Former Workers at Two Arizona Vermiculite Processing Plants Were Exposed to Asbestos Sites in Phoenix and Glendale Evaluated

Thursday, September 28, 2006
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- Former workers who processed vermiculite from a mine in Libby, Montana at two plants located in Phoenix and Glendale were exposed to asbestos and are at increased risk for developing asbestos related health problems, the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) report in public health consultations released today.

The former Ari-Zonolite Company, located at 6960 52nd Avenue in Glendale, processed vermiculite from Libby between 1951 and 1964. The W.R. Grace/ Solomon’s Mines, located at 4220 West Glenrosa Avenue in Phoenix, processed vermiculite from Libby between 1964 and 1992.

The Phoenix facility is currently operating. The plant now processes vermiculite from safer sources.

Today’s releases bring to 24 the number of public health consultations completed in a series of 28 evaluations being conducted at sites across the United States that received and processed vermiculite mined in Libby, MT. The vermiculite from Libby contained asbestos. While exposure to asbestos does not mean a person will develop health problems, ATSDR has linked some exposures to Libby vermiculite to respiratory illnesses.

The major findings for the site are consistent with many of those found at the other sites evaluated, mainly:

  • Former workers are most at risk for asbestos exposure.
  • Those that lived with former workers while Libby vermiculite was being processed at the Glendale plant between 1951 and 1964, and the Phoenix plant between 1964 and 1992 also could have been exposed to asbestos by workers carrying home asbestos fibers on their hair and clothing.

ATSDR recommends that former workers at the site, and household members who lived with them, take specific steps to protect their health and improve quality of life:

  • Learn more about asbestos exposure,
  • See a doctor with experience in asbestos-related lung disease,
  • Quit smoking,
  • Get regular flu and pneumonia shots.

People could have been exposed to asbestos if they handled or played in waste rock, a by-product of vermiculite exfoliation. At some vermiculite plants, workers or people in the community may have brought waste rock from the plant to their homes. This waste rock was used in many ways, for example in gardens and as fill or driveway surfacing material. When waste rock that is uncovered and open to the air is stirred up, asbestos fibers may be released into the air.

When Libby vermiculite was being processed at the Glendale plant between 1951 and 1964, and the Phoenix plant between 1964 and 1992, dust and fibers might have been released into the air. AZDHS and ATSDR cannot determine the extent of exposure to former residents who lived near the plant.

Most current residents living around the former plant are not being exposed to asbestos from the sites. The Glendale plant closed in 1964 and the Phoenix plant stopped processing Libby vermiculite in 1992.

The public health consultations for the both sites are available for review at:

  • Glendale Main Library
    5959 W. Brown St.
    Glendale, AZ  85302

  • Foothills Library
    19055 N. 57th Ave.
    Glendale, AZ 852308

  • Velma Teague Library
    7010 N. 58th Ave.
    Glendale, AZ 85301

  • Palo Verde Library
    Palo Verde Branch
    4402 N. 51st Ave.
    Phoenix, AZ 85301

They are also available on-line at: and More information about ATSDR’s National Asbestos Exposure Review is available on-line at

For more information, community members can contact Environmental Health Community Coordinator Jennifer Botsford, AZDHS, Office of Environmental Health, at (602) 364-3118 or Health Communication Specialist Maria Teran-MacIver, ATSDR, toll-free, at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636). Callers should refer to the name of the site and its location.

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Page last reviewed: September 28, 2006