Got Vermiculite?

I think it looks like birdseed. Or potting soil.

But the inspector says it might be vermiculite, so off to the lab it goes.

Unbeknownst to me until yesterday, vermiculite is a naturally occurring substance that is mined, just like asbestos. It was used to insulate houses as early as the 1920’s, spread around in the attic and crawl spaces like rice, and is only a problem when contaminated with asbestos like it was in a mine in Libby, Montana, the country’s oldest and largest mine for vermiculite in the U.S., estimated to have provided as much as 80% of the world’s vermiculite until 1990.

This particular vermiculite has proven to be fatally toxic; two years ago the EPA issued a public health emergency in and near Libby in order to address related medical issues and provide for clean up which is ongoing today.

I’m hoping what we have here is instead maybe birdseed. Or potting soil…

And don’t you just love it when you learn something new every day?

05/13/11 update: no asbestos found in this particular vermiculite. Hooray!

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