Today's ad for Zonolite insulating fill was chosen for the great sweaty/comfortable man in the picture. He's funny. But what's vermiculite? Research and Googling Team, assemble!!!
Vermiculite is a mineral that can be mined, and has the weird property that it "exfoliates" or puffs up when heated to about 1200 degrees. It then has a light airy density, kind of like fiber fill, which makes it a good insulator. Hence, its use in homes.
Trouble is, where you mine vermiculite, you often find our old friend asbestos. The biggest vermiculite mine in America was located in Libby, Montana, and produced more than half of the world's vermiculite from 1925 to 1990. The other trouble is, there's some accusation that the operators of the mine knew their product had asbestos contamination and kept that information on the down low. Zonolite was made from vermiculite at the Libby mine. Wups. Lots of employees at the mine died of cancer and related health problems. Here's a downer of a PDF if you want to read about the details of the workers' fucked-ness, but I won't blame you if you choose not to pour over the details. So, yeah. This ad was trying to sell you stuff that could make you sick and kill you if you used it exactly as directed by the manufacturer. It was sold in a form that you could pour in-between the rafters in your attic, where unwanted asbestos fibers could become airborne and inhaled, where they would lovingly embrace the alveoli in your lungs forever and ever and ever, until death do you part.
Vermiculite is also used as a soil conditioner for plants, because it aerates the soil and promotes growth. However, since the closing of the Libby mine, regulators have been pretty much on top of the whole asbestos thing and if you have a jar of vermiculite on your potting bench that was made after 1990, it's probably not going to kill you.
So, that was a weird little distraction. All I wanted was this sweaty guy as clip art. The "cool and comfy" version of him isn't complete enough to isolate and use separately, but his miserable version is perfect. Graphic Blandishment and Photoshoppery Squad, assemble!!! Bam.