s husband all to asbestos-related illness. Much of this was incorporated into her novel.
Libby, Montana is the site of the largest and oldest vermiculite mine in the United States, and was heavily used during much of last century. W.R. Grace owned this mine and employed many workers during its operation from 1920 to the 1980s. Town residents were constantly being exposed to vermiculite, as it was literally covering much of the town. Bowker recalls there was a pile of vermiculite near a baseball field and local kids would pretend it was snow and play with, or even lie in it, making vermiculite angels with their arms.
Vermiculite, like asbestos, is a naturally occurring silica compound that is resistant to heat and fire and was often used as an insulation material and to give commercial and consumer products heat and fire resistant properties. However, due its chemical similarity to asbestos, asbestos is often found in vermiculite as the elements formed in the same environment.
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