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EPA pushes tough asbestos standard for Mont. town

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BILLINGS, Mont. — The federal government is pursuing a tough standard for cleanup of an asbestos-contaminated Montana town that concludes that even a tiny amount of asbestos can cause lung problems.

The Maryland chemical company blamed for the pollution in the town of Libby is fighting the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal. W.R. Grace & Co. says the standard could cause unnecessary and expensive cleanups nationwide.

The new proposal would demand a standard 5,000 times greater than used in past cleanups for airborne asbestos. An EPA committee held a meeting this week to discuss the objections; a final decision is expected next year.

The cleanup in Libby began in 2000 and is expected to last several more years. About 400 people died of asbestos illnesses linked to a Grace mine.