Vermiculite is a mica-like mineral mined around the world and used in a variety of products including insulation. Vermiculite mined from the Libby Mine in Montana between 1920 and 1990 is known to contain asbestos, which can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma in people who are exposed to airborne particles.
Vermiculite was one of a number of loose fill insulation products approved for installation under the Canadian Home Insulation Program (CHIP) that provided grants to home owners who improved energy efficiency in their property between 1977 and 1984. Health Canada believes that vermiculite was installed in approximately 250,000 Canadian homes during that time. There is no information available as to where vermiculite use was most common but I can tell you that I have run across Saskatoon homes containing vermiculite insulation a number of times during my sixteen-year real estate career.
Health Canada’s position is this; “If vermiculite-based insulation is contained and not exposed to the home or interior environment, it poses very little risk.” Perhaps this provides some comfort to homeowners who have vermiculite insulation in their home, but in my own experience, the presence of asbestos is a growing concern for home buyers. Asbestos which is contained and undisturbed may never cause you or others in your home health problems but there is some significant likelihood that it could cause problems in completing a home sale when you’re ready to move. Some home buyers may be totally disinterested in purchasing a home that contains such a potentially toxic substance insisting that it be remediated as a condition of the sale, or they may walk away from the deal all together once they know.
It’s important to note that not all vermiculite insulation contains asbestos. If you suspect that you may have vermiculite insulation in your home you should avoid disturbing it. Contact a qualified expert for assistance in obtaining a sample for testing. In Saskatoon, Pillar to Post Home Inspections is qualified to gather samples and they can submit them to a lab on your behalf for testing. Testing costs can vary from one day to the next, but generally, a range of $150-$200 is what you should expect to pay for the service.
If vermiculite is present in your home and it does not contain asbestos, a lab report will be helpful in eliminating the concern that potential buyers for your home may have when you’re ready to sell. If it does contain asbestos, you can decide to remediate now, begin saving for an eventual remediation, or you can choose to leave it and deal with it at the time of sale. Remember though, leaving it until that late stage almost certainly raises significant concerns for your prospective buyer and could derail your sale.
One should probably consider that knowing your home contains asbestos might require you to disclose its presence when you offer the home for sale. The Property Condition Disclosure Statement (PCDS), which is not mandatory for home sellers, but is commonly used in Saskatchewan, has the following question. “To the best of your knowledge does the dwelling contain asbestos or urea formaldehyde insulation?” If you know asbestos exists, you are legally required to answer this question in the affirmative, if you choose to utilize the form. Home buyers are often suspicious of sellers who refuse to complete a PCDS. Even if you choose not to use the form a buyer could argue that disclosure is required based on the potential health implications of asbestos. In any case, professional home inspections are so common that it’s doubtful that vermiculite in your home could escape scrutiny when selling.
Health Canada has some good information online about vermiculite and asbestos including precautionary steps you can take to avoid contaminating your living space if vermiculite containing asbestos is present in your home. Check it out here.
Related posts: Asbestos in the home.
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