For the gardening enthusiast, fertilizer is one component which is commonly used throughout the world. Keeping lawns greener and plants healthier is one of the main reasons people use fertilizer for planting. Fertilizer is used for both commercial and residential gardening. Some types of fertilizer contain vermiculite, a compound sometimes also used in insulation materials that has health risks associated with it. Vermiculite fertilizer has asbestos in it, which makes this compound dangerous when inhaled by humans.
Vermiculite is an ore which is mined in many parts of the world. This popular soil additive is a natural mineral compound; when exposed to heat it expands and aids in the growth of plants at the root level. It does this by aeration and drainage; it also retains large amounts of water. As the soil dries around the roots, water is released which continually feeds the vegetation. This is extremely useful where irrigation is limited and in areas with dry soil.
The problem with vermiculite is in the mining process. Since both vermiculite and asbestos are both silicate minerals, they are often mined from the same vein, causing the vermiculite to become contaminated with asbestos. Since asbestos is already proven to be harmful to the lungs, this makes the vermiculite compound a health risk. This occurs because vermiculite is a substance light in weight. When disbursed in the garden or on houseplants, these tiny particles will float through the air. Since the particles are light, they can be easily inhaled and the asbestos-contaminated fibers can cause extensive damage to certain internal organs.
Testing has been done to determine how much vermiculite is actually in any given fertilizer, but there are currently no regulations concerning the sale of soil products containing this substance.