Vermiculite – the hidden danger in your attic

If you have an older home, you may have a hidden problem in your attic—vermiculite insulation that is tainted with asbestos.

Vermiculite Insulation
Vermiculite insulation was widely used, typically in attic spaces, in North America between the 1940s and 1980s, and was used right up till the 1990s in some areas.

Vermiculite is fire-resistant, and swells up when it heats up, making it almost the ideal insulation material. By itself, it’s not problematic. The problem comes from the fact that the vast majority—about 75 percent – of vermiculite used in insulation in North America comes from a single mine in Libby, Montana.

After decades of mining, the workers, and then the townspeople themselves, began to display the symptoms of asbestos exposure, including lung ailments, cancers, and deadly mesothelioma. That’s when it was discovered that the Libby mine was naturally contaminated with asbestos.

The Libby mine was in production for 50 years between 1940 and 1990. In Canada, vermiculite insulation from Libby was marketed under the Zonolite label, and during the 1970s and early 1980s, the federal government actually offered homeowners grants to install Zonolite in their homes. It means a lot of older homes with tainted vermiculite insulation.

Vermiculite Detection
Vermiculite is a brownish colour and granular in texture. You won’t be able to tell if your vermiculite attic insulation contains asbestos just by looking at it.

  • In fact, if you suspect that you have vermiculite insulation, you should avoid all contact with it, and call in an inspector to help you determine the truth. The inspector will send a sample to a lab to figure out the exact content.

That determination has become a little easier, even for the experts, with a recent invention by the United States Geology Survey (USGS). They have developed a hand-held spectrometer that can determine whether asbestos is present. The spectrometer uses a sophisticated electron probe to perform an analysis of the material. If it becomes widely used, its instant determination would save a lot of time when it comes to vermiculite insulation removal.

In addition to specific cases where the homeowner already suspects the presence of vermiculite insulation, the tool could be used in home inspections, and before major home renovations as a preventive measure.

GS Can Help
If you have vermiculite insulation tainted with asbestos in your home, we can help. Our experienced and certified asbestos removal and asbestos remediation technicians can help keep you and your family safe. In the Toronto area call Environmental at (416) 818-9414. Contact us for a quote today.

Featured in Mike Holmes’ magazine, HGTV’s Income Properties, W Network’s Love It Or List It and chosen by Homestars.com as “Best Toronto Asbestos Removal Company” based on customer ratings and reviews, GreenStream Environmental Services are fully-certified, trusted and insured professionals in the removal and disposal of commercial, industrial, institutional and residential asbestos, vermiculite and mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA (North York, Mississauga, Markham, Brampton, Scarborough, Ajax, Oshawa, and beyond) GreenStream has over 40 combined years of experience serving clients such as the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board and many more. For a free estimate in Toronto, the GTA and Southern Ontario, call today at 416-818-9414. You’ll be glad you did.

Asbestos and Vermiculite – a Double Whammy

A town in southwest Ontario just discovered a nasty surprise during the course of demolishing an old school — the double whammy of asbestos and vermiculite insulation.

During the demolition of the former Doverwood school in Port Dover, it was already known that asbestos was present. However, when the job began, workers discovered more than they bargained for in the form of 94 asbestos-containing pipe elbows and vermiculite insulation in 30 closets and the wall cavities of several classrooms. The cost of the demolition job just went up be several thousand dollars.

Vermiculite Insulation
Vermiculite is a material that you can find in potting soil, among other things. Geologically speaking, vermiculite is an aluminum-iron-magnesium silicate. It’s special property is that it expands a great deal and develops air pockets when it is heated, something like popcorn. It becomes lightweight and fireproof. Sounds like an ideal material for insulation.

The problem with vermiculite insulation is that most of the vermiculite that was used in North America comes from the Libby Mine in Montana, were the vermiculite deposits were laced with asbestos. Most of it was manufactured and sold under the name Zonolite® or Zonolite® Attic Insulation.

Rest assured, Zonolite hasn’t been on the market since about 1990. The material is not considered dangerous as long as it’s sealed up in your walls or attic, however, the health risks from direct exposure and inhaling the asbestos fibres are very real, including a host of respiratory issues and even deadly mesothelioma.

Take Action
If you have vermiculite insulation in your attic, your safest course of action is vermiculite removal. There are some additional protective measures you can take on your own.

  • Don’t store things in the attic, or go into the attic space for any reason. No amount of asbestos exposure is considered safe.
  • Seal all cracks in the ceilings, including caulking around light fixtures, electrical fixtures, and baseboards, to prevent any dust from seeping through below.
  • Caulk windows and door frames too, since attic insulation can fall down through the walls below.

You can trust the experienced asbestos and vermiculite removal experts and asbestos remediation experts at GreenStream Environmental to take care of the issue for you. In the Toronto area contact GreenStreamEnvironmental.ca at (416) 818-9414. Contact us for a quote today.

Featured in Mike Holmes’ magazine, HGTV’s Income Properties, W Network’s Love It Or List It and chosen by Homestars.com as “Best Toronto Asbestos Removal Company” based on customer ratings and reviews, GreenStream Environmental Services are fully-certified, trusted and insured professionals in the removal and disposal of commercial, industrial, institutional and residential asbestos, vermiculite and mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA (North York, Mississauga, Markham, Brampton, Scarborough, Ajax, Oshawa, and beyond) GreenStream has over 40 combined years of experience serving clients such as the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board and many more. For a free estimate in Toronto, the GTA and Southern Ontario, call today at 416-818-9414. You’ll be glad you did.

Tragic Death of Asbestos Advocate Reminds of Vermiculite Dangers

As 2015 came to a close, headlines across the country brought the news of the tragic passing of Raven ThunderSky, an asbestos advocate.

Buildings in the First Nations reservation she grew up on in Manitoba were insulated with vermiculite that was contaminated with asbestos. ThunderSky had already lost several relatives to asbestos-related disease.

Zonolite – the brand of insulation in question – was used by the federal government for First Nations and military properties, leaving scores of people exposed to the deadly mineral. Ms ThunderSky was 50 years old when she succumbed to mesothelioma.

Vermiculite Insulation
The sad story illustrates the very real consequences that can come from asbestos exposure and vermiculite insulation is one of the major sources.

Vermiculite by itself is not a toxic material in any way and is often used by gardeners and others as part of a soil mix for plants. The problem is that most of the vermiculite insulation sold in North America came from the now infamous mine in Libby, Montana – where the deposits of vermiculite were found to be laced with deadly asbestos.

Vermiculite was used for insulation because it is a material that will expand as it heats up. That makes it good fill material. It is brown and/or grey and resembles pepples.

Vermiculite Insulation in Your Home?
It was widely used for residential and commercial insulation, particularly in attics because you can easily spray it into oddly shaped spaces and it tends to settle downwards.

Vermiculite insulation was widely used until the 1970’s, only gradually phased out after 1989 and not entirely banned until December 2003 in Canada. That means if your home is more than 13 years old, there is a chance it may still contain contaminated vermiculite insulation.

  • Important: If you open the walls for renovations, home alarm or home theatre installation, and you encounter any such substance, please do not investigate further.
  • You likely won’t be able to tell just by looking at it whether it contains asbestos unless you are an expert and even then the differences can be subtle.
  • It is dangerous when disturbed and the fibres can be inhaled – containment is essential. Seal up the area as best you can and please call us right away to help you take care of this health hazard.

When it comes to asbestos, the material is considered safe when intact. However, asbestos used in older homes is already decades old and the other materials often mixed with it – such as concrete – are prone to deterioration at this point.

If you have a problem with mould or asbestos in your home, you can trust the experienced mould removal technicians and asbestos removal experts at GreenStream Environmental to take care of the issue for you.

In the Toronto area contact GreenStreamEnvironmental.ca at (416) 818-9414. Contact us for a quote today.

Featured in Mike Holmes’ magazine, HGTV’s Income Properties, W Network’s Love It Or List It and chosen by Homestars.com as “Best Toronto Asbestos Removal Company” based on customer ratings and reviews, GreenStream Environmental Services are fully-certified, trusted and insured professionals in the removal and disposal of commercial, industrial, institutional and residential asbestos, vermiculite and mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA (North York, Mississauga, Markham, Brampton, Scarborough, Ajax, Oshawa, and beyond) GreenStream has over 40 combined years of experience serving clients such as the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board and many more. For a free estimate in Toronto, the GTA and Southern Ontario, call today at 416-818-9414. You’ll be glad you did.

Abestos, Vermiculite & Mining

Northern Sun Mining Corp. recently announced that they’d completed an asbestos remediation program at their McWatters Mine in Timmins, Ontario.

Asbestos was discovered in the ore body of the former Liberty Mines site. Asbestos, as a mineral, often naturally occurs alongside and sometimes even integrates into other elements, as it did in this case in nickel ore. In a similar situation, a proposed iron ore mine in Wisconsin has recently hit a snag when sampling discovered the presence of asbestos there too.

Asbestos was once used deliberately in a wide range of construction componenets because of its beneficial properties – it’s temperature and fire resistant and virtually indestructible – but this happened in ignorance of the dark side of asbestos exposure. Decades later, workers who were exposed to it began to show the signs of mesothelioma and other lung diseases caused by asbestos exposure.

It’s quite another thing to find asbestos accidentally when you’re looking for something else entirely. That very situation led to one of the significant developments in the use of asbestos in North America – the use of vermiculitie insulation.

Vermiculite
If there is a lesson to be learned from history, it’s that we should be more cautious in adopting the use of any material, even those that come directly from natural sources.

Vermiculite by itself is an innocuous material whose chief useful property is its ability to expand when heated. As inter-wall or attic insuliation, it seemed ideal.

The problem is that most of North America’s supply of vermiculite comes from a now infamous mine in Libby, Montana – one that was found to be contaminated with asbestos. In addition to the vast number of residential, commercial and industrial buildings that became tainted with asbestos, the people of Libby have and continue to pay the price with their health.

Asbestos in Your Home
An old house has character – and probably features asbestos in a number of places. A Guelph area daycare centre was recently closed permanently after the discovery of vermiculite insulation. Asbestos exposure is of particular concern to children and the elderly.

When it comes to asbestos, as long as it’s intact, it is not considered a health hazard however any renovations or work that disturbs materials or causes dust can release breathable asbestos fibres into the air.

We can help:
Our seasoned team of asbestos removal experts can handle large or smaller asbestos remediation or removal jobs.

In the Toronto area contact GreenStreamEnvironmental.ca at (416) 818-9414. Contact us for a quote today.

Featured in Mike Holmes’ magazine, HGTV’s Income Properties, W Network’s Love It Or List It and chosen by Homestars.com as “Best Toronto Asbestos Removal Company” based on customer ratings and reviews, GreenStream Environmental Services are fully-certified, trusted and insured professionals in the removal and disposal of commercial, industrial, institutional and residential asbestos, vermiculite and mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA (North York, Mississauga, Markham, Brampton, Scarborough, Ajax, Oshawa, and beyond) GreenStream has over 40 combined years of experience serving clients such as the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board and many more. For a free estimate in Toronto, the GTA and Southern Ontario, call today at 416-818-9414.  You’ll be glad you did.

Asbestos in Vermiculite Insulation Evacuates Guelph Daycare Centre

The recent discovery of asbestos in the Willowdale Child Care and Learning Centre in Guelph led to the evacuation of children and employees.

A staff member of the daycare discovered insulation at the bottom of the doorframe and subsequent testing proved the existence of asbestos in the vermiculite type insulation. Alternative accommodations have been found and the local medical officer of health has ordered air quality testing to be sure of the risks.

What is Vermiculite?
Vermiculite is a natural mineral that expands when it’s heated, is lightweight and fire resistant. Those properties have led to its widespread use for a variety of construction, mechanical and industrial applications for over a century, including loose fill insulation that’s often found in attics. By itself, it does not present a health hazard, however, most of the vermiculite used for insulation in North America between 1919 and 1990 came from a mine in Montana that also contained asbestos deposits which contaminated the vermiculite.

Vermiculite insulation is lightweight and looks something like small sized foam chips that are grey or brownish in colour.

If you suspect vermiculite insulation in your home please DO NOT DISTURB OR HANDLE IT. The danger from asbestos comes from inhaling the fibres. Do anything you can do to contain or avoid it until you can call in the experts from GreenStream Environmental Services to help minimize the impact.

At GreenStream Environmental Services, we offer professional vermiculite and asbestos remediation services and fast quotes to help get you back on track as quickly as possible.

If you suspect the presence of asbestos in your home, and before any renovation projects, let GreenStream Environmental Inc. be your choice for asbestos and mould remediation in the Toronto area – contact GreenStreamEnvironmental.ca – Toronto’s asbestos removal specialists – at (416) 818-9414.

Featured in Mike Holmes’ magazine, HGTV’s Income Properties, W Network’s Love It Or List It and chosen by Homestars.com as “Best Toronto Asbestos Removal Company” based on customer ratings and reviews, GreenStream Environmental Services are fully-certified, trusted and insured professionals in the removal and disposal of commercial, industrial, institutional and residential asbestos, vermiculite, mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA, GreenStream has over 40 combined years of experience serving clients such as the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board and many more. For a free estimate in Toronto, the GTA and Southern Ontario, call today at 416-818-9414.