The word asbestos takes us back to the late 1970s when it became apparent that asbestos was hazardous to human health. However, what many people do not know is that asbestos still poses a health hazard but in a different way.
Asbestos containing products have been banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and they are stringently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, even then there are still some old asbestos products that are around and some new products that contain trace amounts of asbestos. One such new product that has trace amounts of asbestos is vermiculite, which is used to enhance soil retention.
Vermiculite a natural deposit present in the soil. It is used a lot in commercial and hobby gardening. Vermiculite is formed from a mineral called biotite and unfortunately this mineral is always found close to another mineral deposit known as diopside. Diopside is the mineral that turns into asbestos after being subjected to natural aging and weathering processes.
One mine in Libby, Montana, ended up shipping thousands of tons of vermiculite that was contaminated by asbestos. Even other mining companies did that before the EPA put forth regulations and tests to limit the amount of asbestos in vermiculite.
As of today, vermiculite is considered safe for organic gardening as long as it does not contain dust. If you happen to get vermiculite with residual dust, you should not use it for organic gardening as it will contain EPA regulated amount of asbestos, which is less than 1 percent and even this amount is still very hazardous to human health.
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