You may have heard of vermiculite insulation, or perhaps you’ve been wandering the gardening department of a store and noticed the bags of vermiculite for sale. On its own, vermiculite is harmless. It’s a natural material that has a wide variety of applications. However, what people are less familiar with is its relationship with asbestos. That’s why it’s important to become aware of the prevalent dangers of vermiculite asbestos contamination.
What is Vermiculite and Why is it Associated with Asbestos?
Vermiculite is mined from the earth and is a material comprised of small, crystalline flakes. It is a highly absorbent, nonflammable substance that expands when introduced to heat. Although the material is harmful, nearly all vermiculite contains traces of asbestos. It has a similar geological process to asbestos, which means they can often be present in the same mine, resulting in asbestos contamination.
What makes the asbestos in vermiculite especially hazardous is that its amphibole asbestos – a type that is known to be more brittle and produces smaller airborne fibers than the more widely used chrysotile asbestos.
What Vermiculite Products Are Known to Contain Asbestos?
While not all vermiculite products contain asbestos, there are still consumer goods that contain trace amounts of asbestos. Some of the more common vermiculite products include:
- Vermiculite Insulation: At Fiber Control, Inc., we often deal with asbestos contamination in loose-fill insulation. If your home was built before 1990, you should have your attic insulation tested for asbestos contamination.
- Agricultural Vermiculite: Vermiculite generates great conditions for plant growth, as its heat expansion aerates the soil and its absorptive nature retains water. Not all gardening vermiculite products contain asbestos, but some have shown to contain low levels of asbestos.
- Automotive Parts: Vermiculite is being used to replace asbestos parts in the automotive industry – such as brake linings and gaskets – and is even used in paints and lacquers.
The reason the sale of vermiculite is still permitted is that the Environment Protection Agency will only label a product as asbestos-containing material (ACM) if it contains more than one percent asbestos. This is the subject of much debate, as any level of asbestos exposure is dangerous.
Except for vermiculite insulation, there’s a small amount of asbestos in vermiculite products. Nevertheless, it’s still important to understand the prevalent dangers of vermiculite, as even trace amounts of asbestos can cause harm. If you notice your home or commercial building contains loose-fill insulation or a large number of vermiculite products, it’s vital you have it tested and removed if deemed contaminated. At Fiber Control, Inc., we have decades of experience handling asbestos-contaminated vermiculite and other hazardous materials. To schedule an inspection of your building, contact us.