Although gardening is a relaxing, enjoyable activity, some potting mixtures contained vermiculite, a natural mineral that expands with the application of heat. The purpose of vermiculite is to allow the soil to hold more water, which improves the health of plants, particularly in soil that is heavy in clay content. It has been discovered that vermiculite sometimes contains asbestos, which means some potting mixtures may contain dangerous the dangerous mineral.

Today, attention is given to ensure that the vermiculite is not contaminated with asbestos. Those who worked with vermiculite-containing potting mixtures in the past may have been exposed to asbestos particles and inhaled asbestos dust while gardening. People who worked for companies that manufactured and bagged potting mixtures with tainted vermiculite were also often exposed to asbestos. Over the years, many of these workers have developed asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Large amounts of contaminated vermiculite came from a mine in Libby, Montana. Libby is a town where hundreds have sickened by or died from exposure to asbestos-tainted vermiculite. The two minerals share similar characteristics, and are often found near each other in ore deposits.  Most of the Libby vermiculite was used in a variety of products before information about the dangers of asbestos was made public. Research has shown that mine owners and asbestos product manufacturers knew about the dangers of asbestos but didn’t share that information with the general public.

Reference:

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