The continuing story of the deadliest environmental disaster in the United States


Updating the book: The catastrophe grows

EPA investigator Keven McDermott crawls through a Seattle-area attic that’s heavily insulated with Zonolite, a material that is contaminated with Libby asbestos. (Paul Kitagaki Jr., Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

When we published An Air That Kills in 2004, we told the story of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and the toll it took on Libby, Montana, as well as potentially millions of unsuspecting Americans exposed to the asbestos-laced vermiculite mined there.

But the tragedy of Libby didn’t end because of the story David McCumber and I told. In ways both maddening and frightening, the calamity has continued to unfold and grow as the years have passed.

Scientists have discovered that the asbestos fibers contaminating Libby vermiculite are thousands of times more dangerous than anyone suspected.

Government regulators have turned a blind eye, placing millions of people at risk in homes insulated with Libby vermiculite in North America – and beyond.

W.R. Grace, which owned the mine and ignored warnings that the vermiculite ore was killing miners and their families, walked away from criminal liability after a trial that became a showcase for a political feud between a judge and a Justice Department operative, possibly overshadowing science and the law.

Meanwhile, despite the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declaring in 2014 that its work in Libby was mostly done, the dying there and elsewhere has continued. But because no one is counting the bodies, policymakers aren’t paying attention.

In an era of breathless, 24/7 “breaking news’’ updates, Libby has become yesterday’s news. By expanding and updating An Air That Kills into An Air That Still Kills, I want to show that the tragedy of Libby has not only continued, it has grown more dire for millions of people who unknowingly live with the unique, life-stealing fiber.

– Andrew Schneider


The Enhanced Edition

In this edition designed for iPads and Macs, the author has included video, audio and dozens of photographs documenting the tragedy in Libby. You’ll also find source documents behind the reporting and an interactive glossary.




The ebook

This digital book is optimized for easy reading on the Kindle or any device’s Kindle app.



Find the newly updated book with the author’s source citations.