Vermiculite is a mineral that occurs naturally and resembles shiny flakes, like mica. When heated, vermiculite flakes expand to as much as 30 times their original size. Despite becoming so much larger, vermiculite remains lightweight and is an odorless, fire-resistant material used commonly for insulating walls and attics. 

Does vermiculite contain asbestos?

Not necessarily, but it is likely. The primary source of vermiculite in the US between 1919 and 1990 was a mine in Libby, Montana. The mine also had a deposit of asbestos present during those years. Given that the mine provided more than 70% of all vermiculite sold in that period, it’s reasonable to assume that any vermiculite present in an older home may be contaminated with asbestos. 

Identifying and testing vermiculite insulation

Without disturbing or touching your insulation, compare its appearance to photos of vermiculite on the internet. A helpful resource is the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

What does Vermiculite look like?

Vermiculite is typically a pebble-like product that is silver-gold or gray-brown in color.

To test for the presence of asbestos in vermiculite, a sample must be sent off to a laboratory. One laboratory that offers such testing for both public and industrial clients is LCS laboratory inc., which issues guidelines for collecting a sample. 

You must assume the presence of asbestos and take all safety precautions when disturbing the material, ensure that you send off between 20-40 g for testing, and include samples from a variety of spots, as well as from the bottom layer. Asbestos is not necessarily evenly distributed through vermiculite and is heavier, so it may be more present in the bottom layer. 

Evaluate Any Necessary Risk of Exposure to Asbestos in Vermiculite

Asbestos is known to cause disease and terminal cancers. Once ingested or inhaled, asbestos fibers do not break down, and they attack the linings of the lungs, heart, and other organs. This attack can lead to disease and cancers, such as mesothelioma, a particularly aggressive form of asbestos-related cancer, which is malignant and usually inoperable. 

Unfortunately, there is no known safe level when it comes to asbestos exposure, and any health effects can take decades to surface. Given that asbestos exposure is caused by breathing in tiny fibers while the material is being moved, removed, or otherwise disturbed, it’s highly likely that you will breathe it in should you handle the insulation.

The Environmental Protection Agency Advises Not to Disturb Insulation

For this reason, the EPA recommends that you leave any vermiculite insulation undisturbed. So long as you do not enter your attic, handle, or otherwise disturb the insulation, it is highly unlikely that you will ever be exposed to any asbestos present within it. 

You must keep in mind that any risk of the insulation being disturbed (such as by a contractor carrying out works in or near the attic or walls) must be addressed in advance. If you decide to carry out any renovation works or would prefer the peace of mind of having it removed, you must engage expert asbestos contractors to safely remove it from your home. 

If you have vermiculite insulation

If you find vermiculite insulation in your home, assume it contains asbestos and do not disturb it. While unadvisable, if you absolutely must be near it, ensure that you wear all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), such as a respirator mask, protective eyewear, long sleeves, trousers, and gloves.

Unless you plan on hiring professionals to remove it for you, leave it undisturbed and do not store boxes or other items near it. Do not let children play in the attic, and never attempt to remove the vermiculite yourself. 

AsbestosClaims.Law is your comprehensive resource for all things asbestos. We hope this information is helpful.

If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, check out our website and YouTube page for videos, infographics and answers to your questions about asbestos, including health and safety, asbestos testing, removing asbestos from your home and building, and legal information.

And if you believe that you were exposed to asbestos, or have been diagnosed with an asbestos illness, you could be entitled to significant compensation—money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being. 

All without filing a lawsuit.

If you’d like help with filing a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], or call or text us at (833) 4-ASBESTOS (427-2378) or (206) 455-9190. We’ll listen to your story and explain your options. And we never charge for anything unless you receive money in your pocket.