Poison Vermiculite

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I just came across some information that Vermiculite contains high levels of asbestos, and that the mining town where Vermiculite is mined has exceedingly high rates of cancer including those that did not even work in the mine. I would not want to use this in my potting soil unless I could confirm that this was not true.

-- John Fritz (JohnFritz24@hotmail.com), January 20, 2002


Recently there have been several newspaper articles, a three-part NPR series, and a 20/20 show about asbestos contamination at the former W.R. Grace vermiculite mine located in Libby, Montana.

Most of these articles have mentioned the fact that this problem was not inherent in all vermiculite mines, but a problem of that particular Libby, Montana mine because of its unique geological formation and location. What also has been surprising and newsworthy in Libby, Montana has been the relatively recent development of health problems not just among the miners themselves, but among some of their families.

The focus of all these articles, however, has continued to be on asbestos contamination at the Libby, Montana mine, not at other mines. Vermiculite itself does not contain asbestos, it was just the Libby, Montana mine which was contaminated because of the presence of a very unstable secondary mineral called diopside. As a result of these articles and news stories, however, many people have become confused and concerned about vermiculite in general.

Knowledge about the problems at Libby is not new. There have been law suits based on asbestos exposure dating back to the mid 1970's, many cases have been settled or resolved years ago, and the owner of the mine, the W.R. Grace and Company, closed the mine and most of its vermiculite processing plants thoughout North America ten years ago.

When other companies in the vermiculite industry became aware of the asbestos problems at Libby, they became very concerned and began testing for possible asbestos contamination in their operations. And today, any new source of vermiculite is tested for asbestos. These testing reports are scrutinized to make sure the vermiculite is safe, and MSDS sheets are maintained to comply with all OSHA and Community-Right-to-Know laws.

Any vermiculite you buy in the United States now has been THOROUGHLY tested and is safe.

-- Rose (open_rose@hotmail.com), January 20, 2002.

I also found an EPA website that said our vermiculite is safe.

-- Rose (open_rose@hotmail.com), January 20, 2002.

I've thought about using vermiculite for several different things and your post caused me to do some searching. First I found that asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals and not one thing as I thought. Also, vermiculite is a naturally occurring sheet silicate mineral and can produce fibers of the size that can get into your lungs. Then they said that there is very little direct evidence of any specific harmfulness in humans associated with inhalation of respirable vermiculite dust or of vermiculite fibres, but little biological testing of the health effects of vermiculite or vermiculite fibres has been carried out.

So, I know more than when I started but I still do not know how safe inhalation of vermicultie fibers is or how likely it is to occur. Then again just breathing air in a large city is suppose to be the equivalent to having smoked 2 packs of cigarettes. This is the link that I was looking at, Vermiculite .

-- BC (desertdweller44@yahoo.com), January 20, 2002.

Rose, could you give the EXACT website that says our vermiculite is safe? I work with TONS of it each year and you are countering everything we have been taught.

Go to this website and read just the first two reports by the EPA, you can read tehm all if you want but the first two spell it out nicley. http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/asbestos/verm.htm

-- laura (lauramleek@yahoo.com), January 20, 2002.

From now on, I will post all the URLs for websites where I get info, but folks, YOU HAVE TO READ... 'scuse the 'yelling' in caps, but darn it, this is frustrating. I took the time to read five websites about this, sort out the dates on what is recent info and what is old, and post a summary, and then get shot down. I am frustrated.

Here are the websites. You must read all the info. It has background first that explains that ONE mine had a problem, but if you look at ALL the info, they are not producing from that mine now.





-- Rose (open_rose@hotmail.com), January 20, 2002.

I have no idea what you are referring to when you say 'shot down', unless questioning something someone says is taken as a personal affront? Lively discussion and opposing viewpoints, perspectives, and life experiences is a good part of what we do here. And I daresay most of us has spent many an hour doing research for the benefit of others on this forum; I know I do it all the time, but then I think its fun.

Anyway, thank you for the links. I certainly hope and pray that the safety claims of vermiculite ARE true, so many are exposed to it in the nursery industry, etc. My question would be does anyone have any studies, research available for us to read from an organization which might have more veracity than that of the the EPA and vermiculite trade organizations? Thanks!

-- Earthmama (earthmama48@yahoo.com), January 20, 2002.

Both vermiculite and perlite and several other organic fibrous minerals contain asbestos type dust. Prolonged breathing of any kind of dust is unhealthy for your lungs. You need to wet these product before using so there will be no dust, therefore no hazzard.

-- Just Duckie (Duck@spazmail.com), January 21, 2002.

gotta agree w/ you ms. earthmama about ms.rose, i think she doth protest too much...

when the epa did testing of 16 different vermiculite containing products-5 were found to be asbestos contaminated! the 2nd survey of 38 vermiculite products came up positive for asbestos in 17 of them. this was the year 2000, btw.in a 205 page report not funded by the vermiculite industry...hmmm.


the epa advises that we use ventilation, keep the product moist,wear a dust mask,or use substitutes-perlite,peat,cocconut fibers, etc.

-- bj pepper in C. MS. (pepper.pepper@excite.com), January 21, 2002.

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