Can there be asbestos in attic insulation?
It is possible that your attic insulation contains asbestos. It comes in a form of insulation commonly known as asbestos-containing Vermiculite and was commercially sold as Zonolite. This type of vermiculite is often found in homes that were built prior to 1990. It comes mainly grey/brown in color and has shiny or metallic surface while its granules come smaller than a dime.
Also, there is another type of vermiculite occasionally present and used as attic insulation which is white/light grey in color and the flakes range in size from nickel to quarter sized. This type of vermiculite does not normally contain asbestos, however, there are rigorous policies on the sampling and analysis process to confirm that there is no asbestos in it. This is always why it is a good idea to have your attic and roof checked when you are thinking about buying a home
How vermiculite sometimes comes with asbestos in it?
Vermiculite is a silicate mineral mined from the ground. Asbestos presence in vermiculite depends on asbestos quantities in the same rock formation that the vermiculite is initially mined from. Therefore, by mining vermiculite, people were unknowingly mining asbestos with it, thus turning asbestos a contaminant in the vermiculite.
How to identify if the vermiculite in my attic contains asbestos?
You need to have a trusted home inspector inspect and determine if there is asbestos. If you have vermiculite insulation in your attic space, be sure to take the precautionary principle and always assume that it is contaminated with asbestos until proven otherwise. In order to determine this for a fact, you must have it sampled and analyzed by a lab. Average levels of vermiculite contain around 1% tremolite or actinolite asbestos.
When talking about the second type of vermiculite (large white flakes) then there is a high chance that it does not have asbestos in it. Still, in order to prove this, three large samples should be analyzed by using extremely expensive microscopes and techniques.
What if you do have Asbestos-containing Vermiculite?
Asbestos in vermiculite only turns into an issue if you conduct a renovation process that may cause the vermiculite to be disturbed. For example, if you are ripping down a ceiling, doing some roof work, electrical work, plumbing work, or even demolishing something. Asbestos-containing vermiculite can also be an issue when buying or selling a home so it must be removed under High Risk Asbestos Abatement work procedures prior to any disturbances occurring.
The conventional of removing vermiculite is an extensive process and it may take 4-6 business days depending on the size of the attic, amount of insulation, and other factors.