A Mini-Guide To Understanding Asbestos Contaminated Vermiculite

If your home was built prior to the early 1980s, it may contain vermiculite insulation. If you are thinking about remodeling or you use the attic, it is important to have a company that specializes in asbestos and vermiculite removal, test the current insulation. This mini-guide will provide you with information about what vermiculite is, why it poses a risk to your health and how to remove it.

What is Vermiculite?

Vermiculite is a fire-resistant, insulating material that looks like small pebbles. It is light-brown to gold in color and expands when it comes in contact with moisture. It was incorporated into products used for home insulation during the late 1950s through the early 1980s. In Canada, the product used was branded Zonolite Attic Insulation.

What is the Relationship Between Vermiculite and Asbestos?

Vermiculite was first mined in Libby, Montana in 1919. In 1963, the Zonolite Company branded and trademarked the Zonolite brand vermiculite home insulation. There were deposits of asbestos in the same mine, so while mining vermiculite there was a natural contact with asbestos, resulting in asbestos contamination of the insulation.

Is Vermiculite Dangerous to Health?

It is important to understand that vermiculite itself poses no health risks. Vermiculite is only dangerous if has been contaminated with asbestos. Unlike asbestos, vermiculite is not a fiber material, so it cannot be absorbed through inhalation. However, if the vermiculite is disturbed, it may cause it to flake and if it is contaminated with asbestos, it is possible to absorb the asbestos. If you are exposed to asbestos contaminated vermiculite, there are possible health risks, including:

  • Asbestosis, which causes scarring of the lung tissue that eventually restricts the ability to inhale.
  • Mesothelioma, which is a life-threatening type of lung cancer that affects the chest wall and lung lining.
  • Asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, especially if there is exposure to tobacco smoke.

What To Do If You Think You Have Vermiculite Insulation

If you think the vermiculite insulation in your home may contain asbestos, it is essential that you do not disturb it. Any disturbance of the material may potentially release the asbestos fibers into the air. A few things you can do to limit your risk of potential exposure includes:

  • If you must store items in an attic that contains vermiculite, limit the amount of time spent in the attic.
  • Do not disturb vermiculite that is in the attic or the walls.
  • Do not store boxes and/or other items in the attic if it contains vermiculite insulation.
  • Do not allow children to play in an attic that has vermiculite insulation.
  • Do not attempt to remove to remove the vermiculite insulation yourself.

If you are in the process of renovating or want to use the attic of a home that may contain vermiculite insulation, it is important to hire a professional asbestos contractor to make sure the vermiculite removal is safely handled. An asbestos abatement company will also be able to test the insulation in your attic to determine if it is asbestos contaminated vermiculite. If it is determined that the vermiculite is contaminated with asbestos, an abatement company will safely remove and properly dispose of the material.