Working in an attic, taking out vermiculite insulation, the Home SOULutions team often finds a couple of empty Zonolite bags and occasionally a full one. Imagine our surprise this week when we ran into 15 full bags in the attic – on top of the insulation already spread out! Someone must have got a good deal on it!
What is Zonolite?
Zonolite is the brand name of vermiculite insulation that was mined out of Libby, Montana. Due to numerous class action suits, Zonolite went out of business in the late ’80s. Too bad it wasn’t sooner.
Vermiculite itself does not contain asbestos. The Zonolite mine had a natural deposit of tremolite asbestos which resulted in the vermiculite being contaminated. The Zonolite brand name of insulation continues to cause deadly asbestos-related diseases to this day.
If you live on Vancouver Island and have vermiculite insulation in your attic you can assume it contains asbestos. Approximately 90% of the vermiculite in attics in the Northern Vancouver Island communities are found to contain asbestos. Based on our experience, the more south you travel down the island, the greater chance the vermiculite will contain asbestos. In the Greater Victoria area 100% of attic vermiculite contains asbestos – and they no longer always test it.
There are specific protocols for testing vermiculite insulation. It’s not a job for the homeowner. An environmental company or an AHERA Asbestos certified inspector should take the samples. Building inspectors should not be taking samples unless they have this AHERA certification. If the proper protocols are not followed, a non-containing lab result is not confirmed as non-containing. An improperly collected, non-containing sample will then need to be sent to Toronto for an additional test called Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM). This secondary testing process takes more time and costs quite a bit more money.
As the asbestos in vermiculite is loose and overhead it is classified as much more dangerous than, for example, asbestos in drywall mud. You are more likely to inhale the fibres of loose, overhead asbestos. For this reason it is getting more difficult for purchasers to get financing on a house with asbestos-containing insulation. It is considered to be in the category of an oil tank in the ground.
Asbestos containing vermiculite insulation should be removed by a qualified abatement professional.
Want to know more? Call us at 250-334-8108.