If your house was built somewhere between 1919 and 1990, there is a chance that your attic contains insulation like the picture above. This is vermiculite, and while it may not be in popular use today, Vermont is a state rich with historic buildings and old homes. This gravel-looking material may appear harmless, but it has a high probability of containing asbestos, a known carcinogen.
What is Vermiculite?
Vermiculite (Also known as Zonolite) is an insulation material with a texture and weight similar to Styrofoam. It was in popular use between 1919 and 1990 as an alternative to other insulation materials because it is fire resistant, odorless, and light weight. Vermiculite first had to be mined and then heated. Once heated, the flakes of vermiculite would expand 8-30 times their original size. This made it easy to transport in its compact state.
Why is Vermiculite Bad?
Vermiculite itself does not contain asbestos. However, 70-80% of the vermiculite mined between 1919 and 1990 came from a single mine near Libby, Montana, which did contain a deposit of asbestos. As a result, most professionals will assume that vermiculite used for home insulation is contaminated with asbestos. Asbestos is a known cancer-causing mineral and exposure to it should be avoided at all times.
What to do?
If you discover that your home contains vermiculite insulation, you should operate under the assumption that it does contain asbestos unless you can confirm it was not sourced from the mine near Libby, Montana. The best way to avoid exposure is to not disturb it and have the insulation removed by a licensed asbestos contractor. Unfortunately, Building Energy does not offer vermiculite removal, but the state of Vermont has a list of asbestos contractors you can find at the link below.https://www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/ENV_AL_asbestos_consult_contractor_list.pdf
Once the vermiculite insulation has been removed, you should contact Building Energy for a free walkthrough or energy audit to determine the best insulation solution for your home. Blown Cellulose is a great, eco-friendly alternative to vermiculite as it is made from recycled paper products.
Still not sure?
If you are still unsure of how you should handle your home’s insulation issues, give us a call at (802) 859-3384 to speak with one of our insulation specialists. You can also submit an inquiry on our “contact us” page. While we do not offer vermiculite removal ourselves, we are happy to recommend a contractor who does.