What is vermiculite?
Vermiculite is a silver-gold to grey-brown mineral that is flat and shiny in its natural state. When heated to about 1000 degrees Celsius, it swells, creating air pockets. This enlarged shape and the fact that vermiculite does not burn make the material suitable for use as insulation.
Does any vermiculitis cause health problems?
Vermiculitis itself has not been shown to be the cause of a health problem. However, some vermiculite insulators contain asbestos fibres, which can be problematic if inhaled. As long as this type of vermiculite-based 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 insulation® Attic. In fact, this insulator was sold in Canada under the name Zonolite® and was extracted from the Libby mine in Montana, USA. This mine contained a natural asbestos deposit, which resulted in the contamination of vermiculite with asbestos.
However, 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 fibres. However, if you think your home has vermiculite, it is reasonable to assume that it may be contaminated with asbestos. If this is the case and you are considering renovating or removing insulation, it is strongly recommended to contact a qualified professional.
What are the health risks of asbestos-containing vermiculite?
Asbestos can cause health problems when inhaled into the lungs. Breathing very small airborne asbestos fibres has been associated with diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
How to minimize risk and how to do vermiculite decontamination?
The best way to minimize exposure to asbestos from vermiculite is to avoid removing or moving insulation where possible. By moving the vermiculite, the fibers become airborne. The following precautions prevent the release of asbestos fibres 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 passing through.
- Calm the lighting fixtures and access to the attic to prevent the insulation from falling.
- Some of the insulation may fall inside the walls, so it is best to caulk the frames of windows and doors, as well as along baseboards and electrical outlets.
- If you are considering renovating, hire a trained and certified professional to deal with asbestos.
- Never remove the insulation yourself.
Since it is not always possible to leave vermiculite intact, removal and decontamination in the attic, basement walls and basements must be carried out in case of contamination.
Why do vermiculite decontamination?
Vermiculite decontamination of the Zonolite vermiculite brand is necessary because it contains a very dangerous form of asbestos that can cause serious and irreversible disease. Although its presence does not automatically pose a risk, the government recommends using experienced Zonolite decontamination professionals to facilitate removal, especially if you are considering renovations (even small projects such as 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 not to proceed with the elimination and decontamination of vermiculite if you are not an expert. In addition, there may be a risk of the contamination spreading, which could result in additional decontamination costs. Instead, it is advisable not to touch contaminated vermiculite until a professional can effectively manage the situation.
If you discover 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 worms contain asbestos. So don’t just rely on the appearance or year of installation to judge whether or not asbestos is present!