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Asbestos in Vermiculite Is a Threat Here Too

January 26, 2003

"A Mountain of Trouble Pulls a Town Together" (Opinion, Jan. 19) appropriately points out the legacy of asbestos-related disease from vermiculite mining in Libby, Mont. Vermiculite, commonly used in products ranging from kitty litter to insulation, has often been contaminated with tremolite asbestos. However, this is not just a problem in far-off locations in Montana -- this is also a problem here in Southern California.

Dr. Philip Harber, Dr. Jerrold Abraham and I recently published a scientific article showing that this same problem occurred in a plant in Glendale where vermiculite had been processed with probable high-level exposures. Although our study was based upon an analysis of tissue from a single fatal case, there undoubtedly were many more co-workers exposed to asbestos-contaminated vermiculite at the plant. Workers who have been exposed in locations in Southern California where vermiculite was industrially processed should undergo medical evaluation.

Robert Wright MD

Associate Clinical Professor

of Medicine, UCLA

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