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Asbestos in Vermiculite: What to Know

Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral compound that is often used as an insulation material. Vermiculite in its pure form is nontoxic. However, most of the country’s vermiculite was mined in Libby, Montana, in a mine that also had a natural deposit of asbestos. This means that most of the vermiculite found today is also contaminated, and can pose a serious health and safety risk to anyone exposed. 

Where Is Vermiculite Typically Found?

Vermiculite is naturally found in mines. It was widely used in manufacturing, however, for its insulation properties, which include heat and fire resistance. Vermiculite resembles shiny flakes that are often compared to mica. When exposed to high temperatures, these flakes expand to up to 30 times their original size. Expanded vermiculite looks like small nuggets or stacks layered together. They range in color from silver, gold, gray and brown to a combination. Vermiculite is most often found in attics, walls, ductwork and other places where insulation is used. It is also present in many potting soils and fertilizers.

How Common Is Asbestos in Vermiculite?

The issue with vermiculite is that around 70 percent of all vermiculite sold in the United States from 1919 to 1990 came from the mine in Libby, Montana. Most if not all of this vermiculite is tainted with asbestos from the same mine. This means there are high odds that any vermiculite in your home, workplace, in a consumer product or elsewhere contains asbestos.

Can You Get Mesothelioma From Vermiculite?

Yes, it is possible to get mesothelioma – along with other illnesses connected to asbestos – from vermiculite. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. However, mesothelioma is most commonly associated with frequent or consistent exposure to asbestos, such as those who work with or around vermiculite. 

You could suffer asbestos poisoning and related illnesses from vermiculite if the asbestos particles are disturbed or removed. This can stir asbestos up into the air and put you at risk of inhaling or ingesting the particles. Over the years, if asbestos fibers get lodged in your system, they can create scar tissue that ultimately turns into cancerous tumors. You could also be at risk of asbestosis, lung cancer and other health problems associated with asbestos.

Can You Test Vermiculite in Your Home for Asbestos?

Yes. You can pay a professional to come test the vermiculite in your home for traces of asbestos. Asbestos is not visible to the naked eye and requires professional testing by a trained technician using a microscope. It’s important to leave this to the professionals so that you do not accidentally expose yourself to asbestos.

What to Do if You Have Vermiculite Insulation in Your Home

If there is vermiculite in your home, you should assume that it contains asbestos and treat it as such even if you do not pay for professional testing. Do not touch the vermiculite or disturb it in any way, as this can release microscopic asbestos particles into the air and put you at risk of exposure. An ordinary dust mask will not protect you from inhaling asbestos. Make every effort to reduce your exposure to the contaminated vermiculite by avoiding places where you notice this substance. If you’d like the vermiculite removed from your home, hire a licensed professional who deals with asbestos removal to do so for you.

Can You Sue for Asbestos in Vermiculite?

Asbestos exposure takes years to turn into a disease or illness with noticeable signs. Early signs of mesothelioma and asbestosis often include chest pain, shortness of breath, a persistent dry cough, nausea, loss of appetite and fatigue. If you or a loved one gets diagnosed with a disease connected to exposure to asbestos in vermiculite, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Even if you were exposed due to the negligence of a company that is no longer in existence, you could be eligible for compensation through an asbestos trust fund. Contact a mesothelioma lawyer near you to learn more during a free consultation.