Vermiculite is used in building insulation, potting soil and fertilizer. From the 1920s until 1990, a mine in Libby, Montana produced most of the world’s vermiculite. Unfortunately, the Libby vermiculite contained a type of naturally occurring asbestos.
Vermiculite pieces are brownish-gold, range from 0.25 cm to 1.0 cm in size and appear to have several layers. Not all vermiculite contains asbestos, but some does.
The Health Risks of Asbestos-Containing Vermiculite
If building insulation or other products with asbestos-containing vermiculite are disturbed, tiny, needle-like asbestos fibres can become airborne. If inhaled, airborne asbestos can cause lung damage. The amount of exposure depends on how many fibres are in the air and how long you breathe air containing asbestos fibres. If asbestos is not disturbed and released into the air there is very little exposure and, therefore, very little danger. Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos will not experience adverse health effects. Usually, you must be exposed to asbestos for a prolonged period before your health is affected. Illnesses caused by long-term asbestos exposure include:
- Asbestosis – a disease caused by breathing in asbestos fibres, which irritate and scar lung tissues;
- Lung cancer – tumours of the lung that are linked to asbestos exposure and to other factors, such as smoking; and
- Mesothelioma – a form of cancer in the lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen and heart caused by exposure to asbestos.
Vermiculite In Your Home
If your home has asbestos-containing vermiculite, we recommend that you leave it in place, providing it is located where people are not routinely exposed to it. For example, if it is sealed behind wallboards and floorboards or is in an uninhabited attic, it’s best to leave it alone. By not disturbing the vermiculite, your chances of exposure are reduced. If you must remove any asbestos-containing vermiculite from your home, hire a licensed asbestos contractor and contact Greenough Environmental Consulting Inc. (GEC) for the best removal and procedures.
With 30 years’ experience and comprehensive professional expertise, Greenough Environmental Consulting Inc. (GEC) can safely collect vermiculite from your home or other buildings and analyze it for asbestos content. Contact us today to find out how we can help.