Furnace/ductwork in attic with vermiculate/asbestos insulation

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Old 10-22-16, 05:12 AM
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Furnace/ductwork in attic with vermiculate/asbestos insulation

Hello all,

I am writing about an old family cottage that we have with the furnace and ductwork in the attic. The cottage has been added onto several times, but still has some vermiculite insulation in the attic. I have sent it in for asbestos testing, and it does contain about 1% asbestos.

I have been advised that the best way to deal with this is basically to NOT disturb it. I would say that it was probably the first insulation that was installed - and on top of it is probably 8-10" of blown cellulose, even more in some places. When you are in the attic to service the furnace, you cannot see any of the vermiculate - so I feel that it is fairly well contained and undisturbed in the attic.

My concern comes in with the ductwork - which lies between some of the ceiling cavities, runs across trusses/ceiling joists and then exits the drywall and blows through vents in the ceiling of the cottage (from above). This past summer we had a duct cleaning service do the push/pull method and suck all of the gunk out of the vents. When they left, they did disturb some of the vermiculate, and it fell to the floor around the register vents. This really got me thinking....can this dust fall through the ceiling from the registers and maybe be more disturbed that I think.


So my main questions.....am I putting my family at a great risk here? I know the easy answer is to say just get rid of it....I am thinking that might be worse. A few contractors have advised to not even worry about it...it is a way overblown topic. I am sure if I picked up the phone and called someone they would advise to completely remove and HEPA -handle everything - from a liability standpoint.

But I am looking for a straight shot with common sense. The cabin is a 75 year family possession - getting rid of it is not an option.

Is there anything I should do? I have thought about using some aluminum tape around the register ductwork. Maybe fold a piece over and tape 1" up the side of the duct, then fold over and tape 1" on the ceiling before I reinstall the registers in the ceiling. This may contain any dust that may blow around near the register.

What about the seams inside the ductwork - buried in the insulation in the ceiling. Do you think these could take in dust from the attic and blow it all around the cottage?

Is there any type of filter I could place in each register to collect the dust on site, then toss them out when I change the other filtered? Is this necessary?

Any advice would be appreciated.


A couple of other things that are driving me nuts.....

1) My grandparents only used the cottage in the summers, then shut it down- they probably rarely, if ever , ran the furnace

2) My father lived year round in the cottage from 1997-2014, when he passed away at age 68 from lung cancer. He smoked two packs a day, which seemed like the likely culprit. However, he was the only one who used the furnace on a regular/annual basis. Not sure if I am just thinking too much here

3) We rarely use the cottage in the winter, but we do use it. Thats why I am thinking so hard here. After the ductwork cleaning, and with some vermiculate dropping to the floor in the cottage, I became concerned. Wondering if there is anything I can/should do. I should say that it was only due to the duct cleaning that the vermiculite was disturbed, it is not regularly disturbed. I guess I am mostly concerned about possible dust being taken into the seams of the attic ductwork and blown around with the heat.


Thanks for any thoughts


Nathan
 
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Old 10-22-16, 08:14 AM
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Any dangers from contracting an asbestos-related disease from the vermiculite in your attic is so low as to be all but impossible to calculate. You probably inhale more asbestos cruising down the Interstate during rush hour (from the dust from brake shoes/pads) than you will ingest from the air in the cottage.

I have thought about using some aluminum tape around the register ductwork. Maybe fold a piece over and tape 1" up the side of the duct, then fold over and tape 1" on the ceiling before I reinstall the registers in the ceiling.
I think this is an excellent idea, I use it myself. It also seals off the unconditioned attic space from the conditioned living space saving energy. Remember, just ordinary "house dust" is a contaminant that no one should breathe on a regular basis.

Also, purely anecdotal information but everyone I have personally known or heard of that had lung cancer was also a smoker. This included people that worked with asbestos on a daily basis and also people that were bricklayers, both occupations having a high incidence of lung cancer. Those workers that were smokers almost always contracted cancer in their later years, those that did not smoke only rarely contracted cancer.
 
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Old 10-22-16, 08:51 AM
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But I am looking for a straight shot with common sense
I look at it simply, but am no expert on asbestos, more so on dangers of Lead based paint.
When they say undisturbed, that means to me no grinding, sanding, etc. It doesn't mean the material can't be used.

Agreed the foil tape is the best I've used to seal duct.
 
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Old 10-22-16, 02:30 PM
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Thanks guys - appreciate the common sense approach to the answers. Makes sense to me, and I agree that smoking kicks up the % very high - that is even listed everyone where in the EPA literature on asbestos.

I will seal it off to keep the air separate, and we will proceed as normal.
 
 

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