Q. Vermiculite Insulation — Does It Have Asbestos?

Hey Mark,

The home I am selling has vermiculite insulation. The buyer’s inspector said that it is asbestos, and now the buyers want me to remove all of it. That’s going to cost over $10,000.00. Is that really necessary?


Hey Sue,

Vermiculite insulation MAY contain asbestos. You can have some samples taken from various places in the attic, and have it analyzed, but the results of that testing may not be conclusive. The EPA recommends that you simply leave the insulation alone and don’t disturb it.

Here is a copy of what I put in my reports when I discover the existence of vermiculite insulation…

The attic contains what appears to be vermiculite insulation. Not all vermiculite insulation contains asbestos but prior to its close in 1990, much of the world’s supply of vermiculite came from a mine near Libby, Montana. This mine had a natural deposit of asbestos which resulted in the vermiculite being contaminated with asbestos. Attic insulation produced using vermiculite ore, particularly ore that originated from the Libby mine, may contain asbestos fibers. The EPA, ASTDR and NACHI recommend that Home Inspectors assume vermiculite insulation contains asbestos and so should you. EPA, ATSDR, IAC2 and NACHI strongly recommend that homeowners make every effort not to disturb vermiculite insulation in their attics. If you occasionally have to go into your attic, current best practices state you should:

1. Make every effort to stay on the floored part of your attic and to not disturb the insulation.

2. If you must perform activities that may disturb the attic insulation such as moving boxes (or other materials), do so as gently as possible to minimize the disturbance.

3. Leave the attic immediately after the disturbance.

4. If you need work done in your attic such as the installation of cable or utility lines, hire trained and certified professionals who can safely do the work.

5. It is possible that vermiculite attic insulation can sift through cracks in the ceiling, around light fixtures, or around ceiling fans. You can prevent this by sealing the cracks and holes that insulation could pass through.

6. Common dust masks are not effective against asbestos fibers.

For more information regarding the risks of asbestos check out the dowload to the right (Vermiculite Insulation), or the EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/asbestos. The EPA also has a free printable brochure on vermiculite insulation that can be downloaded here.


3 Responses

  1. I am told that the vermiculite currently mined has no asbestos.
    Here is the website: http://www.vermiculite.com/

    The reason I am interested in using vermiculite as an attic insulation is that it is one of the few materials that is non toxic and non flammable. Fiberglass is flammable and in addition, I hate working with the stuff.

    Does anyone know of any other materials other than vermucilite that is both non toxic and non flammable? My problem is that I own a Victorian and there are no firebreaks in the walls and no sheet rock.

    David Baker

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