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Such a low silicate content makes it largely harmless to the lungs; if you breathe it, you won't suffer irreversible damage. Nearly all vermiculite contains asbestos, which can cause lung cancer when inhaled. A dust mask and gloves are never bad ideas. As of today, vermiculite is considered safe for organic gardening as long as it does not contain dust. She has published articles in "Pangaia Magazine" and eGuides at StyleCareer.com. 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. Vermiculite can hold potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Ammonium which are needed for plant growth. Recent short stories appear on Ideomancer.com and in Ellen Datlow's anthology "Blood and Other Cravings." Although not all vermiculite contains asbestos, some products were made with vermiculite that contained asbestos until the early 1990s. So you have nothing to worry about, both you and your plants are at no risk like vermiculite. Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that is perfectly safe when pure. For this reason, I recom­­mend having this work done by asbestos abatement professionals regardless of the test results. While vermiculite from these mines is thought to be “safe”, the layers of igneous rock where vermiculite is found almost always contain asbestos. Vermiculite doesn't pose a threat to plants. To reduce the amount of vermiculite you inhale, handle it in only in well-ventilated areas and wet it down as soon as possible. These include various forms of cancer as well as asbestosis. Providing the vermiculite is used and handled in accordance with the suppliers’ recommendations, it can be used in a safe and environmentally friendly way. Up to 85 percent of all vermiculite insulation in the U.S. came from a mine in Libby, Montana, sold under the name Zonolite. 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. Here are other things you can’t just toss in the trash at home. Disposal of vermiculite is not hazardous to the environment. Vermiculite is not a toxic substance and safe to use in gardening. The reason this can be said with confidence today is that it was not always the case. If your home was built before 1990, you might have vermiculite insulation in your walls or attic. 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. Our latest shed is also a pavilion—and you can build it, too! It is commonly used around the world in various forms, not just for gardening, without any negative human impact. Contact an insulation contractor. 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. Asbestos is a fibrogenic dust, which, if inhaled, can cause lasting damage to the lungs. 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. What is vermiculite and how to use it? 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. It's also a pH-neutral way to add calcium and magnesium. Exposure to asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly cancer. 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. It does not have any proven toxic or carcinogenic effects and does not contain any trace of asbestos or other harmful minerals. But some people might wonder if vermiculite is safe. If you use it wet it is fine. The EPA defines an asbestos-containing material (ACM) as having greater than 1 percent asbestos. Therefore, it is not suitable for long-term application. 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 light and airy rock that’s an important media in growing indoor and outdoor plants. However, because the fine dust particles can irritate the respiratory system, it’s advisable to wear a protective mask. Indeed, most vermiculite on the market today is very safe. Vermiculite has many uses, from insulation to swimming pools. According to its material safety data sheet (MSDS), uncontaminated vermiculite is only classified as a "nuisance dust." Vermiculite mines throughout the world are now regularly tested for it and are supposed to sell products that contain no asbestos. Vermiculite sold today is subject to strict industry protocols that ensure it is safe to use. To prevent dust getting in your eyes, wear protective goggles. Such a low silicate content makes it largely harmless to the lungs; if you breathe it, you won't suffer irreversible damage. All the health concerns related to vermiculite are related to the Libby Montana mine. Not all vermiculite sold in Canada before 1990 contains asbestos fibres. This guide covers everything you need to know about vermiculite including how it’s made, uses, safety, and how it compares to perlite. Current EPA regulations ban products which contain 1% or more asbestos. Copyright Leaf Group Ltd. // Leaf Group Lifestyle. 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. 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. The material holds a lot of liquid while retaining characteristics that make it easy to handle, and it is safe for animals to ingest. Nicole LeBoeuf-Little is a freelancer from New Orleans, writing professionally since 1994. * 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. While in operation, the mine in Libby produced most of the world’s supply of vermiculite. The medium is considered safe for commercial and personal use. That means no asbestos abatement contractors get involved, and removal of the vermiculite insulation is done with essentially a giant vacuum. It might look harmless, but some vermiculite has a nasty personality. The risk of airborne particles in this method is high. Vermiculite is mixed with cement at different ratio and applied on oven dome, hearth and top of the oven roof as insulating material. 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. There are a number of steps homeowners can take to reduce the health risks of vermiculite insulation containing asbestos. Vermiculite has many uses, from insulation to swimming pools. Most of the risk today from vermiculite stems from insulation installed in houses while the Libby mine was in operation. Vermiculite is a hydrous mineral type of the Mica family of phyllosilicates, often golden-brown in colour. Vermiculite which is accompanied by a great deal of dust likely has residual asbestos in its contents and should be used with caution. Vermiculite has been used in building insulation, potting soil and fertilizer. 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. It is sensitive to mechanical compression, which may pulverize particles. Sizes of vermiculite differ from large pieces to fine particles. It’s often up to home inspectors to spot the difference between the vermiculite that contains asbestos and the kind that does not. 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. Most of the risk today from vermiculite stems from insulation installed in houses while the Libby mine was in operation. Don't rub your eyes if this happens; instead, rinse your eyes with water. Is vermiculite safe for houseplants? Is it good to add vermiculite to the substrate? 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. Today, most vermiculite is safe. We are no longer supporting IE (Internet Explorer). You can have it tested for asbestos, but here’s the rub. 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. A nearby deposit of asbestos contaminated the product and cast suspicion over the entire vermiculite industry. This category, also known as "inert dust," contains less than 1 percent quartz. Both perlite and vermiculite are safe, effective and easy to use for gardening. However, if you believe that your home may contain vermiculite insulation, it is reasonable to assume that it … 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. Vermiculite insulation granules. The color, composition, and pH of vermiculite vary from mine to mine. Is Vermiculite Toxic? Vermiculite is a fairly safe material to use, because as we mentioned earlier, this is a natural mineral. Earlier when vermiculite was mined, the ore often contained asbestos. It's also a pH-neutral way to add calcium and magnesium. Your potting soil additive is probably safe. Vermiculite from other sources has since been tested and proven to be asbestos free and harmless. Add a healthy scoop of vermiculite to the potting soil of plants that like lots of water. It is also a known carcinogen. Some Vermiculite Is Safe Vermiculate insulation is pebble like concrete, which is gold or light brown in color. Here are other things you can’t just toss in the trash at home. Not all vermiculite produced before 1990 contains amphibole asbestos fibres. In Minne­sota, where I live, an insulation contractor’s first step is having the insulation tested for asbestos. The Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust was established in 2014 to help homeowners with the cost of removing Zonolite Attic Insulation from their homes. 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 in its pure form is safe. 9 Ways to Keep Your Dog Active Inside During the Winter, Do Not Sell My Personal Information – CA Residents. As a result, it works well in the manufacture of animal feed. Nuisance dust may also get in your eyes and cause irritation there. Learn about the vermiculite lightweight concrete, thermal insulation for many heat resistant applications and fireproofing. Where to buy various grade sizes of loose vermiculite insulation for building not just wood fired ovens? The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommends that if you have vermiculite, it’s best to assume it contains asbestos and leave it alone. It is safe to handle vermiculite when potting plants or working in the garden. But some people might wonder if vermiculite is safe. All those mines were closed and now vermiculite is considered a safe growing substrate. Previous mines have been contaminated with asbestos. 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 … And according to the Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust (see “The good news” below), the presence of vermiculite is tantamount to the presence of asbestos. 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. As with all other materials it is important to adopt normal good working practices and to comply with local and national regulatory requirements. If it’s found to contain less than 1 percent asbestos, it’s not considered an ACM. Although testing of vermiculite mined in the U.S. is stringent, the examination of vermiculite in other countries is not always so rigorous. While pure vermiculite is relatively safe, there are a number of cases where vermiculite-based products were contaminated with asbestos during the extraction … The vast majority of tests come back having less than 1 percent asbestos. Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map! Vermiculite is a mineral that was used for insulation. Vermiculite is found in market in different sizes. Even though vermiculite and perlite are safe for vegetables, that doesn’t mean they are necessary for them. 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. 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