• Kevin Maxwell

Understanding the Potential Dangers of Vermiculite Insulation.


There is no denying the amount of attention asbestos has received in the past several years. Whether flipping through a magazine, surfing the internet, or browsing TV channels, it’s quite likely you will find tips on where to get help if you or a loved one has been exposed to the toxic forms of asbestos.

Older homes and buildings that were built before the 1980s will likely have some form of asbestos material, as it was routinely used in adhesives, flooring, shingles, walls, and insulation.While it is good to be aware of the various materials and dangers, it’s even more important to know what to look for, especially when it comes to insulation.

Generally, asbestos doesn’t become a health risk unless the fibers become airborne and enter the respiratory or digestive systems. This is what typically happens when the motivated do-it-yourself unknowingly begin handling asbestos materials. It’s rather difficult to identify asbestos by looking at it, as most materials require professional testing to determine if asbestos is present. The one exception to this is being familiar with the different types of insulation used in attics. Here, we will share tips on how to conduct your own simple visual inspection of attic insulation. However, it’s extremely important to maintain this hands-off approach, should you have any suspicion of asbestos being present.

How to Identify the Type of Insulation in Your Attic

Overall, just because the attic of an older home has exposed insulation, doesn’t mean it contains asbestos. The same holds true for walls. For instance, insulation is usually in the form of rolls, blankets, or loose-fill. The rolls will probably be made up of fiberglass, cellulose, or other non-toxic materials. On the other hand, the loose-fill versions are more likely to contain asbestos.

Loose-fill insulation has a fluffy or pebble-like appearance and is often sprayed or blown into the wall and ceiling cavities. Once you’ve determined that you have loose-fill insulation, the next step is to identify whether it is vermiculite, rock wool, cellulose, or fiberglass.

Here’s what you should look for:

  • Vermiculite Insulation:Statistics indicate that 70% of the homes built between 1930 and 1980 were insulated with asbestos based vermiculite. Vermiculite insulation has a shiny silver, gray, or brown tone to it and is pebble shaped. This is the one to be cautious of as it probably contains asbestos, a raw form of the rock-like mineral, silica.

  • Cellulose Insulation: Cellulite insulation also has a gray color, but there is no visible sheen. This type of insulation is available in sheets or batt form, as well as loose-fill. The loose-fill version resembles shredded paper and for the most part, contains no minerals, is made of recycled paper, and is safe to handle.

  • Fiberglass Insulation: Fiberglass is another type of insulation that is available in both sheet and loose-fill form. It has a fluffy appearance, is soft to the touch, and is usually white or pink in color. It’s best to wear protective gear when handling fiberglass because while the physical effects are short-lived, the small fiberglass particles can cause respiratory and skin irritation.

  • Rock Wool Insulation:As the name indicates, rock wool insulation is mi