That article is pure, unsupported hysterica ... the terms false, deliberate lies, libel, and even criminally irresponsible come to mind. But, hey, it's printed on nice paper, so it must be true - right?
To begin with, the article is a simple rehash of something that was 'discovered' and fussed over nearly a quarter century ago. Next that intrepid reporter will be telling us that the Titanic has sunk.
Next. vermiculite is pretty much out of favor as a household insulation, and never was on the 'cutting edge' of popularity. With it's modest insulation abilities and settling issues, most folks have already piled other insulation atop it.
Contrary to assertions in the article, there have NOT been thoudands in the mining town getting ill from breathing vermiculite. There hasn't even been one. Vermiculite itself is not, and has never been, the issue.
Vermiculite is a material completely different from asbestos. Even under the most reaching EPA definitions, vermiculite hasn't been classed with asbestos any more than ice water has.
So, where's the issue? Well, the town of Libby has more than one mine. Mountains -for the uneducated- are typically made of several different types of rock. Libby just happens to have an asbestos deposit near a vermiculite one. The two minerals are NOT mixed together- nor do their greatly different natures lend them to mixing together, even after processing. That processing, btw, is completely different.
Vermiculite, you see, is simply mica. Mica comes out of the ground in plates best compared to ceramic tiles. These are broken into tiny pieces, then heated. Under heat, moisture inside the mica causes the pieces to 'pop,' much like popcorn. Once popped, it's called vermiculite.
Libby had some issues with asbestos exposure, but those had no connection with the vermiculite operation.
Still, since the two deposits were next to each other, the possibility was raised that the two might have become mixed together. Well, several exhaustive studies - by the EPA, the industry, and others - looked at both vermiculite that was already packaged and distributed, as well as vermiculite that was installed. The results were clear: NO asbestos.
So why does this nonsense persist? Personally, I believe these claims are founded on a vendetta against the manufacturer, rather than a concern about safety. It doesn't take much of an internet search to find that certain manufacturers (even entire industries) are ALWAYS the target of certain politically motivated malcontents.
a bit of a relief i must say, seeing as i've probably inhaled enough of the stuff that i no longer need to wear a jacket
on the scare tactic trail though, can we expect the powers that be to pass some sort of standard akin to lead paint , along with outrageous fines, and madatory education (by the same people who are franchised to sell us the industrial prophylaxis) and lay it all on the employers to wrap thier help in a 6' trojan?
You do bring up a good point: what is it that makes attic air so annoying?
I doubt that you, or anyone else, has ever inhaled vermiculite. The pieces are typically little cubes about the size of a kernal of corn.
If you ever are in a newly insulated attic, you'll be amazed at how little stuff gets in the air, no matter what particular insulation is used. I don't think we breath any insulation at all; I think what really annoys us is simple, ordinary dust that we stir up. That's why old attics are so uncomfortable.
well, said 'dust' , would it be simply inert dust, or vermiculite dust Reno? I honestly don't know
Inasmuch as i've backed outta many an attic with something in my eye, or perhaps hacking for a bit, i really can't see inhalation of a substaintial (or perhaps i should say standard) piece of it without some sort of ongoing unease
i'm reminded of a patient that inhaled ONE pineneedle on my turf out here, the respiratory insult went on for months for her
The fear factor is definitely overdone with this stuff.
But in a more practical note, the one-piece Tyvek suit like he's wearing is quick to put on and also keeps the fibers from getting in your clothes. Once they get in your shirt, it gets washed and now they are ready to get into everything else you throw in the laundry.
The gloves might look like overkill but if you get the ones from the pharmacy in the right size for your hand you can work very easily in them, even picking up those annoying little screws that fall on the drywall without taking them off again.
I'd use a paper mask and safety glasses rather than that full-face thing that makes him look a lot like a bug.
In a ceiling with fibre-glass insulation, I'd wear nothing less than a face-mask. Reason I say that, is because when I was doing my time as a sparkies apprentice, I used to crawl through roof voids day in day out. One day I was up in the roof of an older house that had had fibre-glass batts installed in the late 60's, I'd heard a scurrying sound around behind me (rats?). I turned my torch (flashlight) around and found nothing, they were obviously getting away from me.
But one thing I did notice was in the beam of the torch light was all of these small little slivers of glass floating in the air as they had been disturbed by my crawling through the low roof and I was breathing them in. Now, when you are working up in a roof void, because of the elevated temperatures and the work you have to do (you aren't up there for a little tea party, are you?), you breathe faster, meaning you are ingesting these bits of glass all the more quicker.
It's bad enough that you get these slivers in your fore-arms and in your legs and they hurt until you have a hot shower to get them out of your pores. Imagine what that is doing to our lungs then. Are we going to see a thing in a few years of electricians and plumbers suing the manufacturers of this stuff for the health effects of having worked in the proximity of Fibre-glass insulation?
A class-action suit is one thing, but it never fully realises the true pain and suffering of someone that has almost emphysema-like symptoms.
I've seen more of the old rock wool blown-in insulation than vermiculite. Although, when I do see this stuff in the attic, I know Iím going to have to build dams to keep the whole joist bay from pouring down all over me when I cut in a ceiling box. I think the fine dust that you can see swirling around with your flashlight in a dark attic when you disturb this stuff is what they are concerned about. I usually wear a mask, but Iím not sure itís the proper NIOSH filter for this product. When I was younger and didnít know any better, I probably inhaled my own body weight of this junk, since we didnít know enough to take any extra precautions back then.
They used vermiculite in gas log fireplaces too. The new non-asbestos replacement product looks just like the old stuff to me, so I canít really tell them apart unless I see it in the package. They recommend sweeping as opposed to vacuuming as the preferred method of cleanup as an added precaution.