With Covid-19 cases skyrocketing nationwide, and with flu season upon us, it is important we stay particularly mindful of the potential for serious complications a coronavirus infection can cause our loved ones who have been exposed to asbestos in the home or workplace. Asbestos is a mined mineral that has been in ubiquitous circulation and use throughout this country for over 100 years. Asbestos exposure can cause a number of diseases in and of itself, including asbestosis mesothelioma and lung cancer. Asbestos-related diseases can take decades to manifest, but the increased risk from Covid-19 to those exposed to asbestos is here now – even for exposed individuals who have not yet developed any asbestos-caused disease.
A Montana community understands the risk all too well. Thousands of residents in Libby and Lincoln County, Montana have lungs that have already been scarred by years of breathing in the asbestos fibers from a now-defunct vermiculite plant in the area that contaminated the area's dust and soil with asbestos fibers it spewed into the air. While this community’s experience with this plant is the stuff of nightmares, it has imparted an acute awareness of the particular risks to its members posed by Covid-19, spurring them to act with heightened precaution. While those who live in our area have not had to grapple with an asbestos manufacturing plant, members of our communities have been widely impacted by asbestos exposure just the same.
Montana’s experience can serve as a strong reminder to those of us in our area with loved ones who have worked in and around asbestos to be hyper vigilant when interacting with them. Lung-scarring from asbestos could greatly increase the likelihood of a serious or even fatal outcome from Covid-19 exposure. We owe it to our asbestos-compromised loved ones who have already sacrificed greatly to support their families to make sure we do all we can to avoid exposing them to Covid-19.