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Asbestos and Autoimmune Diseases

By Elaine Moore on 9/10/2008

Asbestos,  the primary cause of the deadly cancer mesothelioma, has also been found to cause several autoimmune disorders.



The Grace Company



The deadly asbestos trail left by the Grace Company in Libby, Montana has been the subject of numerous autoimmune disease studies. 

From the early 1920s to 1990, the Grace Company mined the world’s largest vermiculite deposits. Vermiculite is a silicate material containing both regulated (tremolite and other amphibole forms) and unregulated asbestos fibers (winchite and richterite). Asbestos exposure has been extensive in this community and also among consumers of products (insulation and vermiculite) made by the Grace Company.



In a report issued by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the prevalence of any of the following disorders:

  • systemic lupus erythematosus
  • scleroderma
  • rheumatoid arthritis

in residents of Libby was 6.7 percent. The estimated prevalence based on a pool of 43 similar communities is less than 1 percent.



In 2006, the National Institutes of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS) division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a preliminary report supporting the hypothesis that asbestos causes increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and systemic lupus erythematosus.



The Lawsuit



The Grace Company has been fined and ordered to pay damages to local victims. This topic is also the subject of a $3.7 billion dollar class action lawsuit. For more information see the Lieff Cabraser website.


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