Vermiculite Insulation: What You Need to Know for Safety

Ecotelligent Homes
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Vermiculate insulation started to be used for homes in the early 1920s and later gained popularity during the baby boom when many homes were being built. Over time, it was phased out of use due to asbestos contamination, which can lead to respiratory health issues. Read on to learn more on how to stay safe if your home has vermiculite insulation.

What is vermiculite insulation?

Vermiculate insulation is attic insulation that is identifiable by its gold, gray or light-brown pebble-like appearance and may have shiny flakes and pieces. The mineral vermiculite is a mineral that expands as much as 30 times its original size when heated making it an excellent fire-resistant and odorless insulation. Due to this, it was popularly used in homes, specifically attics, from the 1950s through the 1970s.

What is the problem with vermiculite insulation?

The majority of vermiculate insulation used in homes was derived from a Libby, Montana mine. The mine had an abundance of vermiculite, but it also had a type of asbestos, tremolite. The tremolite was extracted along with the vermiculite and contaminated with asbestos. The brand name Zonolite was the largest seller of vermiculate insulation with asbestos. 

When did vermiculite insulation stop being used?

Vermiculite insulation was used until 1990 when the Libby, Montana mine was closed. The mine operated from 1963 to 1990 despite the W.R. Grace & Company knowing the mine was contaminated with asbestos and was causing health issues for employees and those that lived in Libby and the nearby town, Troy.

What are the health risks involved with vermiculite insulation?

If asbestos is released as fibers from vermiculite insulation and inhaled, it can affect the respiratory system. The fibers become trapped in lung tissue which can lead to lung diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma and lung cancer. It is not safe to inhale even the smallest amount of these fibers.

What should I do if my home contains vermiculite insulation?

It is best to act as if all vermiculite insulation is contaminated by asbestos. The EPA does not recommend testing the material for asbestos due to the Libby, Montana mine being the source of 70% of vermiculite. 

If your home contains vermiculite insulation, you should not disturb it. If vermiculite is in good condition and has not been altered, the asbestos is contained, and the health risk is minimal. To prevent the insulation from being disturbed, consider doing the following:

  • Do not enter the attic unless necessary
  • Do not use the attic for storage
  • Before moving forward with a renovation or remodel, consult with an asbestos abatement professional

If the vermiculite insulation is moved or altered, it can release asbestos fibers into the air. These fibers can be inhaled, causing a health risk for anyone who does so. If you are going to do any work on your home that will disturb the vermiculite insulation, you need to work with a trained professional to remove it from your home. Licensed professionals have the tools to safely remove the insulation that homeowners do not have access to. An asbestos abatement professional can also test the home’s air quality before and after removing the asbestos to ensure it is safe for your family.

Is removing vermiculite insulation expensive?    

Removing vermiculate insulation can be expensive. To help combat the cost of removal, the Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust was founded in 2014. If you are removing Zonolite brand attic insulation from your home, the trust will cover up to 55% of the cost of removal. The maximum reimbursement the trust will cover is $4,633.54.

Does your home have vermiculite insulation you want to be removed?

Contact us at 248-291-7815; we are happy to assist with vermiculite insulation removal and asbestos abatement.

Ecotelligent Homes

Since 2009, more than 3,000 Michigan homeowners have trusted Ecotelligent Homes to make their homes comfortable and efficient. If you want an energy audit, insulation, HVAC, or abatement services, give us a call anytime: (248) 291-7815. Satisfaction guaranteed.

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