Health Department Study Finds Work Exposure Can Explain Asbestosis Deaths

For immediate release:
April 1, 2009

Contact:
Vermont Department of Health
Communication Office
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health has found that five deaths from asbestosis during the years 1996 to 2005 among people who lived near the Vermont Asbestos Group (VAG) mine can be explained by occupational exposure to asbestos.

Phone interviews with next of kin and VAG employment records have confirmed that three of the five people who died had worked at the mine, and two moved to Vermont after developing asbestosis, apparently from other work exposures. Asbestosis is a serious scarring lung disease that is caused only by breathing in asbestos fibers.

The Health Department has been working closely with members of the FLO Alliance – a group of concerned citizens from Franklin, Lamoille and Orleans counties – on the study and new report.

“This is good news for residents in towns surrounding the mine,” said Health Commissioner Wendy Davis, MD. “Although the news may be a sad reminder for the loved ones of those who have died, with this study we have been able to identify work exposures that can explain all of the deaths in the area around the mine.”

The additional investigation was called for by a joint resolution of the Vermont Legislature, with a report due by April 1. The primary purpose of the study was to try to determine how three individuals who lived near the mine at the time of their death, but were not known to be VAG mine employees, may have been exposed to asbestos.

For this study, the Health Department conducted phone interviews with next of kin of people who had died during the 10-year period and had asbestosis listed on their death certificate. Participants were asked about work, hobbies and residential history.

This report, Case Series Follow-up, supplements and updates information presented in the Dec. 9, 2008 Health Department report, A Cross-Sectional Study of Asbestos-Related Morbidity & Mortality in Vermonters Residing Near an Asbestos Mine. The new report, along with information about asbestos and health, can be found at the Health Department’s website: healthvermont.gov.

“We understand that the mine site has traditionally been used for recreation as well as geological and botanical study,” said Dr. Davis. “However, because of the erosion and loose asbestos rock, we continue to recommend that people and pets stay off the mine for health and safety reasons.”

###

Return to Top