Is Vermiculite dangerous

Hi all i was just wanting to know if Vermiculite is safe to use for growing vegetables.I was told it contains asbestos.Im almost new to gardening..Ive been gardening for just over 2 years but never used the stuff lol i have normally used grit but have seen alot of gardeners using vermiculite and perlite



  • sotongeoffsotongeoff Posts: 9,806

    I have never head about the asbestos connection-in my opinion if it were a danger then it would not be made freely available-and it is.

    This explains more

  • Paul NPaul N Posts: 222

    Only if you try to eat itimage

  • Gary HobsonGary Hobson Posts: 1,892

    I do use Vermiculite myself. I use it to cover germinating seeds.

    I had never heard of any connection with asbestos. Although, on reflection, Vermiculite is quite dusty, as you handle it.

    I'm no expert on asbestos, and related issues.

    However, I found this on the web:

    "Mesothelioma [an aggressive cancer that is known only to be caused by asbestos exposure] incidence is also known to be high in commercial gardeners and other occupations which deal with large amounts of loose vermiculite. Note the appearance of the vermiculite. If it seems to carry a great deal of residual dust, dispose of it outdoors. Read the label as most manufacturers of vermiculite mark their products packaging with “Non Dusty” labels. Based on current information, there is no evidence that vermiculite currently available for horticultural purposes (e.g. potting plants) is a health risk when used as directed."

    I suppose that the key phrase is 'when used as directed'.

    So don't shake up a bag in a confined space, and then breathe the stuff.

  • granmagranma Posts: 1,584

    I .use this instead of grit, But I was told recently that it is used by builders as an insolation,  so maybe there is some truth in it. On saying that, it does help the seeds - maybe by keeping them warm !

  • ok thank you all for your replies

  • WelshonionWelshonion Posts: 3,115

    There is absolutely no connection with Vermiculite and asbestos.  Don't start that sort of a panic - see one of the posts above - unless you really do know what you are talking about.  The Web is a wonderous place, but it has a lot of rubbish on it too.

    Sometimes information should be taken with a pinch of salt. 

  • grannyjannygrannyjanny Posts: 34

    I thought it was a type of vulcanic rock.

  • Gary HobsonGary Hobson Posts: 1,892

    The issue seems to be that some vermiculite used to be extracted from mines that also contained asbestos. Consequently some vermiculite was contaminated with asbestos.

    There are more details here: US Environmental Protection Agency

    That report says that the manufacturers have been working to address these problems.

    So the orignal poster was correct in saying that there was a connection. Hopefully, the vermiculite sold today is safe.

  • LilAmbarLilAmbar Posts: 43

    The horticultural vermiculite on sale now is not thought to pose a health risk but to give a potted history to some of the information that you find on the internet... 

    The vermiculite/asbestos connection comes from a public health emergency caused by a vermiculite mine at Libby, Montana.  The public health emergency is well documented in both US Environmental Protection Agency documents and in medical literature.  Being a natural product, vermiculite can contain lots of different minerals and other substances and the composition varies between different deposits.  This particular mine was found to have high levels of amphibole (a type of asbestos) contamination. The mine closed down in 1990 before the contamination was identified.  The vermiculite from this mine was largely used for insulation so is still present in many buildings.  

    There doesn't seem to be any need to be concerned with the vermiculite that gardeners use but with any dusty product, it's never going to be a good idea to shake the bag and breath it in.

  • could someone please tell me the difference between vermiculite and perlite?  I was told one had more stuff in it to feed the plants? I use them to lighten compost for seedlings and young plants and also to cover seeds sometimes.

  • granmagranma Posts: 1,584


     I address this to Welshonion ,   information came from The Wikipedia .A few days earlier   which I refer to a lot. I don't think the information IS printed to cause A PANIC. It is  awareness that is all . I myself would prefer to be aware of these points than to be ignorant . I recently lost a good friend and family member to the terrible killer illness, Lung Cancer  caused by asbestos. My father worked  where vermiculite was used in great quantities in building 25 years ago . So NO !  I am not causing panic just awareness. As I said I use this myself -it is good  for germinating seed. It does keep them warm .

  • WelshonionWelshonion Posts: 3,115

    lucky3, my post was not directed at you.  It should perhaps be remembered that heating pipes as found on commercial nurseries in the past were lagged with asbestos, as were heating pipes in other localities including naval ships, factories, etc.  Asbestos was used widely in the past.

  • Zoomer44Zoomer44 Posts: 2,908

    This is for Jane cardiff. I'm still learning and a novice but vermiculite improves aeration and drainage which is good for seeds/cuttings, it improves germination and reduces the risk of damping off. Vermiculite is usually spread on top of a seed tray.

    Perlite does the same as above and retains moisture. Perlite is usually mixed with compost.

    They look very different. Vermiculite is dusty and perlite looks like tiny polystirene balls. It's alot lighter than vermiculite and would blow away if spread on top of a seed tray hence me thinks it's mixed with compost.        

  • Hi  Welshonion was i starting panic no i was not i was simply asking a question so please do get you facts right

  • To all members on here i simply asked a question i am sorry if i have offended anyone like welshonion.Yes i have looked around the internet but i thought the best way for an answer was from Most experts like most of you on this fine forum but yet again theres always one who likes to mix things up lol

  • WelshonionWelshonion Posts: 3,115

    Kevin, it wasn't directed at you either.  I've looked at the Wiki entry, but it is hedged all around with caveats, so who knows?

  • granmagranma Posts: 1,584

    Hi Welsh onion, Please accept my sincere apologies, I totaly got the wrong end of he stick -  My apologies too to everyone .I will try not to jump in at the wrong time in future. But like a lot of things, we hear  they are safe and then the oppositte best thing - use with caution. bye for now, lucky3

  • Green MagpieGreen Magpie Posts: 665

    I think lots of dusty substances can be carcinogenic or toxic in some way if you breathe them in. I'm careful about not only perlite etc but also bone meal, Growmore, iron sulphate, and any other garden chemicals in powder form.  They may be perfectly safe to use on food crops but harmful if you inhale them directly into your lungs. Measures like handling them in the open air and staying upwind while you do so are common sense. And if I think I've breathed some in, I give my nose a good blow!

  • BookertooBookertoo Posts: 1,306

    Vermiculite acts as an assistance to good drainage in compost, and can be used to cover small seeds in trays, the kind that need some light to help with germination.   I always mix some in the compost I am using for pots, as not only does it help with keeping the soil open and draining well, it holds some moisture within in, so if something gets really dry there is a little moisture for the plant to get at.  I have found it better than water retaining gel in baskets, as it does not go into the sticky clumps the gel tends to.

    It is in no way dangerous, but as you would not breath in loose compost by waving it around in the air, neither should you do so with anything else - as ever, a little common sense applied works wonders.

    Perlite is basically epanded polystyrene, and does much the same job as vermiculite, but I prefer the latter as it is not an oil based product as perlite is.  Which one you use is a personal choice. 

  • granmagranma Posts: 1,584

    Are you sure Perlite is anything to do with polystyrene ? After using it  broken up  in my compost for drainage I was told that these two products couldnt be more opposit . I was told polystyrene is a man made product where as pearlite is a natural volcanic discovery product ?

    Now I'm confused! 

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