I have seen a number of purchasers get scared off of buying a home because of vermiculite insulation in the attic or, because the house had asbestos siding. Some inspectors are even flagging VA or vinyl asbestos floor tiles as being as issue. Good news folks, like UFFI and aluminum wiring, its a case of a little concern being blown all out of proportion.
I spent some time "surfing the net" yesterday and came across a great article from Health Canada about vermiculite. Health Canada's website is www.hc-sc.ga.ca but if you google the word "vermiculite", this particular article should show up on the first page of your search.
To summarize the article, it mentions that not all vermiculite contains . Pure vermiculite contains none at all and is non-toxic. This is very popular with gardeners. However, a lot of vermiculite was mined at the Libby mine in Montana and this has elevated levels of . It was sold in Canada between the 1920's and mid-80's under the brand name Zonolite Attic Insulation (r). So if you see any of these bags in your attic, that is what you have but there is still no need to panic.
According to Health Canada, this type of insulation can cause health risks if disturbed during maintenance, renovation or demolition. "However, there is currently no evidence of risk to your health if the insulation is sealed behind wall boards and floorboards, isolated in an attic or otherwise kept from exposure to the interior environment." (my italics). So it appears from this that if it's there, just leave it alone and you're fine.
Health Canada also made a comment about siding and flooring and I'll quote the article again; " If asbestos fibres are enclosed or tightly bound in a product like asbestos siding or floor tiles, there are no significant health risks....".
The long and the short of it is don't make snap decisions on the purchase of a home based upon the lack of information. Speak to people who know, read articles form trusted sources and educate yourself on the issue.
If you have any questions about this or anything else related to the buying, selling or leasing of a property please contact me in any way convenient to you, and I'll do my best to help.