Things You'll Need
Sealable impermeable bags or sealable, impermeable containers
Covering clothing (long-sleeved shirts, pants, socks, close-toed shoes)
The mineral vermiculite has been mined for years for use in insulation and gardening. However, it has come to the attention of health and safety regulators that when mined, vermiculite tends to include asbestos fibers, which, when disturbed, float loosely around in the air and enter the lungs. These fibers are known carcinogens. When inhaled over an extended period they accumulate in the lung linings and can lead to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma. Disposal of vermiculite is a tricky business become its tendency to become airborne if even slightly agitated.
Call the local authorities on waste removal and/or toxic substances. Ask what their protocol is for the disposal of vermiculite and insulation laced with it. These local authorities may advise you to stay away from the insulation entirely, and to hire a professional to come and remove it. If that's not possible, or if they guide you as to how to remove the vermiculite and to where, proceed with this removal method.
Put on long pants, ideally jeans, and a long-sleeved shirt. Wear socks and close-toed shoes and leather gloves. Loose-knit gloves may let the asbestos fibers pass through the gloves and onto your skin. Put on safety goggles and a respiratory mask.
Do not disturb the insulation or vermiculite unnecessarily. Too much movement will make the fibers and particles airborne, which increases the risk of inhalation.
Wet the vermiculite or insulation lightly with a spray of water. This helps keep loose fibers and particles from flying off into the air.
Gently pack the moist insulation or vermiculite into sealable, waterproof bags. Local authorities may require double-bagging.
Use labels and a permanent marker to mark the bags "Toxic" and to warn what is inside. Make your writing large and clear. Your local authorities may provide specific guidelines for bag marking.
Do not sweep up the remaining dust and material. Sweeping only agitates things and tends to send potentially airborne particles up into the air. Instead, carefully scoop or shovel and then wipe down the area using damp cloths or a damp mop.
Take the bags of material to be disposed of to the appropriate dump. Local authorities likely will advise you of appropriate waste locations.
- Spokane Clean Air: Vermiculite Regulatory Guidance for Spokane County
- Environmental Protection Agency: Current Best Practices for Vermiculite Attic Insulation
- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): Recommendations for Limiting Potential Exposures of Workers to Asbestos Associated with Vermiculite from Libby, Montana
Joseph Burke resides in Barcelona, Spain, and has been writing since he learned to use a pencil (pens came later, then computers). He publishes a cultural newspaper--"BCN Week"-- organizes cultural events, creates marketing campaigns and does translations. Burke earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Kenyon College.