Vermiculite Insulation and the Dangers of Exposure to Asbestos

Starting way back in the 1920s and running all the way through until the early 1990s, there was an insulation product that was used in homes and businesses across North America called vermiculite insulation. This type of insulation was being used in most homes and commercial buildings because of its fire resistant properties and superior insulation properties. The downside though is that vermiculite has the propensity to release asbestos fibers if it is heated or agitated.

How do I find out if the vermiculite insulation in my house contains asbestos?

You can have a sample of the insulation collected by our team at got mold?™ for testing. You should not do this yourself as it is important to have someone who is experienced in conducting asbestos hazard assessments to ensure property health and safety practices are followed.

What happens if the insulation does contain asbestos?

It has to be removed. This type of abatement is a high risk asbestos abatement that requires OH&S notice of project, which is 14 days’ minimum notice to OH&S before project commences. A third party consultant is required to provide daily air monitoring, containment pre-inspection, final visual clearance sampling, final air clearance sampling and final report as required by law for High risk asbestos abatement.

3 stage containment with temporary shower including HEPA negative air filtration must be set up to prevent any cross contamination during abatement. All vermiculite and insulation is to be double bagged in yellow asbestos bags, the bags are to be washed and removed through shower/chambers. After all ACM vermiculite is removed the entire containment must undergo a thorough final cleaning HEPA vacuuming/wet wiping followed by visual inspection by consultant. After visual is cleared, entire containment will be sprayed down with fiber lock asbestos glue before final air clearance testing commences and containment is fully cleared for demobilizing.

Should I be worried about my health if I have vermiculite insulation in my house?

As stated in a WorkSafe Bulletin, “Asbestos in vermiculite insulation is only a health hazard if the vermiculite is disturbed and the asbestos becomes airborne. There is no real risk if the vermiculite is sealed behind walls or isolated in an attic. However, inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause mesothelioma (a fatal cancer of the lining of the lungs or other organs), lung cancer, or asbestosis (a permanent scarring of the lungs that restricts breathing).”

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Asbestos Sampling Advice from got mold?™

We receive lots of calls from people wondering if they can bring in a sample of material to check for asbestos.
To collect a quality sample,  several things must be taken into account:
  • First and foremost, don’t disturb the material any more than necessary and please wear a mask.
  • Asbestos forms “hot” and “cold” spots in insulation, or in other words, there are areas with high and low asbestos levels. To collect a good, representative sample, it is necessary  to take small portions of insulation from different spots and combine them into one sample.
  • Asbestos crystals are heavier than vermiculite flakes. With time, asbestos sinks closer to the bottom of the insulation layer. To ensure that your sample is unbiased, try to reach the bottom of the insulation layer and take your samples from there
  • The laboratory needs 20-40 g of vermiculite (about a size of a full coffee cup) for asbestos analysis.

When your sample is collected, please place the sample into a Ziploc bag and seal it tight. Wipe down the baggie with soap and water Place the sample bag into another bag for extra protection. Label each sample individually. After securing the sample, mail, courier or bring the sample to got mold? and we can save you 25% for your sampling service.

If you do not feel comfortable collecting your own sample we have trained professionals on-staff who can assist in collecting the materials needed to sample. This can save you from possible contamination and disrupting any materials in the home.

Recently OH&S has started giving out warnings that some asbestos is being found in buildings built in 1995 or even later. Have your home inspected before continuing any renovations or beginning any renovations.

To learn more about our Asbestos Testings & Sampling services click here. If you’d like to get in touch with us about having a sample tested or collected, fill out the form to the right.

Asbestosis causes and symptoms

Asbestosis is a harmful lung condition that is developed in people who have inhaled asbestos dust and fibres. When someone inhales the dust, the microscopic asbestos fibres settle in the lungs, where they may cause permanent lung damage as well as chronic breathing symptoms. The fibres aren’t able to release themselves from the organs inside as they are sharp tiny shards that stick to your lungs for a lifetime.

One of the unusual things about asbestosis is the long wait between asbestos exposure and the resulting illness. For many people they may have been exposed to it at one particular time in their lives or careers and were not diagnosed until 15-30 years later. It does not show up in any kind of test results immediately.

Once someone develops asbestosis, no cures are currently available. Breathing problems will get steadily worse, and in about 15% of people, severe shortness of breath and respiratory failure develop. For someone who smokes and has had asbestos exposure, there is a greatly increased chance of developing lung cancer. Symptoms may appear within 10 years of the initial exposure. OH&S has recommended testing in homes built up to the year 2000 now as asbestos is being found in buildings built even in the 1990’s.

Lung transplantation is the only way to manage end-stage asbestos lung disease, and most people who need it are not eligible candidates because of their advanced age or due to other medical problems.

Worsening in your breathing occurs as asbestosis progresses. Cough, sputum production, and wheezing are less common and are generally associated with smoking. You may display what is known as clubbing of the fingertips (they thicken and enlarge), or develop a blue colour under your nails and a bluish tinge around your mouth.

Even brief exposure to asbestos at some time in the past will dramatically increase the risk of developing lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma (a rare, fatal cancer of the lining of organs such as the lungs, abdomen, and chest).

Some research has also shown that asbestos causes an increased risk of developing cancers of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, and rectum. This may be related to the swallowing of asbestos fibres that were inhaled and then coughed up from the lungs. If you are a smoker who has been exposed to asbestos over the long term, your likelihood of developing lung cancer is greatly increased. It appears that there is a “dose-response relationship” between asbestos exposure, smoking, and lung cancer: the greater the exposure to both asbestos and cigarette smoke, the higher the risk of cancer. It’s already proven the health risks of smoking and the links to cancer but the chances increase 80% when exposed to asbestos. Researches at the University of Michigan believe that it is from tar build up in the lungs and holding the fibres in place, then coughing up the fibres to be spread throughout the body.

Mold vs Mildew: What’s the difference?

Many people don’t know that there is actually a difference between mold and mildew. A fungi is a fungi right? Well, although that may be typically accurate, there are more then a million species in the mold families. All of which are different sources of organic compounds found in our every day environments.

Mold and mildew are types of fungi; typically, mold is black or green, and mildew is gray or white (but not always). Mold tends to grow on organic surfaces, whereas mildew is an issue on damp surfaces, like bathroom walls, basement walls, or fabrics. Mold grows in the form of multicellular filaments or hyphae, while mildew has flat growth. Mildew is often referred to as a kind of mold that is in one general area and isn’t growing or spreading. Mold can contaminate your indoor environment and spread rapidly though spores in the air.

Appearance & Identification:

Without a proper sample it is hard to determine the species of fungi you are dealing with and is best left to the professionals. Visual inspections of the fungi can vary and be hard to determine without proper examination.
Mildew: could be downy or powdery: Downy mildew starts as yellow spots that first become brighter in appearance and then the color changes to brown. Powdery mildew is whitish in color and that slowly turn yellowish brown and then black. This is why it is important to remember that not all black molds are a toxic black mold. Analysis is needed to determine this, and hiring a professional to take the samples so you don’t disrupt the surface and the spores is best.
Mold: has a fuzzy appearance and can be an orange, green, black, brown, pink or purple in color. Can be found in several shapes. Mold tends to grow and spread through out the damp surfaces and will find other damp or wet areas in the home. Mold can travel through the air and contaminate adjacent areas of your home from moving furniture, furnaces, air conditioners, fans and dehumidifiers. If your home has mold or mildew in it, it is best to get everything sampled before preparing the removal process.

Prevention

To prevent mildew at home, keep all the areas moisture-free. There are mildew removers available at stores to eliminate mildew. To protect crops from mildew use mildew-resistant seeds, remove infested plants, avoid overhead heating.

To prevent mold in your home, you need to keep all the areas dry and moisture-free. Check the humidity levels inside the house and take measures to control it. Finish perishable food within 3-4 days.

Prolonged exposure to mold spores can cause health problems such as allergic reactions and respiratory problems, due to the toxins (mycotoxins) it produces.

Mildew can cause damage to crops and other plants it infests. Inhalation of mildew can cause coughing, headache, scratchy throat and lung problems. Mildew can also start growing in lungs and cause other serious health problems.

If you’re concerned about mold in your home, fill out the form to the right or call 1-888-909-6653 to talk to one of our mold experts!