I did a quick Google search and found this info from the Illinois Dept.
of Public Health:
> Vermiculite is used in some potting soil for plant growth, and it appears as bright gold or silver
> flakes. Vermiculite should not be confused with the white plastic substance also found in many
> potting soils. Keeping your potting soil moist keeps the vermiculite moist, and lowers your chance
> for exposure to asbestos fibers.
> How can vermiculite containing asbestos affect my health?
> Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos will not experience adverse health effects. A
> person must generally be exposed to asbestos for a long period of time (10 or more years)
> before health effects occur.
I had some encounters with asbestos several years ago in my apt., and
was as freaked as you are. After discussing it with a couple of
asbestos-testing and -abatement consultants, I learned that the average
person is not exposed to dangerous amounts of asbestos; we are exposed
to more asbestos walking down a city street than any other source.
(Brake pads contain asbestos, and small bits are released when the
brakes are used.) The people who become sickened by asbestos exposure
are those who are exposed to it in industry where safety protocols
aren't observed--mining, manufacturing, or demolition, or residents
living near those industries.
Another Web site explained that most vermiculite does not contain
asbestos; that which does, has most of the asbestos released during
processing. There is a specific mine in Montana that has the
asbestos-containing vermiculite, and the product is used mostly in
insulation. It is sold under the name Zonolite. If your gardening
vermic refers to Zonolite, then you probably shouldn't use it.
Otherwise, it's probably safe to use. Personally, I wouldn't hesitate
to use it. We've been conditioned to believe that asbestos is extremely
dangerous and deadly, but after going through these experiences and
learning more about it, I'm not nervous about it anymore. It's possible
that Home Depot was carrying the Zonolite type, or based their decision
to discontinue it so people wouldn't panic and sue them.
Hope this eases your mind.
> Hi All,
> I have been using vermiculite to mix in with plaster for a carving
> compound for years.
> This year I have been unable to find it in my usual haunt; Home
> Depot. When I finally got someone from the garden center to help me
> he said that they stopped carrying it because it contains Asbestos! I
> have written to the Scotts Garden people to ask them and I haven't
> hears back yet. have any of you heard such a thing?
> this is one of my favorite projects with the kids. I used pearlite
> this time but it's just not the same
> Gabrielle ---