The Cost Of Vermiculite - Breathtaking

The June FOTM Contest Poll is open! Fish of the Month
🏆 Click to vote! 🏆


Fish Herder
Sep 8, 2008
Reaction score
To anyone with any awareness of the reality and history of asbestos use, propaganda and effects, the following quoted passage reads like nightmare instructions for a slow and unwitting suicide, because it is.
The latency for any or all of the multiple asbestos-related diseases possible might not expire before before the victim does, but in too many cases, it won't.
And the victim will likely never know what hit him.

Quote from 'Planting A Tank' post:

... “For the bottom layer mix potting vermiculite (from any nursury) with enough water to wet the vermiculite well but not so much that it floats. Squeeze and knead the vermiculite to get as much air out of it as possible, and also to separate the different layers of the vermiculite granules, making the mixture as fine as possible. When your hands look like they're covered in gold dust, you're done. Now add some soil that you have dug from outside (garden topsoil). See the suggestions for soils at the end of this section. You should mix in enough of this to turn the vermiculite from its shimmery golden color to grey. For example, I used about two gallons of Yolo loam with enough vermiculite to make a 3-inch layer in a 55 gallon tank, or about a quart mixed with enough vermiculite to make a 1.5-inch layer in a 10 gallon tank. The precise amounts are not important. After mixing in the soil, the mixture should no longer be runny with water. If it is, your tank will be quite cloudy when you add the water to fill it, so add more soil and vermiculite until it is no longer runny with water, but comparable to prepared cake mix before you cook it. ..."
Taken from here [URL=""][/URL]

'... Squeeze and knead the vermiculite to get as much air out of it as possible, and also to separate the different layers of the vermiculite granules, making the mixture as fine as possible. When your hands look like they're covered in gold dust, you're done. ...'

I'm reading this in 2008, a century after the deadly results of asbestos exposure were obvious to the point where asbestos workers were being refused insurance by various U.S. companies.
Aquarists, even more than gardeners and lawncare workers, appear to be particularly expendable.

The information below is focused on U.S. data for convenience: references inclusive of the explosive global asbestos cancer epidemic wouldn't fit.


For heaven's sake, PLEASE don't anybody ever use vermiculite.

I know there's endless propaganda promoted even by government agencies now filled with industry reps and interests, but the facts are out there, and some small, essential portion is below.
And it's NOT 'just Libby vermiculite' that's a hazard.

This explains how we were fooled before - we won't be fooled again.

'... The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that vermiculite, a common material used in the production of insulation, is often found in the same geographical areas as asbestos. Therefore any insulation that includes vermiculite may also contain asbestos. ...'

'... Though two asbestos mines near Richmond, Virginia have been shut down for some time, another asbestos-contaminated mine lies nearby in Louisa, Va. Just like the infamous asbestos-containing vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana, this vermiculite mine is also home to the highly toxic mineral. In 2000, the Mine Safety and Health Administration was prompted to perform an analysis of asbestos presence in the mine. Of the 30 air samples taken where miners worked, ever sample revealed toxic levels of asbestos, and the 12 ore and rock samples detected the presence of both tremolite and actinolite asbestos. Seven of the latter samples proved very high levels of asbestos are present in the mine, as several contained between 95 and 99 percent asbestos.

The Virginia Vermiculite mine sells approximately 100,000 tons of the material each year. The ore is then processed for use in hundreds of products that are distributed throughout the United States. Even though the mining of asbestos purportedly ended in 2002, this location continues to mine asbestos-contaminated ore. Evidently, the asbestos cover-up has entered a new phase in its ever-growing history. ...'

'In response to the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) identification of major sources of public asbestos exposure in Michigan and to address the need for early diagnosis and aggressive treatment of asbestos-related diseases, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine (COEM) affiliated with Wayne State University joined forces to establish The National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers. ...'

'... The amount of asbestos in vermiculite is small (typically 1 to 3 percent) and can be difficult to detect. Samples should be sent only to laboratories that use proper testing methods for vermiculite. A qualified consultant will know which laboratories can accurately test vermiculite samples. ...'

'... If vermiculite containing even a trace of asbestos is disturbed (for example, during renovation or demolition), the number of asbestos fibres in the air of a residence can rise to more than 100 times the limit set by WorkSafeBC. ...'

'... Utah Senator’s Bill Might Ban Asbestos (requires registration) - "Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who is pushing for the asbestos ban, showed up at a packed committee hearing with an enlarged photo of Minneapolis children playing in a pile of asbestos-tainted vermiculite. She said that under Hatch's bill, if the two children got sick decades later from breathing the asbestos fibers, 'neither one would receive a dime because they were not exposed to asbestos on the job.'"
- Minneapolis Star Tribune - June 5, 2003 ...'

'... Murray trying to link asbestos ban to bill for victims - Murray: "Why on Earth does Congress allow thousands of tons of asbestos to continue to be put into consumer products every year? This is the elephant in the room for this legislation.”
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer - June 4, 2003 ...'

'... Murray tries again to outlaw asbestos; Senator hopes federal study, rising profile will help new bill "Encouraged by a federal study's unexpected conclusion that asbestos should be banned, Sen. Patty Murray introduced legislation yesterday that would remove thousands of common products laced with the cancer-causing mineral from the market.” ...'

'... EPA vermiculite study finds high levels of asbestos"
- Minneapolis Star Tribune - February 7, 2003

Editorial: "Stopping asbestos is job for Congress, administration"
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer - January 15, 2003

"Grace tried to stifle warning; Company asked EPA not to warn public about asbestos insulation in homes"
- Spokesman Review - January 11, 2003
(NOTE: This site requires registration.)

Commentary: "Feds Wrong to Stop Zonolite Warning"
- Spokesman Review - January 3, 2003
(NOTE: This site requires registration.) ...'

The asbestos-related deaths that can be blamed on the victims typically are. Both these, like lung and colon cancers, and the ones that can't, like mesothelioma and asbestosis, because only caused by asbestos, are increasing.

'... Even more disturbing, deaths from asbestos in the United States appear to be increasing. Mesothelioma and asbestosis mortality rose steadily from 1979 through 1998. Asbestosis mortality, however, rose at more than three times the rate of mesothelioma, at 7.8 percent per year, compared to 2.3 percent annually for mesothelioma over the 24-year period 1979-2001. ...'

'... The resulting atrocity has been described and documented in detail by Paul Brodeur, in Outrageous Misconduct; Barry Castleman, in Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects; and more recently by Michael Bowker, in Fatal Deception, and Andrew Schneider, in An Air That Kills, with a particular focus on the W.R. Grace asbestos mine in Libby, Montana. ...'

'... We present here a small selection of insurance and manufacturing company documents made public through litigation. These papers reveal a brazen disregard for the men and women who, by the 1960s, were dying by the thousands each year for these businesses, a history of abuse and deception that is unparalleled in American industrial history. ...'

'... "The documents noted above, however, show corporate knowledge of the dangers associated with exposure to asbestos dating back to 1934. In addition, the plaintiffs' bar will probably take the position — not unreasonably — that the documents are evidence of a corporate conspiracy to prevent asbestos workers from learning that their exposure to asbestos could kill them. (One employee of Manville, who co-authored a 30-year-old document which is among the group of documents described above, was told by Manville's Chief of Litigation to hire his own lawyer after the document came to light because it was the opinion of the Chief of Litigation that the employee could be indicted for manslaughter.)"

— Memo from a trustee of the Manville Trust, 1988 ...'

'... During the 1950s and 60s, companies were fully aware of the potentially fatal consequences of working with asbestos, including its ability to cause cancer, yet millions of workers were exposed to asbestos on the job with virtually no health protections.

As early as WWII, ASARCO knew that asbestos permanently damaged the lungs leading to a progressive disease called asbestosis, which is sometimes fatal. "We knew very well then that inhalation of excessive asbestos dust over a period of time could cause asbestosis." [View document]

In a 1949 document, Exxon admitted that asbestos causes lung cancer, silicosis, fibrosis and erythema. This relatively early admission that asbestos causes lung cancer foretold literally hundreds of thousands of deaths from asbestos in subsequent decades, mortality that continues today in the United States at a rate of at least 5,000 deaths per year. In line with the policies of all asbestos users and manufacturers, this information was under the banner: "COMPANY CONFIDENTIAL: Not For Publication In Present Form." [View document] ...'

'... "Control of asbestos in the community air is impossible when you consider the contribution from brake linings, abrasion of piping, house siding or other materials widely handled by the general public."

— 1969 The Travelers Insurance Co. memo
[Excerpt | Full document]

Companies facing legal action were growing concerned about the implications of their extensive asbestos releases into the environment. The potential liability represented by environmental pollution with asbestos and the release of asbestos fibers in the home became a subject of grave financial concern within the industry.

"Asbestosis, lung or colon cancer claims whether comp or liability, from asbestos workers or those working with asbestos materials, are one thing, but the general public exposure and claim potential is much more serious."

— 1969 The Travelers Insurance Co. memo ...'

'... On June 18, 1975, The Travelers Insurance Company's Catastrophe Products Committee laid out "facts" well known to the asbestos industry and its insurers at the time:

"1) Asbestos causes cancer. Once asbestos fibers are ingested by a person, in no matter how small a quantity, they remain in the body and can be the cause of cancer 10 or 20 years later. There is no known way of removing the fibers from the body.

2) Asbestos is used in a wide variety of products: insulation, roofing, chemicals, wallboard, piping, etc."

— 1975 The Travelers Insurance Co. memo ...'

'... By the late 1940s, asbestos manufacturers, industries that used significant amounts of asbestos in their operations, and their insurance companies all acknowledged internally that asbestos caused lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. Rather than adopt safety standards, switch to safer products, or provide protections for workers, these companies went to extraordinary lengths to conceal the truth about asbestos from workers, the public and the press. In some cases company officials went so far as to monitor the health of workers while deliberately withholding the results of this monitoring from them. Typically, however, worker health was not actively monitored, but decisive information on the dangers of asbestos was held secret. In other cases, companies interfered with and even rewrote scientific study results, restricted key information on asbestos hazards to management while keeping it from workers, and deliberately failed to label, or altered labels on, products.

A 1949 Exxon document described above illustrates the point. The document lists the diseases from asbestos exposure as "Silicosis, Fiberosis, Erythema & Cancer of Lungs" under the banner "COMPANY CONFIDENTIAL: Not For Publication In Present Form." [View document]

Asbestos diseases are latent, taking decades to appear after initial exposure. This latency period allowed companies to use workers for decades, knowing they were being injured or perhaps even killed by their work, yet also knowing that the men and women on the job would have no early warning that they might die from the asbestos they were exposed to.

For companies like Exxon, DuPont, and Dow that were sufficiently removed from basic asbestos manufacturing, withholding this information was relatively simple — workers would not ordinarily think of asbestos risks — and concealing information was a very effective way to reduce compensation payouts.

As put in a memo from Johns-Manville's medical director to corporate headquarters:

"The fibrosis of this disease is irreversible and permanent so that eventually compensation will be paid to each of these men. But, as long as the man is not disabled it is felt that he should not be told of his condition so that he can live and work in peace and the company can benefit by his many years of experience." (Brodeur, pg. 102)

By the early 1960s, the hazards of asbestos were well known within the management level of most companies that dealt with it. Workers and customers, in contrast, were generally kept in the dark or even lied to. A significant part of the asbestos industry, represented by the member companies of the Asbestos Textile Institute, described their management-only information strategy this way:

"...this subject should not be brought to the attention of other than management of our several companies, as any general discussion on this situation by sales personnel with users of our products, could possibly aggravate the situation and result in individual opinions which could be damaging."

[Source: Asbestos Textile Institute memo 11/6/64] ...'

'... Objective science was a big problem for the industry because it repeatedly showed how extraordinarily dangerous asbestos really was. In response, the industry manipulated results and eviscerated papers in largely successful efforts to bury or obscure results that might damage the bottom line. Some companies simply stopped conducting studies at all, knowing what the results would be and fearing that the public might find out.

A 1948 memo from a New York University professor of industrial medicine, himself a former Metropolitan Life Insurance Company employee, revealed that a report summarizing studies conducted by NYU College of Medicine scientists was revised prior to publication at the request of Metropolitan Life Insurance and other asbestos insurance companies in order to omit references to cancer:

"A meeting of the representatives of the underwriting companies was held in New York... It was the feeling of this group that all references to cancer or tumors should be omitted... It was decided that after these revisions have been concluded the report of these experimental studies should be published as promptly as possible, preferably in the Journal of Industrial Hygiene. Any report on human asbestosis should be separate and not a part of this report."

— 1948 NYU College of Medicine memo ...'

'... As word began to trickle out to the mainstream media about the appalling hazards of asbestos, controlling information flow and manipulating the media became a top priority for the industry. In June 1973, at a meeting of the Asbestos Textile Institute, asbestos industry representatives predicted the deaths of tens of thousands of employees from asbestos disease, and then noted that "the good news" was that the public was still vastly unaware of the problem.

The meeting's guest speaker, an executive from the Asbestos Information Association, began his presentation by laying out the facts:

"First, there is no doubt that the inhalation of substantial amounts of asbestos can lead to increased rates of various types of lung disease, including two forms of cancer. These are facts which cannot be denied, even if they do not apply in all circumstances and under all conditions. The medical literature is full of solid evidence linking asbestos to disease. In my office, I have on file more than 2,000 medical papers dealing with the health risks of asbestos and hundreds more are published every year."

— 1973 Asbestos Textile Institute memo
[View document]

The presenter plainly stated that insulation workers "were and still are dying from asbestos disease at an appalling rate." [View document]

Figures were put forward about what the industry expected to happen to its workers:

"Our prediction is that approximately 25,000 past and present employees in the asbestos industry have died or will eventually die of asbestos-related disease."

— 1973 Asbestos Textile Institute memo
[Excerpt | Full document]

Then came the "good news:"

"And the good news is that despite all the negative articles on asbestos-health that have appeared in the press over the past half-dozen years, very few people have been paying attention."

— 1973 Asbestos Textile Institute memo
[Excerpt | Full document]

Finally, the guest speaker laid out his thoughts about media coverage of asbestos issues:

"The press relations battle will therefore be won, not when the media starts to print positive or balanced articles about asbestos, but when the press ceases to print anything about asbestos at all. As long as negative news on asbestos-health continues to be generated, the media will continue to eat it up. The media will only cease to carry such stories when the generation of negative news ceases. It is as simple as that. Positive or balanced stories are a chimera, since they are, by definition, not newsworthy."

— 1973 Asbestos Textile Institute memo ...'

'... Asbestos is a public health problem of epidemic proportions. More than 100,000 people will die of asbestos diseases in the United States in the next ten years, and many more than that will be forced to live with painful, permanent and debilitating lung damage.

But asbestos is also a story of unparalleled corporate callousness. For more than 50 years, company after company was willing to lie to their workers about the known hazards of asbestos, mislead regulators, manipulate science, and delay worker safeguards. During all of this time, not a single producer, user, or insurance company stepped forward to defend the health and rights of workers who, with full knowledge of management and medical staff, were literally dying by the thousands from exposure to this substance. ...'

Yet, in 2008, aquarists are recommended to crush vermiculite to dust and work it with their hands...

Please, don't anybody EVER use vermiculite, or let anyone tell you that it's 'safe'.
The facts have been known and proven in court against the very interests who tell you so, using their own documentation.

And now, at least, now you've been given fair warning.

Most reactions