Much like asbestos, vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that is fire-resistant and lightweight. When exposed to heat, vermiculite expands to a soft material up to 30 times its original size. These properties made it useful for applications including insulation, packing material, and soil conditioning. Those who have worked in vermiculite mining may be at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma cancer.
Vermiculite on its own is a fairly harmless mineral but, it can often contain many other minerals. More than 70% of the vermiculite sold in the United States during the 20th century came from a mine in Libby, Montana. Unfortunately, the vermiculite found in Libby was contaminated by deposits of amphibole asbestos. This contaminated vermiculite was commonly used in Zonolite brand insulation.
The vermiculite miners who were responsible for blasting through the asbestos containing rocks, created large amounts of asbestos dust as explosives broke apart rock that was then shoveled and transported to processing plants. These clouds of asbestos fibers lingered in the air and clung to vermiculite miner's hair and clothing. When inhaled or ingested, these tiny asbestos fibers can become lodged in organ tissue causing inflammation and scarring that may lead to the development of asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma cancer.
Whenever an asbestos containing material is damaged, worn or removed asbestos dust is released in the air creating a risk of exposure. Those who have worked in the manufacturing and installation of vermiculite insulation, as well as the residents of Libby, and the consumers who used the contaminated insulation in their homes are all at risk of developing mesothelioma cancer and other asbestos related illnesses as well.
Sadly, in the United States, millions of people have been exposed to asbestos. Because it generally takes 10 to 60 years from the time of asbestos exposure for mesothelioma symptoms to appear, we are only now seeing the terrible effects of asbestos use.
Trust funds have been established by many companies to pay compensation to those injured by asbestos exposure.
If you have mesothelioma, or other asbestos-related injury, and wish to consult an attorney about your legal rights to compensation, CLICK HERE for a free consultation.