What is vermiculite?
Vermiculite is a silver-gold to gray-brown mineral that is flat and shiny in its natural state. When heated to around 1000 ° C, it swells, which creates air pockets. This enlarged shape and the fact that the vermiculite does not burn make the material suitable for use as an insulator.
Does any vermiculite cause health problems?
Vermiculite itself has not been shown to cause any health problems. However, some vermiculite insulation contains asbestos fibers, which can be problematic if inhaled. As long as this type of vermiculite insulation remains untouched behind intact walls or in attics and does not peel off, this should not be a cause for concern.
One of the main concerns was Zonolite® Attic insulation. In fact, this insulator was sold in Canada as Zonolite® and was extracted from the Libby mine in Montana, United States. This mine contained a natural deposit of asbestos, which resulted in the contamination of vermiculite with asbestos.
However, the vermiculite produced by the Libby mine has not been on the Canadian market for more than 10 years. All vermiculite sold in Canada before 1990 does not contain asbestos fibers. However, if you suspect that your home has vermiculite, it is safe to assume that it may be contaminated with asbestos. If this is the case and you are considering renovating or removing the insulation, it is strongly recommended that you contact a qualified professional.
What are the health risks of vermiculite containing asbestos?
Asbestos can cause health problems when inhaled into the lungs. Breathing very small airborne asbestos fibers has been linked to diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
How to minimize the risks and how to do the vermiculite decontamination?
The best way to minimize exposure to asbestos from vermiculite is to avoid removing or moving the insulation when possible. By moving the vermiculite, the fibers become airborne. The following precautions prevent the release of asbestos fibers into the air:
- Do not use the attic for storage.
- No one should go into the attic.
- Seal all cracks and holes in the ceilings to prevent the insulation from going through.
- Caulk light fixtures and access to the attic to prevent insulation from falling out.
- Some of the insulation can fall inside the walls, so it is best to caulk window and door frames, as well as along baseboards and electrical outlets.
- If you plan to renovate, hire a trained and certified professional to deal with asbestos.
- Never remove the insulation yourself.
As it is not always possible to leave the vermiculite intact, removal and decontamination in the attic, the walls and basements of the basement must be carried out in the event of contamination.
Why do vermiculite decontamination?
Vermiculite decontamination of the brand of vermiculite Zonolite is necessary because it contains a very dangerous form of asbestos which can cause serious and irreversible disease. Although its presence does not automatically constitute a risk, the government recommends using experienced Zonolite decontamination professionals to facilitate removal, especially if you plan to carry out renovation work (even small projects like plastering. walls / ceilings).
Find a certified contractor for the removal and decontamination of vermiculite
Due to the high health risks involved, it is strongly recommended that you do not remove and decontaminate vermiculite if you are not an expert. In addition, there may be a risk of spreading contamination, which could result in additional decontamination costs. Instead, it is advised not to touch the contaminated vermiculite until a professional can effectively manage the situation.
If you find vermiculite in your home (usually in the attic, but also in walls and ceilings), don’t panic! Remember that it is best to have it tested as it may contain asbestos. However, also note that not all vermiculites contain asbestos. So don’t just rely on the appearance or the installation year to judge whether or not asbestos is present!