The presence of vermiculite insulation in attics is the main cause of weatherization deferrals throughout the state. Vermiculite insulation may contain asbestos, which is known to cause cancer. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is very toxic if inhaled. It has been known for many years that workers exposed to asbestos may suffer from asbestos-related diseases. Insulation with asbestos was made between 1938 and 1989 and is common in older homes in Minnesota.
Homeowners with vermiculite insulation should assume it contains asbestos. Homeowners planning to weatherize or remodel should not attempt to remove the insulation themselves. A professional asbestos contractor can safely remove it.
The cost to remove vermiculite insulation from an attic—about $7,500—is too expensive for most low-income homeowners, as is the cost to weatherize homes.
The Healthy AIR grant program is a pilot with about $300,000 in state funding. The program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce through its Weatherization Assistance Program.
Gens said funding for the program, which pays to remove vermiculite insulation in attics, has been used up quickly. Thirty-five projects have been approved as of September 2018 and only minimal funding remains.