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Your Environment. Your Health.

The Libby Community: Childhood Health Investigation and Exposure Follow-Up Study (CHIEFS)

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

NIEHS Grant: R21ES017939

Community-Academic Partners
University of Cincinnati: Grace LeMasters, Ph.D.  
Center for Asbestos Related Disease: Brad Black, MD,   

Worker holding handfuls of asbestos product while wearing respirator

Libby, Montana is an underserved frontier community where asbestos-laden vermiculite ore was mined and processed from the 1920s until 1990. The Libby community was exposed to asbestos via ambient air pollution in their homes, household contact with mine or expander plant workers, or contact with gardens, roads and playground coverings containing vermiculite waste materials. Exposure to asbestos minerals is associated with pulmonary function loss, pleural and interstitial lung diseases, and respiratory mortality.

Because their lungs are still developing, children may be particularly sensitive to asbestos exposure and its long-term effects. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati are collaborating with the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD) to understand the impact of childhood exposures to asbestos, particularly the potential for childhood exposures to accelerate progression of lung disease in adulthood.

Working with CARD, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the researchers will:

  • Identify young adults who were exposed to asbestos as children in Libby, and who were screened for medical issues in 2000/2001.
  • Develop a comprehensive environmental exposure matrix to characterize their childhood exposures.
  • Collect respiratory symptom histories, pulmonary function and lung volume measures, and identify asbestos-related radiographic changes.
  • Develop and implement a reciprocal outreach and communication program to share information about the research study, its progress and findings, and recommendations for Libby and other communities.

The findings will help inform residents in Libby and the 245 other communities contaminated with Libby Amphibole asbestos fibers about the level of mitigation necessary to avoid further health impacts on the children who live in these communities. Additionally, the young adults who participate in the study can use the findings to make life changes to protect their lungs for the remainder of their lives. An evaluation of the outreach program will determine whether this collaboration reached the educational and research objectives.

This partnership seeks to determine the long-term pulmonary health effects of childhood asbestos exposure and to provide knowledge to empower impacted communities.

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