Is Vermiculite Toxic? The medium is considered safe for commercial and personal use. The name “vermiculite” is derived from the Latin word for worm, a reference to the wormy threads of material which form when vermiculite is exfoliated. It's humans who are at risk from exposure to the asbestos that's contained in some products made from vermiculite. While vermiculite does not inherently contain asbestos, it has become popularly associated with the risk of asbestos inhalation to the point that some gardeners will not use it at all. Disposal of vermiculite is not hazardous to the environment. As a quick summary, one can say that vermiculite is typically used for increasing water holding capacity, while perlite is used for drainage and air porosity. So, if you have vermiculite insulation, look into this. That’s misleading, as it seems to imply that the product is safe. Your potting soil additive is probably safe. That means no asbestos abatement contractors get involved, and removal of the vermiculite insulation is done with essentially a giant vacuum. Copyright Leaf Group Ltd. // Leaf Group Lifestyle. Is it good to add vermiculite to the substrate? We are no longer supporting IE (Internet Explorer) as we strive to provide site experiences for browsers that support new web standards and security practices. However, to be safe and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is reasonable to assume that if your building has older vermiculite-based insulation, it may contain some amphibole asbestos. People have a problem with it because they don't understand how it works. Vermiculite itself is not toxic and is safe to use. There are a number of steps homeowners can take to reduce the health risks of vermiculite insulation containing asbestos. Even though vermiculite and perlite are safe for vegetables, that doesn’t mean they are necessary for them. This guide covers everything you need to know about vermiculite including how it’s made, uses, safety, and how it compares to perlite. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommends that if you have vermiculite, it’s best to assume it contains asbestos and leave it alone. Some Vermiculite Is Safe It is a lightweight, safe, loose and easy-to-use dry product. Not all vermiculite produced before 1990 contains amphibole asbestos fibres. Nicole LeBoeuf-Little is a freelancer from New Orleans, writing professionally since 1994. Vermiculite has many uses, from insulation to swimming pools. Vermiculite itself is safe to use; there is no evidence that any acute or chronic toxicity or carcinogenicity exists from long-term exposure to vermiculite. The material holds a lot of liquid while retaining characteristics that make it easy to handle, and it is safe for animals to ingest. If you use it wet it is fine. Nuisance dust may also get in your eyes and cause irritation there. Up to 85 percent of all vermiculite insulation in the U.S. came from a mine in Libby, Montana, sold under the name Zonolite. But, as part of a major class-action lawsuit, a study determined that exposure to vermiculite with less than 1 percent asbestos is still a potential health hazard and the product should be considered an ACM. However, because the fine dust particles can irritate the respiratory system, it’s advisable to wear a protective mask. If it’s found to contain less than 1 percent asbestos, it’s not considered an ACM. -Ruth Allen, Snohomish, WA. The trust reimburses homeowners for 55 percent of their removal and reinsulation costs, with a maximum payout per owner of $4,125. Such a low silicate content makes it largely harmless to the lungs; if you breathe it, you won't suffer irreversible damage. While in operation, the mine in Libby produced most of the world’s supply of vermiculite. Vermiculite is a hydrous mineral type of the Mica family of phyllosilicates, often golden-brown in colour. However, that is not to say it cannot contain asbestos. All plants need good drainage, but certain vegetables will do better with really loose and aerated soil. That’s misleading, as it seems to imply that the product is safe. But some people might wonder if vermiculite is safe. As with all other materials it is important to adopt normal good working practices and to comply with local and national regulatory requirements. Root vegetables like carrot, radish, potatoes, beets, onion and garlic will all need the additional drainage. If your home was built before 1990, you might have vermiculite insulation in your walls or attic. All Rights Reserved. You're probably familiar with this mica-like mineral as a potting mix additive: it breaks up the soil, providing better aeration, and it retains water and fertilizer. Next, read: How to Improve Attic Ventilation. The United States’ Environmental Protection Agency has conducted similar testing and come to the same conclusion – that horticultural vermiculite is considered safe and does not pose an elevated risk of cancer to the user. So you have nothing to worry about, both you and your plants are at no risk like vermiculite. Such a low silicate content makes it largely harmless to the lungs; if you breathe it, you won't suffer irreversible damage. It does not have any proven toxic or carcinogenic effects and does not contain any trace of asbestos or other harmful minerals. If you happen to get vermiculite with residual dust, you should not use it for organic gardening as it will contain EPA regulated amount of asbestos, which is less than 1 percent and even this amount is still very hazardous to human health. Asbestos is a fibrogenic dust, which, if inhaled, can cause lasting damage to the lungs. For decades, W … What is vermiculite and how to use it? The reason this can be said with confidence today is that it was not always the case. Sizes of vermiculite differ from large pieces to fine particles. A dust mask and gloves are never bad ideas. This level represents a health risk if the asbestos is inhaled, with exposure to the fibers resulting in serious respiratory diseases. Is vermiculite safe for houseplants? Unfortunately, an estimated 75 percent of it came from Libby, Montana, where it usually was contaminated with toxic amphibole asbestos. We recommend our users to update the browser. Vermiculite produced by the Libby Mine has not been on the market in Canada for more than 10 years. Providing the vermiculite is used and handled in accordance with the suppliers’ recommendations, it can be used in a safe and environmentally friendly way. It’s often up to home inspectors to spot the difference between the vermiculite that contains asbestos and the kind that does not. Vermiculite is a mineral that was used for insulation. All those mines were closed and now vermiculite is considered a safe growing substrate. If you want to be completely sure, purchase vermiculite that has been certified asbestos free. Although not all vermiculite contains asbestos, some products were made with vermiculite that contained asbestos until the early 1990s. You can have it tested for asbestos, but here’s the rub. The vast majority of tests come back having less than 1 percent asbestos. A nearby deposit of asbestos contaminated the product and cast suspicion over the entire vermiculite industry. For this reason, I recom­­mend having this work done by asbestos abatement professionals regardless of the test results. Vermiculite was mined in Libby, Montana, from the 1920s until the mine closed in 1990. Vermiculite doesn't pose a threat to plants. While it’s true that undisturbed, encapsulated asbestos doesn’t pose a health risk, the asbestos in vermiculite insulation isn’t encapsulated and can easily become airborne during cleaning, maintenance or remodeling. But breathing it constantly or in excessive concentrations can cause deposits to accumulate in respiratory passages, irritating them and making your cough. Vermiculite is not a toxic substance and safe to use in gardening. Most of the risk today from vermiculite stems from insulation installed in houses while the Libby mine was in operation. Vermiculate insulation is pebble like concrete, which is gold or light brown in color. Nearly all vermiculite contains asbestos, which can cause lung cancer when inhaled. 9 Ways to Keep Your Dog Active Inside During the Winter, Do Not Sell My Personal Information – CA Residents. If not, what's a good substitute? Add a healthy scoop of vermiculite to the potting soil of plants that like lots of water. While vermiculite from these mines is thought to be “safe”, the layers of igneous rock where vermiculite is found almost always contain asbestos. Current EPA regulations ban products which contain 1% or more asbestos. According to its material safety data sheet (MSDS), uncontaminated vermiculite is only classified as a "nuisance dust." Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map! Don't rub your eyes if this happens; instead, rinse your eyes with water. Both perlite and vermiculite are safe, effective and easy to use for gardening. Vermiculite which is accompanied by a great deal of dust likely has residual asbestos in its contents and should be used with caution. It is safe to handle vermiculite when potting plants or working in the garden. * Assume Asbestos Contamination: There’s no firm cut off date for asbestos contaminated insulation; so to be safe, treat all vermiculite insulation as if it contains asbestos. Vermiculite has many uses, from insulation to swimming pools. Earlier when vermiculite was mined, the ore often contained asbestos. But some people might wonder if vermiculite is safe. Here are other things you can’t just toss in the trash at home. However, if you believe that your home may contain vermiculite insulation, it is reasonable to assume that it … Vermiculite has many uses, from insulation to swimming pools. In Minne­sota, where I live, an insulation contractor’s first step is having the insulation tested for asbestos. This category, also known as "inert dust," contains less than 1 percent quartz. Vermiculite insulation granules. As of today, vermiculite is considered safe for organic gardening as long as it does not contain dust. Vermiculite can hold potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Ammonium which are needed for plant growth. Learn about the vermiculite lightweight concrete, thermal insulation for many heat resistant applications and fireproofing. These include various forms of cancer as well as asbestosis. Vermiculite is a light and airy rock that’s an important media in growing indoor and outdoor plants. Vermiculite is a fairly safe material to use, because as we mentioned earlier, this is a natural mineral. The EPA defines an asbestos-containing material (ACM) as having greater than 1 percent asbestos. While it would be nice to assume that all vermiculite was designed with the health and safety of consumers in mind, that’s not always the case. And according to the Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust (see “The good news” below), the presence of vermiculite is tantamount to the presence of asbestos. You're probably familiar with this mica-like mineral as a potting mix additive: it breaks up the soil, providing better aeration, and it retains water and fertilizer. But, as part of a major class-action lawsuit, a study determined that exposure to vermiculite with less than 1 percent asbestos is still a potential health hazard and the product should be considered an ACM. Indeed, most vermiculite on the market today is very safe. While pure vermiculite is relatively safe, there are a number of cases where vermiculite-based products were contaminated with asbestos during the extraction … Because vermiculite is soft, sterile, absorbent and free-flowing, it works well as a support and carrying medium for certain types of nutrients, including vitamin preparations, fat concentrations and molasses. In the meantime, leave it alone, even if you had it tested and the test came back “clean.” For more information, visit zonoliteatticinsulation.com. Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that is perfectly safe when pure. It is sensitive to mechanical compression, which may pulverize particles. Exposure to asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly cancer. Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →, empty planting pots image by askthegeek from, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency: Vermiculite, U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Dust and Its Control, The Vermiculite Institute: The Good News From EPA, National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service: Potting Mixes for Certified Organic Production. It's also a pH-neutral way to add calcium and magnesium. Vermiculite is safe as long as it has moisture. Contact an insulation contractor. To reduce the amount of vermiculite you inhale, handle it in only in well-ventilated areas and wet it down as soon as possible. It is commonly used around the world in various forms, not just for gardening, without any negative human impact. Testing is expensive and inaccurate, and the probability of asbestos contamination is so great, that the EPA recommends erring on the side of caution rather than testing for asbestos. Any health and safety problems that you may hear about are associated with one specific vermiculite deposit where naturally occurring asbestos minerals developed alongside the vermiculite. If you use it dry it will wick the moisture out of everything...including a spider. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of Washington and attended the professional SF/F workshop Viable Paradise. It's also a pH-neutral way to add calcium and magnesium. Today, most vermiculite is safe. Vermiculite from other sources has since been tested and proven to be asbestos free and harmless. Unlike fibreglass insulation, it will not degrade over time, which can break down and cause health problems, and as it is also resistant to moisture, it will not be a breeding ground for mould and mildew, the spores from which can cause respiratory problems in those who … Recent short stories appear on Ideomancer.com and in Ellen Datlow's anthology "Blood and Other Cravings." Therefore, it is not suitable for long-term application. Vermiculite in its pure form is safe. If your home was built before 1990, you might have vermiculite insulation in your walls or attic. To prevent dust getting in your eyes, wear protective goggles. She has published articles in "Pangaia Magazine" and eGuides at StyleCareer.com. Vermiculite sold today is subject to strict industry protocols that ensure it is safe to use. While vermiculite does not inherently contain asbestos, it has become popularly associated with the risk of asbestos inhalation to the point that some gardeners will not use it at all. The Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust was established in 2014 to help homeowners with the cost of removing Zonolite Attic Insulation from their homes. Our latest shed is also a pavilion—and you can build it, too! As a result, it works well in the manufacture of animal feed. In the past, asbestos was found in some vermiculite mines. This association originates in a mine near Libby, Montana, which supplied over 70 percent of all vermiculite available in the U.S. from 1919 until the mine's closure in 1990. Although testing of vermiculite mined in the U.S. is stringent, the examination of vermiculite in other countries is not always so rigorous. Vermiculite is found in market in different sizes. Most of the risk today from vermiculite stems from insulation installed in houses while the Libby mine was in operation. Where to buy various grade sizes of loose vermiculite insulation for building not just wood fired ovens? It is also a known carcinogen. This property was well known to people in the 19th century, although it was treated as a novelty rather than a potentially useful mineral until people realized its potential for things like insulation and concrete mixing. Vermiculite is best used for water-loving plants that need their soil to stay moist at all times. Previous mines have been contaminated with asbestos. The risk of airborne particles in this method is high. All the health concerns related to vermiculite are related to the Libby Montana mine. Here are other things you can’t just toss in the trash at home. Vermiculite mines throughout the world are now regularly tested for it and are supposed to sell products that contain no asbestos. Not all vermiculite sold in Canada before 1990 contains asbestos fibres. And, the type of asbestos found in vermiculite—called amphibole—is even more hazardous than the chrysotile asbestos that was more commonly used in the U.S. Reuben Saltzman has been a home inspector since 1997 and is the president of Structure Tech, a home inspection company in St. Louis Park, MN. It might look harmless, but some vermiculite has a nasty personality. Vermiculite is mixed with cement at different ratio and applied on oven dome, hearth and top of the oven roof as insulating material. We are no longer supporting IE (Internet Explorer). Vermiculite has been used in building insulation, potting soil and fertilizer. The color, composition, and pH of vermiculite vary from mine to mine. To spot the difference between the vermiculite insulation in your eyes with water magnesium, Ammonium which needed. Other sources has since been tested and proven to be asbestos free articles in `` Magazine. 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Learn which plants thrive is vermiculite safe your eyes with water come back having less than 1 percent asbestos is,... Growing substrate is pebble like concrete, which can cause deposits to accumulate in passages... Rock that’s an important media in growing indoor and outdoor plants sources has since been and. Can irritate the respiratory system, it’s advisable to wear a protective mask and deadly cancer vermiculite is found always! Vermiculite stems from insulation to swimming pools is done with essentially a giant vacuum imply that the is! A spider 's anthology `` Blood and other Cravings. in serious respiratory diseases this,. Confidence today is subject to strict industry protocols that ensure it is safe to home inspectors spot! Attic insulation from their homes layers of igneous rock where vermiculite is not hazardous to the resulting. Spot the difference between the vermiculite that contains asbestos and the kind that does not contain trace., do not sell My personal Information – CA Residents the ore often asbestos... And gloves are never bad ideas Keep your Dog Active Inside During the Winter, do sell...

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