Vermiculite is a material that is mined and looks a lot like mica – shiny, flaky and semi-translucent. It’s spongy and has great insulating properties, which is why it’s a common insulation material in many homes across Canada.
Most of the vermiculite insulation used in Canada and the United States comes from one single mine in Montana, which – and herein lies the problem – was found to be contaminated with asbestos. So all of the vermiculite insulation that comes from the mine – and is found in 35 million homes across North America – could also be contaminated. Asbestos is linked to lung cancer, mesothelioma (a more aggressive form of lung cancer) and chronic lung scaring. The dangers with asbestos, and therefore vermiculite, is when it is moved. When the material is disturbed, the asbestos fibers become airborne and are inhaled, where they do the most damage.
For Health Canada’s fact sheet on vermiculite insulation, click here:
If your home is more than 20 years old (the use of this insulation from the one mine stopped around 1990) and contains vermiculite insulation, it’s possible that it could be contaminated. Asbestos materials are generally harmless if they are inaccessible and never disturbed, but if your home is undergoing any kind of renovations or remodeling it would be a smart decision to have an asbestos inspection conducted on your home. Even everyday activities like retrieving items from an attic that has vermiculite insulation, as per Health Canada’s example, can disturb the materials.
Asbestos or asbestos-containing materials cannot be removed by the average homeowner and must be removed by certified asbestos removal companies in Canada.