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Zonolite Brand Vermiculite Insulation: Is there Asbestos Hidden in Your Home?

Updated on September 25, 2009

The Libby Mine: Contaminated By Tremolite Asbestos


Vermiculite Insulation: Is it in Your Attic?

Vermiculite insulation, also known as Zonolite insulation due to its brand name, was a very common material used to insulate American homes for many years up through the late 1980’s. Although vermiculite itself is harmless, most of the product used in America during that time came from the same mine in Montana, which contained natural deposits of asbestos. This led to all of the mined vermiculite becoming contaminated, and ultimately, to the contamination of insulation installed in many homes. Luckily, this mine was closed in 1990. Current supplies of vermiculite (often used in agricultural and gardening applications) come from mines in other countries with negligible contamination.

Is There Zonolite Insulation in My Home?

Vermiculite comes in lots of sizes and has many different uses. The fact that it is absorbent, odorless, fire-resistant, and lightweight led to its use in many commercial products. Its physical qualities made it a great choice for attic insulation, and it was used in somewhere between 2.5 and 16 million homes in the US. Luckily, it is very easy to tell it apart from other common insulations, such as rock wool and fiberglass. These insulations are stringy and fibrous, whereas vermiculite is closer in resemblance to small, accordion shaped pebbles. It is generally the type of material that is poured in between rafters as opposed to stuffed in.

Vermiculite Insulation Between Rafters


How Dangerous is this Insulation Material?

Zonolite insulation is very dangerous, but usually only when disturbed. If you have Zonolite pebbles in your attic, there are a few precautionary steps you should take to make sure you and your family are safe.

  • Do not go up into your attic frequently, if this means losing a lot of storage space, so be it. Things you store will become contaminated. This is especially important if you store clothing up there.
  • If you or somebody else must go up there, make sure an OSHA certified breathing mask is worn.
  • Do Not EVER allow children to play in areas with exposed vermiculite
  • Light fixtures and ceiling fans provide entry points for vermiculite to seep down into your home. You may want to seal these, as well as any cracks in your walls.

Different Sized Vermiculite Pebbles


How can I get rid of Vermiculite insulation?

Getting rid of this stuff is a hard and dangerous process, best left to certified professionals. Trying to remove it yourself will almost certainly contaminate the rest of your house, and put you in significant danger. If you are dealing with large amount of vermiculite, you may want to just leave it as undisturbed as possible, because it may be very expensive to remove. If you are very concerned, the best thing to do would be to call a professional, they are easily found in you local directory.

A Clip That Shows The Extent Of Damage Caused By The Mine In Libby, Montana


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