More than a half a century ago, a teenager from Colorado helped his father insulate the attic above their home with asbestos-containing vermiculite. It was a big job, and he was proud to have helped his father carry it out.
Today, he is coping with a diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma. Living with the disease for the past six years, he is among those who have survived longer than expected. However, there is no cure for mesothelioma, and it’s expected his life span will be dramatically shortened.
In the time he has left, the 74-year-old is working to raise awareness about asbestos-containing vermiculite insulation, which is still present in many homes throughout Boston and the rest of the country. He spoke recently at the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association Expo. His presentation was entitled, “Monsters in the Attic and Elsewhere: The Unseen Threats of Retrofit Projects.”
His case represents why we expect to see mesothelioma claims being made for many years to come.
The claims that are being filed today are primarily those made by individuals who worked for years in manufacturing and other industries where exposure to asbestos dust over a period of many months or years was quite common. These include railroad and shipping workers, auto repair and manufacture workers, electricians, plumbers, construction workers and more.
However, while asbestos remains legal in the U.S., many companies have abandoned its usage due to the massive wave of liability claims that resulted from exposure. It’s not that the risk has been eliminated, but as awareness has risen, worker protections have improved.
Still, asbestos remains a threat in homes and commercial buildings in some form or another across the country. Vermiculite insulation is one of the big ones.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, vermiculite is a mineral that occurs naturally. It is composed of shiny flakes and it somewhat resembles mica. The flakes expand when exposed to heat and are fire-resistant, which as made the material an ideal one for insulation in walls and attics.
The problem is that much of the vermiculite used during the 20th century originate from a mine in Libby, Montana. This was also the site of a deposit of asbestos at the time. Much of the vermiculite from Libby was therefore contaminated with asbestos, which is known to cause terminal cancers in humans.
Most of the asbestos-containing vermiculite sourced from Libby was sold under the brand name Zonolite.
Homeowners can pay for insulation to be tested, but these tests tend to be quite expensive.
The EPA recommends if you have vermiculite insulation in your home, you should play it safe and assume that it originated from Libby and is likely contaminated. As such, you will need to call in a professionally-trained crew to properly remove it and reduce your risk of cancer-causing exposure.
There is no known safe level of exposure when it comes to asbestos. Even those completing a simple home renovation project may become dangerously exposed.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Protect Your Family from Asbestos-Contaminated Vermiculite Insulation, Public Service Announcement, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
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Garlock Asbestos Bankruptcy Trial Wraps, Sept. 1, 2013, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog