The Trouble with Vermiculite

There are a number of materials that used to be employed in building materials in the Greater Toronto Area and all over Southern Ontario that we now know to be hazardous. Lead pipes still run rampant throughout the plumbing systems. Lead paint still lurks beneath the newer layers of paints on doors and window sills all over the city. Harmful levels of toxic mould have been detected after flood events in Toronto homes. With all of the dangers that we know could be lurking throughout our homes, surely there’s nothing else we have to be worried about, right?

Learn More About Vermiculite

Most people have heard of asbestos, and understand that this rock-based material was widely used in construction because it was a sound insulation material that was also fireproof. Until about 30 years ago, asbestos was used extensively in Toronto homes and office buildings, and even in our schools. Unfortunately, we later discovered this material that was in use virtually everywhere was also highly dangerous to human health. With that, race to remove every trace of asbestos from residential and commercial buildings was on!

It wasn’t until later, much later, that we became aware of another potential hazard in the form vermiculite. Like asbestos, vermiculite is a flame-resistant material that was used extensively in construction, especially in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Vermiculite itself is perfectly safe and nowhere near as dangerous to human health as asbestos. Great! Now you’re wondering why you have read reports about vermiculite removal in Toronto, aren’t you? As it turns out, vermiculite is fine, but almost all of it came from the same mine in Montana. Right alongside vermiculite, miners were working in another part of the site… Mining for asbestos. This accidental cross-contamination makes *some* vermiculite every bit as dangerous in the home as asbestos.

Toronto Vermiculite Testing

In every case where we see vermiculite, we presume that asbestos is also present. If you are wondering if it is present in your home, you should consider checking your attic or other areas where insulation is visible for a rock-like substance. If it is present, you should assume that your home is contaminated with asbestos and govern yourself accordingly. Remember that asbestos fibers are like wild animals – they’re generally harmless as long as they are left alone. Asbestos fibers are dangerous once they are disturbed and become airborne. To know for sure if the substance in your house is vermiculite, and if that vermiculite is contaminated with asbestos that requires containment and removal (known as a Level 3 asbestos abatement), further testing is required. It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REMOVE THIS INSULATION ON YOUR OWN!

The safe and effective handling of asbestos is possible with professional intervention. Asbestos testing in Toronto and the safe removal of vermiculite are among our specialities. With a little help, and some sound hazardous waste removal practices, we can help make sure your home is safe.

Did you know?

Unlike traditional cleaning methods, dry ice blasting uses no hazardous materials or chemicals, and produces no contaminated waste-water.
Learn about other advantages when cleaning with dry ice
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