Vermiculite and Asbestos: Properties, Uses, Risks, & Precautions

– Vermiculite: Properties, Uses, and Risks

Vermiculite is a hydrous silicate mineral. It expands when heated. The technical name for this expansion is exfoliation. In its exfoliated state, vermiculite has a low density, and it conducts heat poorly. It has a chemically active surface area as well. Currently, the largest vermiculite mines are in Russia, China, Brazil, and South Africa.

However, the use of this product is worldwide. More specifically, people use it for soil amendment because of its low density. They use it as insulation filler because it conducts heat poorly. They also use it as an absorbent in chemical processes because of its chemically active surface area. Additionally, you can find it in plastics, inks, and paints as filler after being ground into powder.

Unfortunately, vermiculite may lead to severe health consequences despite its widespread use across the globe. More specifically, it may cause harm to you and your family members if it contains asbestos. In fact, the EPA claims that vermiculite is potentially harmful to humans if it contains as little as 1% asbestos.

– Asbestos: Properties, Uses, and Risks

Asbestos is a silicate mineral that people have mined for 4,000 years. However, large-scale production of this mineral started in the nineteenth century. Currently, the largest producers of this mineral are Russia, China, Brazil, and Kazakhstan. These countries account for 55%, 20%, 15.6%, and 10.8% of the world’s asbestos production respectively.

This mineral has many properties that made it suitable for use in constructing buildings. For example, it absorbs sound. It resists fire, electricity, and heat. It has an average tensile strength, and it is affordable. Based on these properties, construction companies used it to insulate ceilings and pipes. Additionally, they used it on roofs and floors among other areas.

Unfortunately, asbestos has another property, which is detrimental to the health of humans. More specifically, it has fibrous crystals. Abrasions and other processes can release their microscopic fibrils into the air. Inhalation of these fibers leads to severe health problems including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. More than 55 countries have banned asbestos wholly or partially.

– The Relationship between Vermiculite and Asbestos

As mentioned earlier, vermiculite becomes dangerous when it contains asbestos. The question is how it would have this perilous mineral. The answer lies in the mining process. More specifically, asbestos is present in some vermiculite mines. Miners excavate it as they mine vermiculite. The two substances will mix, and as such, asbestos finds its way into consumer products.

This scenario occurred in the twentieth century when WR Grace and Company bought a local mine in Libby, Montana. That mine produced 80% of the world’s vermiculite for many years. Unfortunately, asbestos was present in the vermiculite minerals. It found its way in areas where people had used this vermiculite. Some buildings never got rid of it.

– Protecting Yourself from Vermiculite That Contains Asbestos

Follow these steps carefully.

• Do not remove it by yourself at any cost. Remember, you cannot handle this material safely unless you have protective gear. For example, you need specialized gloves, coverall, and respiratory masks.

• Tell your kids to stay as far away from the area as possible. Remember, mesothelioma takes years to manifest itself. Protect your children’s future by keeping them away from this dangerous substance.

• Contact experts who can handle this challenging work professionally. They have the necessary tools, equipment, and protective gear for this kind of work.