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Vermiculite insulation home page: how to recognize vermiculite building insulation that may contain asbestos fibers. This article permits visual identification of vermiculite insulation; we include our own as well as US EPA photographs of various forms of vermiculite insulation to assist in recognizing vermiculite in buildings. We describe the history of vermiculite insulation, the asbestos hazard that may be present depending on which vermiculite insulation product is present, and how asbestos is identified in vermiculite insulation. We give the history of the Libby vermiculite mine, its purchase by WR Grace Corporation, the asbestos-related bankruptcy filing, asbestos abatement cost claims & filings. We also list other, including current producers of vermiculite insulation. This document assists building buyers, owners or inspectors who need to identify asbestos materials (or probable-asbestos) in buildings by simple visual inspection. We provide photographs and descriptive text of asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing products to permit identification of definite, probable, or possible asbestos materials in buildings.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
Below we illustrate that in "original" condition, that is without mechanical damage from being walked-on, vermiculite insulation products can vary considerably in size and appearance.
The two vermiculite photos above and the third at below left illustrate a considerable range in average particle size in different vermiculite insulation products, possibly coming from different mines or from different expansion processes. For reference, the very large vermiculite particle at below left was 1.5 cm x 1 cm in size, and some reports indicate that pour-in attic insulation can contain vermiculite particles up to an inch (2.5 cm) in length. As you can see in our vermiculite insulation images here, the color of the material ranges from a creamy white to gold or tan in color.
At above right, in the same largest-particle-size vermiculite sample, you can observe the mica-like shiny surface and layering or laminate structure of some of these vermiculite particles.
Watch out: vermiculite insulation was not only poured into attic floors but also into building wall cavities during insulation retrofit projects. Particularly in older balloon-framed buildings, vermiculite could be poured from the attic right into wall cavities extending all the way to the building foundation top. Vermiculite was also often poured into hollow-core concrete block walls.
Mississippi home inspector Dan Phillips sent along these interesting photographs of vermiculite insulation from a 1940's home in Tennessee.
Phillips added "The home itself was built in the 40’s and had several renovations done to it. The vermiculite was added during one of these renovations in the past, and covered some older insulation as well as serving as single insulation to newer portions of the home." He observed that this particular vermiculite insulation was comprised of a mix of both small reflective mineral fragments (mica-like) as well as larger fragments up to almost 1/4" of expanded vermiculite insulation material.
Without testing by a certified asbestos testing laboratory, we don't know if this particular vermiculite contains asbestos or not, - appropriate warnings were issued to the client.
That experience reminds us that in an older home there are often multiple kinds of insulation present, and they may not all be visible, newer materials having covered older.
Web search 08/17/2010, original source: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/verm.html#made
Home inspector David Grudzinski provides the following vermiculite insulation photographs. Mr. Grudzinski comments:
Mr. Grudzinski continues with an example of vermiculite insulation that had been missed by previous occupants, owners, buyers of a building.
It appears that some contractors still have no clue how to work around attic insulation, and this home has paid the price. The occupants had no clue and when I arrived and saw what was done, many long faces were observed.
Vermiculite building insulation might contain asbestos
Quoting from the U.S. EPA advice on vermiculite:
Zonolite Brand Vermiculite Insulation, ZAI (Zonolite Attic Insulation) Dust & Tremolite Asbestos Hazards
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware set 31 October 2008 as the bar date for Zonolite Attic Insulation (also branded "ZAI") claims to be filed in the W.R. Grace Personal Bankruptcy Case. The claims that were allowed prior to the bar date above included the cost of the abatement or removal of asbestos containing insulation and may have included a claim for other financial losses such as a reduction in property value where this insulation material was installed.
According to a helpful timeline published by Grace , commercial mining of vermiculite began in Libby Montana in 1923, ten years after Vermiculite Mountain was discovered in that town. Twenty one years later, in 1944, a question of possible hazards due to dust levels in the Libby vermiculite production plant was addressed by the Montana Department of Health who found dust levels below 50 ppm/ft3 and concluded that the dust was a nuisance but not hazardous.
By 1950, six years later, vermiculite production under the Zonolite brand reached 150,000 tons per year, and in 1954, as a measure to reduce dust levels in the mill, the first wet mill was installed at the Libby mine.
Up until the 1963 purchase of the Libby Montana vermiculite mine and the Zonolite corporation by W.R. Grace corporation, vermiculite insulation product mined at Libby was under the auspices of the Zonolite corporation. Grace indicates that at the time of the purchase, the company was unaware of the lurking asbestos hazards associated with mining and milling vermiculite. 
However by the following year it is evident that the new Libby Montana vermiculite mining operation had become aware of the health concerns associated with dust at the mining facility, because in 1964 the company initiated an annual x-ray testing program for Libby workers, and in the following year the company began moving employees reporting breathing concerns to less dusty areas of the facility.
Just one year later, in 1966 the Montana Board of Health reported dust concentrations at the Libby Montana vermiculite facility as varying between 9 ppm per cubic foot of air and 52 mppcf, complimenting Graces's efforts to reduce dust levels but indicating that further measures were needed. And in the following year, 1967, the Libby Montana mineworkers' union filed the first asbestos-related health claim. At that time even the union reported that dust levels had been reduced and that most (96%) of the dust level measurements were within Montana's "safe" threshold of 50 ppm per cubic foot or less.
The Libby vermiculite mining operation between 1967 and 1978 includes additional steps by the company to reduce dust exposure for workers. Most likely because it was apparent that there was a connection between airborne asbestos exposure health risks and smoking (tar in the lungs keeps particles therein), led Grace to ban smoking on premises in 1978, prompting a union grievance. And in 1983 Grace, complying with the Toxic Substances Control Act, filed notice of possible health effects from exposure to tremolite asbestos at the mining facility. The company consulted NIOSH, and McGill University began a health study of this topic in that same year. Findings of the McGill study, indicating that the levels of tremolite asbestos were one twentieth the standard set by federal regulations were reported to employees two years later in 1985.
The LIbby Montana vermiculite mine was closed by W.R. Grace corporation in 1990. In that year the company also closed all of its (more than 20) vermiculite insulation processing plants located throughout the U.S.
On 2 April 2001 the corporation filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 reorganization procedures in response to an 81% increase in asbestos claims in the preceding year and an increasing claims rate in 2001. According to the company, these asbestos liabilities stemmed from commercially-purchased chrysotile asbestos that Grace added to some of its fire protection products [not the tremolite asbestos found in Zonolite vermiculite building insulation-Ed]. The initial bankruptcy filing was amended on 13 January 2005, and disagreements between the company's creditors and stockholders and asbestosis property damage claimants continued along with further amendments to a final resolution on 31 January 2011.and all objections were closed on 31 January 2012. The corporation describes the final resolution as follows:
Vermiculite mining operations are found world-wide but the largest currently operating vermiculite mining operations continue in
Some Current Producers and/or Vendors of Vermiculite Products
Contemporary Uses of Vermiculite Insulation
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about vermiculite insulation and vermiculate insulation that may contain asbestos
What should I do if I have vermiculite insulation in my building ?
Quoting & paraphrasing or elaborating further from the U.S. EPA information on Vermiculite :
You should assume that the vermiculite insulation contains asbestos and it should not be disturbed. Particularly, do not stir up nor spread dust from this product.! Any disturbance could potentially release asbestos fibers into the air. If you absolutely have to go in your attic and it contains vermiculite insulation, you should limit the number of trips you make and shorten the length of those trips in order to help limit your potential exposure.
We and the US EPA recommend that you:
Our separate websites on Fiberglass building insulation and or series of articles about HVAC duct work defects contain in-depth discussion about possible air quality and health concerns which may be associated with exposure to fiberglass dust.To compare insulating material R-values of fiberglass in various forms as well as other insulating materials, see our Table of Properties of Insulating Materials
Also see these U.S. & Canadian Guides to Asbestos-Hazards in Vermiculite Insulation
How Vermiculite Attic Insulation Becomes Airborne
Any airborne dust particles can be a respiratory irritant, but the hazard level is likely to be increased if the dust contains insect or rodent materials and of course also if it contains asbestos as is present in some vermiculite insulation installations. Particularly where loose fill vermiculite insulation remains exposed in an attic, such as in the attic floor, the following act ivies are likely to cause dust from this product to become airborne.
You can reduce these dust risks by installing a plywood floor over the tops of the floor joists (ceiling joists of the rooms below), by installing fiberglass batts on top of the vermiculite, or by spraying an acrylic encapsulant on the exposed surface of the vermiculite in the attic.
Watch out: spray-coating the upper surface of an attic insulation material installed in the floor risks creating a vapor barrier on the wrong side (the cold side) of the structure, trapping moisture and leading to condensation or even mold troubles.
Question: is .0004% of asbestos ok to be working in and preparing food in?
I work in a school in mt, and 2 years ago this substance was removed from two rooms in the school, one which is right by the kitchen i work in. well 2 days ago i found this substance on top the the cupboards and everywhere else, and can see that it is falling from the ceiling. Very concerned because i have a fan blowing in there, and there was asbestos in the school when they came and had it cleaned. my question to you is, is .0004% of asbestos ok to be working in and preparing food in?
i truly found this site excellent, it answered alot except that one question. thank you - Amy Swanson 9/2/11
Thanks for tine nice note Amy.
Well this is my first year at this school, and was told that 2 years ago there was asbestos in the library and the music room and they did have it cleaned up professionally, but they didn't do it to the kitchen.
now this stuff that looks like your picture above with the gold and silver flakes in is is all over my kitchen and my boss told me it wasn't harmful cause they had it tested and it was at .0004%, but my concern is that if they had to clean it out of the other 2 rooms that it should be also done to my kitchen and i have 2 other ladies that work with me and we are all really concerned and are wondering what it is or whom it is that we can contact because everyone is telling us its ok and i don't think it is ok.
my boss is having someone come out there to caulk the ceiling again, and that is it...more or less just sweeping this under the rug. ..i have some of this stuff that fell from the ceiling in a plastic folder. it was hanging on the wall and caught it, but my concern is that i didn't know it was in there at the time i pulled a few papers out of it.
that is how it was brought to my attention of what it was. i am seriously concerned and would just like to know whom it is i need to contact outside the school, since no one in the school seems to really care about it or us.
Question: Zonolite Rolled Glass Fiber Home Insulation
i got zonolite rolled glass fiber home insulation is it safe ? - Concerned
Concerned: I don't recognize the product you name - can you send me a photo of the material and of any labels or markings on packaging? Then I can research and comment further. Use the CONTACT US link at page top or bottom to send photos if you can.
Certainly "fiberglass" is not an asbestos material. In our opinion, fiberglass insulation is safe if it has been properly installed and has not been damaged. Severely damaged fiberglass insulation, such as a product that has been walked-upon numerous times, or that has been macerated during demolition, may produce high levels of glass fiber dust, including small particles that may are a respiratory irritant and may be more harmful.
Should I have my Attic Insulation Tested?
I found plastic bags in my attic space that say "Full Fill" Insulation 100% abestos free from Koos Inc. Kenosha, WI. Should I have the insulation tested? - Colleen 3/4/12
Reply: U.S. EPA Koos WI Site Visit Report on Vermiculite & Asbestos Exposure
Colleen, some mesothelioma and asbestosis websites, usually ones seeking to provide legal services, report that workers at Koos corporation in Wisconsin were exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos. The U.S. EPA visited the Koos site in Kenosha, WI on 9 March 2000. Here are two reports from the U.S. Government Accounting Office.
Therefore, while the "safe answer" is to spend your money testing your insulation, and given only the information in your brief question, we caution that as we report in detail in the article above, even if your insulation is a vermiculite product (you did not say that it was), a bulk test can give a false negative result. Therefore the EPA and other experts advise that consumers assume that their vermiculite contains asbestos and follow EPA's advice to leave the material alone, undisturbed.
Question: What are the chances that vermiculite in our home came from the Libby Mine?
I have a house in Massachusetts that was constructed circa 1770. Local lore has it that there was an attic fire circa 1890. The wood work and plaster indicate that the attic was "finished" circa 1900. Some floor boards are missing, the floorboards are 1" hard pine, T&G. They also indicate late 19th, early 20th century. The floorboards were removed in the 1950's for electrical wiring (I am certain vermiculite was not added at that time). I can see about 1 1/2 inches of vermiculite between the joists.
Watch out: It might be useful to have your vermiculite insulation tested. If the result shows Tremolite asbestos (vermiculite mined at Libby Montana had a 10% Tremolite asbestos content) that probably points to the Libby vermiculite mine. But the US EPA warns that bulk testing of vermiculite for asbestos content can sometimes lead to a false negative finding (failing to detect asbestos even though it is present). That's a reason that the US EPA warned that people should err on the side of caution, assuming that it is asbestos-contaminated.
We also are researching the question of whether or not one can report a contents profile that would let one assay a vermiculite sample and guess at its source - as can be done very accurately with roofing slates. We will add that information here.
Question: Insulation in a 1969 house looks like white and gray furry stuff - is this vermiculite or asbestos?
I am buying a house that was build in 1969. I have not tested the insulation yet (I will). However, it doesn't looks like any of the above pictures. It looks like white and gray and furry. Are there still chance for the insulation to contain vermiculite or asbestos? - Will 7/12/2012
Question: was asbestos-contaminated vermiculite imported into the U.K.?
Are you aware if any of this contaminated vermiculite was imported to the UK? Thank you. - Laurence 9/15/2012
Sorry Laurence, no I don't know.
Typically, because of price competition and the importance of shipping costs, insulation products are produced and shipped from locations a bit closer to their point of use.
Question: where can I have a sample of vermiculite insulation to have it tested?
I recently purchased a house from HUD. I had my home inspected and found out there is exposed vermiculite in the basement that has fallen to the floor and is now been tracked around. Where can I take a sample of this insulation to have it tested ? - Tim 9/16/2012
Tim, you can use any test laboratory certified for asbestos testing. Both the US EPA and many U.S. states or Canadian provinces maintain lists of currently-approved asbestos testing labs.
Most state and provincial governments regulate and certify asbestos testing laboratories, and we recommend that where there are health, legal, or cost concerns, you should only use a certified and competent asbestos testing laboratory to examine material samples for asbestos content.
We give a list of several ways to find a certified asbestos test lab at ASBESTOS TEST LABS.
Question: worried sick after our home inspector tested our "vermiculite insulation" for asbestos - lab said it was cellulose
I recently bought a 1940s house which upon inspection was suspected to have vermiculita in a small area of the attic. The home inspector got it tested and it came back composed of cellulose and non fibrous materials, no asbestos. fast forward a few months we are now having our batting insulation replaced and the guys doing the work tell us its vermiculite. What do we go by? we also had our contractor tell us that its not vermiculite...im worried sick that now that the batting insulation is being removed, asbestos fibers might flying all over our house! - Worried sick., 10/5/2012
Reply: cellulose is not vermiculite and is not asbestos; but one insulation sample may not represent all building insulation in the structure
You might be best off trying to not be worried sick, as that itself may be an immediate health hazard and also invites opportunists who may price-gouge you when they see that you're terrified. Scared means costly.
Provided your home inspector used a qualified forensic or asbestos test lab (see Where to Find a Certified or Accredited Asbestos Testing Laboratory), I'd trust their lab result for the insulation sample that was actually tested.
I am a little surprised that your home inspector could not himself tell the very obvious difference between cellulose building insulation and vermiculite insulation. They are not at all visually similar. Why did he test cellulose (Cellulose loose fill insulation - basically paper) for asbestos? Did he charge you a profit beyond the actual lab fee for that test?
I am not surprised that workers may have found vermiculite insulation in a 1940's house; Vermiculite was widely used as a pour-in insulation retrofit and often a 1940's home was originally built with little or no insulation to start with. In the 1970's many of us (including myself) added various insulation products, including vermiculite, in those homes.
By taking a look at the photographs in this article, even a child should be able to see the difference between vermiculite and other building insulation products. Our photo above shows a typical blown-in cellulose insulation installation. If indeed your workers are correct and vermiculite is in place, you should
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