What is Vermiculite?
Vermiculite is a silver-gold to gray-brown mineral that is flat and shiny in its natural state (think: kitty litter). When heated to around 1000 degrees C, it pops (or puffs up) which creates pockets of air. This expanded form, and the fact that vermiculite does not burn, made the material suitable for use as insulation.
Vermiculite alone is not a hazardous material. Problems with vermiculite insulation come when mixed with asbestos fibers. Asbestos can cause health problems when inhaled into the lungs. Diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer have been linked with inhaling very small, airborne asbestos fibers. If you would like to learn more about asbestos and where else you may find it in your house, you can read Beth and Ryan’s blog post “Do I Have Asbestos in My Home?”.
The majority of the vermiculite used worldwide was from a mine in Libby, Montana. The mine closed in 1990. Unfortunately, the mine also had large deposits of tremolie which is a type of asbestos. While mining the vermiculite, some tremolite came in with the mix.
Vermiculite is only one type of insulation someone would find in a home, read our Does Proper Insulation Matter? to see a list of all type of insulation used in homes.
Is Vermiculite Insulation Something to Worry About?
If you are worried that your current house or a house you are considering purchasing may have vermiculite insultation, best course of action would be to get it tested for asbestos. Beth and Ryan Waller recommend Reitzel Bros. by AGS Environmental to have samples of your insulation tested.
If the sample does test positive for asbestos, don’t panic! The good news is that we don’t live in our attics or walls. As long as it is not touched, neither the asbestos fibers bound up in the vermiculite chunks nor the dust will be released into the air. Avoid disturbing the material. Do not sweep it or vacuum it up. Do not store belongings in the attic. Provided left alone, you house is completely safe to live in.
Removal of Vermiculite Insulation Containing Asbestos
Should you decide to remove the insulation, we recommend not doing so yourself. Removal done incorrectly will likely cause asbestos fibers to disperse throughout your house. This is when the insulation becomes dangerous. We recommend contacting a professional. They have the proper knowledge and equipment to perform the removal and disposal safely. Reitzel Bros. by AGS Environmental is not only able to test your insulation for you, but they are also able to do the removal.
If you have any questions regarding vermiculite insultation, do not hesitate to contact Beth and Ryan. They would be more than happy to answer any of your questions!
Check out our Home Insurance Red Flag Checklist, to read about some other things to consider before purchasing a new home.