Your home is supposed to be a safe place – so the idea that you could be surrounded by danger while sitting in your living room is a particularly unpleasant one. But if your home has vermiculite insulation, you might have a dangerous, cancer-causing substance all around you: asbestos.
How do you know whether your home has vermiculite insulation? Vermiculite is a loose mineral insulation that, when heated, swells up. That means that the insulation will have the loose look of gravel or stone but a soft texture with some give when squeezed.
It was particularly popular as an attic insulation, but it may also be found within walls or under floors. Since disturbing vermiculite insulation can release asbestos fibers into the air, if you are unsure what type of insulation you have, you should have a professional inspect it.
The Dangers in Vermiculite
It's also important to note that not all vermiculite has asbestos; the problem is that most of the vermiculite used in Canada until 1990 came from a particular mine in Montana. At least some of the vermiculite from this mine was contaminated with asbestos. While not all of it was necessarily contaminated, the fact that asbestos tests are not 100% reliable leads Health Canada to suggest that everyone treat older vermiculite insulation as though it contains asbestos. So, if you're unsure, the safest answer is "yes."
Asbestos can cause serious diseases, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and a chronic irritation and scarring of the lungs called asbestosis. Fortunately, asbestos is dangerous only when it is breathed in, so if you haven't been disturbing your insulation, you may not have been exposed to it at all.
Unfortunately, this means that you have to either remove your insulation or completely avoid disturbing it. While removal may require expensive work, leaving the insulation in place can be very restrictive, meaning not doing any remodeling that could stir it up, including anything that would open up the wall, floor or ceiling that it is behind.
Insulation can also filter into your rooms through the openings for light fixtures, fans, and other wall- or ceiling-installed features, so these must be completely caulked and not disturbed. Attics with contaminated insulation might need to be completely and professionally sealed off from the rest of the house.
Whether you are sealing off your insulation or removing it completely, it's crucial to have this done by a professional. Attempting to work on your home or vacuum out your insulation yourself will disturb any asbestos particles present, and a dust mask will not protect you from breathing them in.
Asbestos removal companies have the training and protective gear to avoid asbestos exposure as well as the equipment to keep your house from becoming contaminated during their work. To learn more, contact a company like Vancouver Hazmat Solution with any questions you have.