1

I avoid vermiculite because of its horrible history of being tainted with asbestos. Wikipedia states that, nowadays, vermiculite is supposed to be tested for asbestos, but knowing a bit about testing procedures, politics, and greed, I have my doubts. Also, the alleged coverups of previous asbestos-tainted vermiculite scandals raises big red flags. See Wikipedia article - vermiculite and its linked sources for all the unsavory details.

But what about perlite? Are there any health concerns regarding it?

Note that perlite is a non-renewable resource (and thus non-sustainable), so that's not great. Outside of depleting our planet's supply of perlite, are there any issues with using perlite?

2

There are essentially three ways in which a material can be toxic: via inhalation, ingestion, or via contact with the skin.

  • Inhalation
    My answer to this question Is-perlite-dust-toxic-or-is-it-safe-for-humans-to-breath? contains a link to a paper from the US National Institutes of Health regarding perlite dust (it's not harmful). Because perlite is a form of volcanic glass and not found in asbestos-containing strata, it cannot be contaminated with asbestos unless, I suppose, it's for some reason stored with it.

  • Ingestion and skin contact
    This paper contains the following useful information:

Perlite is not listed as a carcinogen by IARC, NTP, ACGIH, OSHA,or California Prop. 65. Used as a filter aid, perlite is included in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA, 1979) database as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) according to the Select Committee of GRAS Substances (SCOGS, 1979) Report 61 (1979), which noted: "Estimates of the maximum quantities of minerals that might be extracted from perlite and diatomaceous earth used as filter aids in food processing indicates no hazard to public health". Perlite is included in the Register of Feed Additives by the European Food SafetyAuthority (EFSA). Given that Perlite is considered to be Food-Safe, there is no toxicity either via ingestion or skin contact.

I think this information can definitively answer your question. :)

1
0

Even though you asked about Vermiculite/Perlite, You might want to consider using Biochar instead of perlite. While it's more expensive, it has numerous benefits over perlite.

  1. It's renewable
  2. It retains more water than perlite (supposedly 1.6 times more - https://char-grow.com/biochar-impact-nutrient-water-retention)
  3. The process to make it is actually carbon negative (it's consider a form of carbon sequestration)
  4. It's just the carbon "skeleton" of plant life so there is no need to worry about any toxins.

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