Prior to the 1990s around 70 percent of the vermiculite used for insulation in Canada and the United States came from the Libby mines. By itself vermiculite is not harmful. This particular mine, however, also had a natural deposit of asbestos. As a result ,much of the vermiculite mined here was believed to be contaminated by this carcinogen i.e. cancer causing substance.
Continual exposure to high concentrations of asbestos has led to serious illnesses such as:
- Asbestosis: A scarring of the lungs which makes breathing difficult
- Mesothelioma: A rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity caused by prolonged (and high concentration) exposure to asbestos
- Lung cancer
- Asbestosis Pleural Disease: A non-malignant disease that causes scarring of the thin membranes lining the lung and chest
Hence Health Canada and the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) issued warnings about prolonged exposure to asbestos vermiculite insulation.
The Libby mines have been closed since the discovery but buildings that are more than 20 years old may still have this vermiculite-based insulation (e.g. Zonolite® Attic Insulation) that contains asbestos. Professional vermiculite testing is the only way to confirm whether your building has contaminated vermiculite.
Why Zonolite® Attic Insulation May Need Vermiculite Testing And Removal
In 1985 the EPA estimated that 940,000 American homes contained, or had contained, Zonolite attic fill. The manufacturer, W.R. Grace Co., used much of the vermiculite from Libby mines in the products that it sold from 1963 to 1984 when its sale was discontinued.
It is important to understand that not all vermiculite insulation containing asbestos including Zonolite®needs to be taken out. Vermiculite removal largely depends on the condition of your insulation. If there is no danger of the asbestos fibres being released into the air, it might be better to leave it undisturbed. The only way you can determine what to do is by scheduling vermiculite testing by trained professionals. Never attempt to examine it yourself because you are risking exposure to this deadly substance.
Templar Environmental Services/Asbestos Analysis & Removal Services has trained and experienced inspectors to determine whether or not you have a problem.We are certified IAC2 indoor air consultants and trained in asbestos inspection and removal. Your vermiculite insulation test results will be verified by an independent laboratory. Based on the findings we will formulate a vermiculite removal plan for your property. We know how to minimize the risk of vermiculite asbestos contamination that may occur during removal. Our technicians follow recommended industry guidelines and use the right tools and equipment for the job.