Asbestos, a product known for its insulating properties, was used in numerous consumer products like floor tiles and brake pads for decades. Medical professionals became aware that fiberglass-like fibers in the asbestos products were able to become lodged in the lungs, leading to irreversible damage over time. Because of this danger, asbestos was removed from most products, and a host of regulations were created for how and when to remove asbestos-containing items in the home.
One product that you may find in homes today that is contaminated with asbestos is a fluffy or pebble-like grey attic insulation called vermiculite. Nearly 70 percent of the vermiculite insulation commonly used in houses in the U.S. and Canada between 1919 and 1990 came from one mine in Montana, which was found to have naturally-occurring asbestos that contaminated the product.
If you are considering the purchase of a home built between those years, there is a good chance that the attic contains this potentially damaging insulation product. Is it a deal breaker if you're a home buyer?
Keeping Vermiculite In Place
There are some situations where you can keep vermiculite in place without much risk. In fact, disturbing the material is more likely to stir up asbestos fibers and Health Canada recommends not touching it. So if you are able to leave the vermiculite in place, that is one possible solution. But unfortunately, this means:
- Don't use the attic for storage.
- Don't walk around in the attic unless absolutely necessary.
- Don't let children go into the attic to play.
- Wear respiratory equipment rated for asbestos if you do go up.
Testing Vermiculite for Contamination
One option is to have an environmental testing firm come in to check the levels of asbestos in the material.
The testing agency will come in and collect samples of the material throughout the area where it is present. This will be tested for the presence of asbestos fibers. The inspector will send a report on the findings, including where asbestos was found if it is present.
The problem with this option, and why the homeowner is unlikely to agree to it, is that once asbestos is definitely identified, it must be disclosed and/or removed prior to sale. Without concrete testing, the homeowner can assume that the vermiculite will be safe if left undisturbed.
If asbestos is discovered, it's likely that the homeowner will then have to pay for an asbestos abatement contractor to come in and professionally remove and dispose of the insulation. Then the attic will have to be tested again. This can add considerable expense and time to the sales process.
Having Vermiculite Removed
You may choose to ask the owner of the home to have the insulation removed before you purchase it. This is not a project that should be done by a homeowner, even a skilled and careful one. You must have proof that a certified asbestos abatement contractor has done the work to remove the vermiculite.
You want to make sure that any contractor who is hired to do the work is experienced, will keep dust contained, and will dispose of the material in a safe manner that adheres to local regulations.
In many cases, you may find that the homeowner will not want to take the risk of removing the material. You will have to decide if purchasing the home and having the work done yourself is worth it to you. To learn more, contact a company like Hazmat Solutions Asbestos testing to learn more.