Vermiculite is not a health problem, but some vermiculite insulation also has asbestos fibers in it. As with any asbestos if left alone, and not damaged it does not cause any health problems.
Vermiculite is a silvery to grayish-brown mineral that is flat and shiny. When it is heated to 1000 degrees C, it expands and create a little pocket of air. In this form it does not burn, thus leading to the creation of vermiculite insulation.
This type of insulation was perfect for attics because it was fire resistant, had sound absorption properties, and was lightweight. This type of insulation is a small round product, that is blown into the attic. It is estimated in 1985 940,000 American homes contained this type of insulation. This product was sold under the name of Zonolite. If you have this type of insulation, there is a very good chance it has asbestos in it.
If you discover you have this type of insulation in your attic it is possible there is no contamination because of where it is installed. However extra precaution needs to be taken if you go into the attic, as there will be airborne particles floating around.
If you happen to be doing minor renovations like installing a light fixture or running cables, be sure to take the following precautions:
- wear eye protection, gloves and a HEPA respirator
- don’t remove the insulation yourself or disturb it
- prevent contamination to other areas by taping off rooms with plastic sheets
- keep window open and using a wet cloth wipe up any dust
- use a HEPA vacuum to clean ups that can’t be wiped
- if you are under going more extensive renovations, it is best to contact a professional for advice.
Asbestos is widely known for it’s health risks. Some common health issues are asbestosis, which is a lung disease that develops slowly over years of exposure. Mesothelioma is cancer of the lining of the lung and abdominal cavity. Lung cancer can develop from other causes but when someone with lung cancer is exposed to asbestos, it can become more advanced.
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