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Is Asbestos in Insulation?

A naturally-occurring mineral made of shiny flakes, vermiculite was a popular material in the construction industry years ago. When heated to a high temperature, flakes of vermiculite expand and form a light-weight, fire-resistant and odorless material—used in many products, including insulation. But this type of insulation is not used in modern homes. Why?

Asbestos in Vermiculite Insulation

Asbestos, a mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil and can, can be found in vermiculite. Here’s why—a mine near Libby, Montana, was the source of more than 70% of vermiculite sold in the U.S. from the 1920s to 1990. There was also a deposit of asbestos at that mine, so the vermiculite from Libby was contaminated with asbestos.

Exposure to asbestos can occur when the asbestos-containing material (like vermiculite insulation) is disturbed or damaged and releases particles and fibers into the air. Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease.

That said, not all houses are insulated with vermiculite, and not all vermiculite insulation contains asbestos—but if your home was built in the 1980s or earlier, you could have asbestos-contaminated vermiculite insulation in your attic or walls.

What Does Vermiculite Insulation Look Like?

Vermiculite insulation is pebble-like and typically gray-brown or silver-gold in color. Sizes of vermiculite products range from very fine particles to large (coarse) pieces nearly an inch long.

Vermiculite Insulation
Vermiculite Insulation


Source: epa.gov

If you think you may have vermiculite insulation in your home, do not remove it yourself. Play it safe and assume it contains asbestos—call in professionals for insulation removal.

Insulation Removal & Installation in Portland, OR

Do you need insulation removed from your home in the Portland, Oregon area? Contact the experts at Installed Building Products Portland. We will remove and replace your insulation safely and quickly. Call 503-894-7661 or contact us online!

Learn more about vermiculite insulation and asbestos on EPA’s website »


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