EPA Issues Vermiculite Insulation Warning

EPA Issues Vermiculite Insulation Warning

WASHINGTON, D.C.-May 27, 2003-After receiving negative press attention for its failure to warn homeowners of the dangers of asbestos-containing vermiculite insulation, the federal government has finally launched a consumer awareness campaign about the material. The new program comes over a year after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) halted the release of a similar campaign at the urging of the White House. (SeeWhite House Squelched Alert on Asbestos Insulation.)

As a first step, the EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) are distributing a pamphlet to the media and hardware stores. It explains how to identify and manage vermiculite, a mineral ore resembling mica that is used in insulation and potting soil. The majority of vermiculite is derived from a mine in Libby, Montana that contains asbestos. By some estimates, up to 35 million homes in the United States may be insulated with asbestos-contaminated Zonolite, which is the brand name for most vermiculite insulation.

Vermiculite attic insulation is a pebble-like, pour-in product that is usually light brown or gold in color. The EPA recommends that consumers assume that any vermiculite insulation contains asbestos and take appropriate precautions. It provides this advice to homeowners:

  • Do not disturb vermiculite attic insulation. Any disturbance has the potential to release asbestos fibers into the air.
  • If you must go into attic space containing vermiculite insulation, make every effort to limit the number, duration, and activity level of those trips. Boxes or other items should not be stored in attics if retrieving them will disturb the insulation.
  • Do not allow children to play in an attic with open areas of vermiculite insulation.
  • Never attempt to remove vermiculite insulation. If removal is necessary, hire professionals trained and certified to safely remove the material.
  • If you plan to remodel or conduct renovations that would disturb the vermiculite, hire professionals trained and certified to handle asbestos to safely remove the material.

Homeowners can learn more about asbestos vermiculite through the EPA Hotline at 1-800-471-7127. The EPA has also issued a preliminary study of homes with asbestos-contaminated vermiculite insulation. The study points out that disturbing the vermiculite through routine repairs or remodeling can cause asbestos fibers to become airborne. The full text of the report is on the EPA web site. (You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to access it. If you do not already have the software installed on your computer, you maydownload a free copy.)

At Brayton Purcell, we care about asbestos on the job, in the home, and in our environment. If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, please contact our asbestos attorneys to discuss your legal options. We have been successfully handling asbestos cases for over 20 years.