Monday, December 23, 2013

Guest Post: Vermiculite, Asbetos, and You

Today's post is provided by the Mesothelioma Lawyer Center. Their objective is to educate the public on the health dangers of vermiculite and asbestos. If you live in an older home, this information is especially for you!

Is Asbestos in Your Home’s Insulation?

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral found in land sources, is made up of fine fibers, that when disrupted, can easily be ingested, which can lead to hazardous diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Vermiculite is also a naturally-occurring mineral that was used for decades as insulation in homes, buildings, and facilities. Vermiculite is typically not dangerous on its own, but the majority of insulation made between 1910-1990 was mixed with asbestos, creating a dangerous combination. If you and your family live in a older home, it’s important to understand how to keep your family safe if your home was insulated with vermiculite.

Vermiculite in Older Homes

Vermiculite containing asbestos was manufactured for decades by a processing company in Libby, Montana. After the vermiculite was manufactured, it was shipped all the across the world, and used as insulation in millions of homes. Typically, the insulation is behind walls and in the attic, and if left undisturbed, the fibers have less of a chance of becoming airborne. Airborne asbestos fibers can be easily ingested, and most people aren’t aware that it happens. Once these fibers are ingested, it’s difficult to rid them from the body. Over time, an array of health issues can develop.

Children should always be watched closely, but especially if you own an older home that was insulated with vermiculite. Playing in an attic of an older home or roughhousing around walls is extremely dangerous. These areas should be off-limits if you suspect your home may contain vermiculite insulation. Even minor repairs, such as hammering a wall, or cleaning up the attic may cause asbestos fibers to become disturbed, so it’s a good idea to hold off all repairs and/or renovations until you’re certain as to whether your home contains vermiculite insulation or not.

How to Determine if Your Home Contains Vermiculite Insulation

It’s difficult for people who don’t specialize in asbestos to understand which vermiculite products may contain it. However, vermiculite, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is usually either silver-gold or grayish-brown in color, and it has the texture of small pebbles. In addition, the EPA suggests that all vermiculite insulation should be treated as if asbestos was mixed with it until a professional, state-certified asbestos technician can inspect your home. Do not try to remove the insulation yourself as there are no known safe levels of asbestos, and there is no way to determine if the amount you possibly ingest will be harmless or cause an asbestos-related disease.

Additional Tips to Consider

     If you live in an older home and suspect your attic, or anywhere insulation is, may contain asbestos, do not enter the area for any reason, not even to store old boxes.
     If going into your attic is necessary, try to stay as far away from your insulation as possible. Walk on the boards between the insulation, if applicable, and close the attic door firmly before leaving.
     If you have cracks or holes in the ceiling, it’s important to get help as soon as possible from a qualified asbestos professional.
     Do not hammer any walls, or do any renovations until after you’ve gotten help from an asbestos professional.
     Tell all family members of the dangers of vermiculite that contains asbestos. Animals can ingest the harmful fibers as well and should never be allowed in your attic.

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