Fate of Libby amphibole fibers when burning contaminated firewood

Tony J. Ward, Julie F. Hart, Terry M. Spear, Brienne J. Meyer, James S. Webber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In Libby, Montana, over 70 years of mining amphibole-contaminated vermiculite has led to amphibole contamination in areas surrounding the abandoned mine and in other areas throughout the town. In addition to contaminated soils, tree bark has also been found to be contaminated with amphibole fibers throughout the Libby area. As residential woodstoves are the main source of home heating in Libby, the purpose of this study was to determine if amphibole fibers become liberated into the ambient air when amphibole-contaminated firewood is combusted. Amphibole-contaminated firewood was combusted in new, EPA-certified stoves during three trials. The results of these trials showed that the majority of the fibers remained in the ash following the combustion process, suggesting that additional potential exposures can occur within the homes to those that clean the ash out of woodstoves. The combustion trials also revealed that amphibole fibers can become liberated into the ambient air during the combustion process. Amphibole fibers were found impacted in the ductwork, as well as detected in wipe samples collected from an inverted container used to concentrate the woodsmoke emissions. These findings stress the need for identifying a clean fuel source for the inhabitants of Libby to prevent future exposures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2878-2883
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume43
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 15 2009

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