What Is Vermiculite Insulation & Is it Dangerous?

vermiculite insulation in attic

Vermiculite insulation is one of the most common health and safety hazards in Massachusetts homes. If you live in an older home, there’s a good chance you have vermiculite insulation hiding in your attic.

Whether you know you have vermiculite insulation in your house or just found out about it during your no-cost Mass Save® Home Energy Assessment, Neeeco can help you understand the risks and take the proper steps to remove hazardous insulation materials from your home. We’re Massachusetts’s leading energy efficiency expert with years of experience evaluating and improving local homes.

Check out our complete Healthy Home Handbook to learn more about the dangers that could be lurking in your home!

What Is Vermiculite Insulation?

Vermiculite insulation is a type of home insulation material made from vermiculite, a naturally occurring mineral composed of small flakes or pebbles, which resemble mica. When exposed to heat, vermiculite expands and becomes lightweight, making it an effective insulating material. 

From the 1940s to the 1990s, vermiculite attic insulation was sold throughout the United States under the brand name Zonolite. It was used to insulate millions of houses and, while it’s no longer produced, may still be present in as many as 35 million US homes and buildings.

The Dangers of Vermiculite Insulation

On its own, vermiculite is a safe material. But, most of the vermiculite insulation that was manufactured in the United States was exposed to asbestos, which can cause serious health risks.  

The vermiculite used in Zonolite insulation was sourced from a mine in Libby, Montana. The Libby mine had large vermiculite deposits, but it also had asbestos deposits, which caused significant asbestos contamination in nearly all the vermiculite mined and sold in the United States. 

Due to the potential asbestos contamination, exposure to vermiculite insulation poses serious health risks. Vermiculite insulation can release asbestos fibers into the air, which can cause serious respiratory problems when inhaled. It’s unsafe to inhale any amount of asbestos, and significant or long-term exposure can lead to: 

  • Lung cancer 
  • Mesothelioma
  • Asbestosis 

Identifying & Removing Vermiculite Insulation

If you have vermiculite insulation in your attic or elsewhere in your home, it needs to be removed. 

The first step is to identify the insulation material. Look for the following characteristics to identify vermiculite insulation in your home:

  • A pebble-like, granular, or flaky texture
  • A shiny appearance 
  • A gray-brown or silver-gold color 
  • Typically loose-fill insulation in your attic or around basement rim joists 

Once vermiculite insulation is identified, it’s important to leave it alone. Touching or otherwise disturbing vermiculite can cause it to release asbestos fibers into the air, increasing your risk of exposure.

For help, schedule a no-cost Home Energy Assessment with Neeeco. We will inspect your insulation as part of your assessment and if vermiculite, asbestos, or other harmful materials are present, we will help you find a qualified professional to remove the insulation. We can also help you qualify for vermiculite insulation removal rebates: 

  • Up to $7,000 for moderate-income  customers
  • Up to $5,000 for renters in renter-occupied units in buildings with 2-4 units only

Replacing Vermiculite Insulation

Vermiculite insulation is a health and safety hazard that needs to be removed from your home. But once you get rid of it, you face another problem—an underinsulated home. Without adequate insulation, your home will be uncomfortably hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and your energy usage will be much higher than necessary, which leads to high energy costs. 

Neeeco can help you solve the problem quickly with an insulation upgrade. We install safe and effective insulation materials that will make your house healthier, more comfortable, and more energy efficient. After vermiculite has been safely removed from your home, we can help you save 75-100% on an insulation upgrade with Mass Save insulation rebates. You may also qualify for no-cost air sealing and other incentives to improve your home. It all starts with a no-cost Mass Save Home Energy Assessment! Schedule yours today.

*Some restrictions apply. Offers are subject to change or cancellation. Visit MassSave.com/HEA for full details.

Save 75-100% on an insulation upgrade. Call (781) 309-7540 or schedule a no-cost Home Energy Assessment to get started!