The media has given a great deal of attention to various consumer products known to contain asbestos and can cause Mesothelioma. However, few people are aware of the potential dangers of asbestos contamination in other products, such as vermiculite and talc.
Vermiculite is a mineral that expands when heated to a high temperature and is lightweight and resistant to odor and fire, making it desirable for use in a number of products such as insulation. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the large majority (more than 70 percent) of the vermiculite used in products between 1919 and 1990 came from a mine near Libby, Montana. Because there was also a deposit of asbestos in the mine, the vermiculite from the Libby mine became contaminated.
Vermiculite insulation is a loose, pebble-like material that was poured into the wall or attic. It is usually grayish brown or silver-gold, and vermiculite pieces vary in size. The EPA advises that, because of the likelihood of contamination, homeowners whose homes contain vermiculite should assume it contains asbestos and refrain from disturbing the insulation to test it. Read our Vermiculite and Mesothelioma articles to have a better understanding of how Mesothelioma can be associated with Vermiculite.
This may include taking extra precautions when moving around the attic or hiring a contractor to do so. For example, if a contractor must do work in the attic, you may want to consider the possibility that insulation could be transferred to other areas of the house through ducts or by traveling on clothes. For more information, you can read the EPA fact sheet on protecting your family from contaminated vermiculite insulation (or en Español – PDF).
Talc is a mineral that is used in many cosmetic and other consumer products. It is present in talcum powder, facial powders, chalk and some crayons. When broken down to a smooth power, talc becomes absorbent and reduces friction. Unfortunately, like vermiculite, talc can also be contaminated when mined from areas that also contain asbestos. Its wide use in skin products made talc a particular concern in the past because it could be inhaled easily. According to the American Cancer Society, all household talcum products are supposed to now be free of asbestos. This requirement has been in effect since the 1970’s.