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Does vermiculite still pose health risks?


Vermiculite does not in itself constitute a health risk. However, some vermiculite insulation contains asbestos fibers, which can cause problems if inhaled.


The vermiculite from this spring was later discovered to contain amphibolic asbestos. Asbestos only poses a health risk if fibers end up in the air you breathe. If inhaled in large quantities, asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis (scar tissue formation in the lungs that makes breathing difficult), mesothelioma (rare form of cancer of the chest wall or abdominal cavity), lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer. It is further believed that asbestos can cause pharyngeal and stomach cancer.


Currently, there is no scientific evidence of risk to human health if insulation material is enclosed behind a wall or under a floor and left untouched, or if it remains insulated in an attic. However, until proven otherwise, it is reasonable to assume that if your building is insulated with an old vermiculite product, it may contain amphibolic asbestos.


Never try to remove asbestos insulation yourself.


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What is vermiculite?


Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral mined around the world that ranges in color from silver-gold to gray-brown and . It is flat and shiny in its natural state. When heated to around 1000°C, it bursts (or expands), creating air pockets. It is this property, combined with the fact that it does not burn, that has made it a suitable material for insulation.


From the early 1920s to the mid-1980s, vermiculite was processed for use in homes as an inexpensive and easy-to-use insulation. Until 1984, the vermiculite used to produce residential insulation in Canada came mainly from a mine located in Libby, Montana, in the United States. The insulation was sold in Canada under the Zonolite® brand, ideal as insulation in attics, walls and under floors in basements.

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