Vermiculite Insulation Containing Tremolite Asbestos

Health Canada released, on April 1st, 2004, the fact sheet It's Your Health - Vermiculite Insulation Containing Asbestos .

Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral mined around the world and has been used for insulation and agricultural purposes. However Health Canada has found some brands of vermiculite insulation may contain tremolite asbestos and could present a health hazard.

These products can cause health risks if disturbed during maintenance, renovation or demolition. However, there is currently no evidence of risk to your health if the insulation is sealed behind wallboards and floorboards, isolated in an attic, or otherwise kept from exposure to the interior environment.

Asbestos can cause health risks if it is inhaled. Inhalation of asbestos fibres has been associated with the development of mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer), asbestosis (a serious, progressive, long term disease of the lungs) and lung cancer. Not everyone exposed to asbestos will become ill and the latency period is long.

In order to prevent the release of airborne fibres into the air, the insulation must not be disturbed. Activities which could produce airborne fibres include renovation, demolition and maintenance.

Canada Labour Code

The Labour Program of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) administers the Canada Labour Code . Part II of the Code establishes the legislative framework for the protection of the health and safety of employees working in the federal jurisdiction. Employers and employees are responsible under Part II of the Code for ensuring that their work places are safe.

Employers are required to provide employees with the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety at work. (Please refer to Employer and Employee Duties - Pamphlet 2A)

Employees who have health and safety concerns should discuss them with their supervisor/employer as per the requirements of the internal complaint resolution process. (Please refer to Internal Complaint Resolution Process - Pamphlet 3)

The complaint, if unresolved, may be referred to a chairperson of the work place health and safety committee or the health and safety representative

One of the basic rights for employees is the right to refuse work that they believe presents a danger to themselves or another employee. It is important to follow the required procedure when the employee refuses to do dangerous work. (Please refer to Right to Refuse Dangerous Work - Pamphlet 4) As long as the worker follows these steps he/she will be protected by the Code.

In relation to asbestos, as with any hazard, the role of Labour Program Health and Safety Officers is to respond to complaints or refusals to work, investigate, and render a decision on the presence or absence of danger based on the expert advice available.

Employers and employees seeking advice on asbestos are encouraged to consult with Health Canada for the most current and accurate information available.

Where can I find additional information?

You can call 1-800-443-0395 for health information about vermiculite insulation.

For more information on asbestos or vermiculite contaminated with asbestos, please visit the US EPA Asbestos Home Page.

For information on respiratory protection, visit CCOHS Respirator selection page.

Tel: 1-800-668-4284 (toll free in Canada)

If you have any questions about matters related to your health and safety in the work place, please contact the HRSDC-Labour Program office closest to you.

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