After vermiculite insulation was found in a Peterborough area school about a year ago, the Ministry of Labour completed an inspection and the substance was determined to be contained and therefore not an immediate risk.
Containment of the substance is a key issue, however, and the local school board then instituted a practise of monthly inspections for the some 40 schools thought to contain the vermiculite insulation, along with annual inspections for asbestos in all the district’s schools.
The teachers’ concerns are well founded. The harmful effects of asbestos exposure are well documented, and known to be particularly harmful to children.
Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that isn’t a risk by itself in its pure form. Because of the nature of the material, however, and the geological processes that go to create it, it can sometimes occur in areas where asbestos is also present.
The mineral expands when it’s heated, making it seem like the ideal material to insulate homes and other buildings, and vermiculite was widely used as home insulation until the early 1990’s, especially in attic spaces. In North America, the bulk of it came from a mine in Libby, Montana which was found to be contaminated with asbestos. The mine was closed in 1990 once the asbestos contamination was discovered.
Unheated, vermiculite is shiny and flaky. Once heated, it expands to a chunky kind of appearance, and is brownish or beige in colour.
If you suspect that your home was insulated with vermiculite, then you should assume that it is contaminated with asbestos. If it’s entirely contained then it’s not considered a health risk, since the harmful effects come from inhaling the asbestos fibres, but exposure is a constant risk and regular and frequent inspections are a necessity.
In addition, you should not:
- Store items in your attic
- Let your children play in the attic
Removal is the only way to ensure lasting peace of mind – and your home’s resale value – but it’s not something you should attempt on your own. Even if you’re only renovating, when it comes to any work that has the potential to disturb the material in your walls, you need to call in professional help.
Call the Experts
Be safe rather than sorry – call in experts for help before any renovations. Please DO NOT DISTURB OR HANDLE the material in question, or try to sweep/vacuum it away. There is no “safe” level of exposure.
At GreenStream Environmental Services, we offer professional vermiculite and asbestos remediation services. In the Toronto area contact GreenStreamEnvironmental.ca 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 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.
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