Canadians maybe entitled for some compensation from the W.R. Grace and Co settlement proposal in response to allegations of health problems associated with Zonalite and other vermiculite products produced by the Libby mine in Montana. There are forms and information available here.

In September 2008, W.R. Grace and Co. proposed to pay $6.5 million to settle a lawsuit launched by Canadian homeowners. Thundersky called the settlement ‘an insult’ though Montreal-based Michel Bélanger said settling with the company may be the only viable option since the company is facing bankruptcy in the U.S.

Vermiculite is a mica-like mineral mined around the world and used in a variety of commercial and consumer products because it is fire-resistant and has good insulation qualities. Of concern is vermiculite ore produced by the Libby Mine in Montana from the 1920’s to 1990. It was sold as Zonolite ® Attic Insulation and possibly other brands in Canada during that time. Vermiculite from the Libby Mine may contain amphibole asbestos. The Libby Mine supplied the majority of the world market in vermiculite-based insulation.

Products made from vermiculite ore produced by the Libby Mine were not widely used after the mid-1980’s and have not been on the market in Canada since 1990. Not all vermiculite produced before 1990 contains amphibole asbestos fibres. However, to be safe and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is reasonable to assume that if your building has older vermiculite-based insulation, it may contain some amphibole asbestos.

EPA and ATSDR strongly recommend that: Vermiculite insulation be left undisturbed in your attic. Due to the uncertainties with existing testing techniques, it is best to assume that the material may contain asbestos.

You should not store boxes or other items in your attic if retrieving the material will disturb the insulation. Children should not be allowed to play in an attic with open areas of vermiculite insulation.   If you plan to remodel or conduct renovations that would disturb the vermiculite, hire professionals trained and certified to handle asbestos to safely remove the material.   You should never attempt to remove the insulation yourself. Hire professionals trained and certified to safely remove the vermiculite.

The U.S. EPA has stated there was no danger as early as the year 2000, and Health Canada was reportedly telling people that if left un-disturbed that there was little of no danger. The mine in Libby Montana was aware of problems with asbestos as early as the 1960’s but failed to act, presumably putting financial gain ahead of worker safety. There are disturbing similarities between the tobacco industry and the vermiculite insulation company actions when faced with the knowledge that they are actually causing severe health problems to the public, they bury the reports and merrily continue business as usual.