FIBER GLASS AND HEALTH AND SAFETY
Today, people are more concerned than ever before about the health and safety of products around them and this includes the materials used in constructing a home. The following is information on the health and safety aspects of fiber glass insulation, one of the most commonly used and thoroughly tested building products in use today.
Q. FIRST, WHAT IS FIBER GLASS INSULATION?
Fiber glass insulation is made from sand and recycled glass cullet that is melted and spun from molten glass into fibers. It is an extremely effective insulating material because it has millions of tiny air pockets that help resist the flow of heat and cold. A binder is added to some fiber glass insulation products to form batts and rolls. That binder holds the glass fibers together. When cured in an oven, the binder turns the naturally white insulation a yellow color.
Some loose-fill fiber glass insulations, like CertainTeed’s InsulSafe® and OPTIMA®, are white as no binder is used. This loose-fill insulation is made especially for blown-in applications.
Q. ARE THERE ANY SHORT-TERM HEALTH EFFECTS FROM USING FIBER GLASS INSULATION?
Anyone who has used fiber glass insulation knows it can cause itching. This is a temporary reaction of the skin to small pieces of fibers that have come in contact with the skin’s outer layer. Some individuals also experience temporary upper respiratory irritation if loose fibers are inhaled. That’s why manufacturers recommend that people who use these products wear long sleeve shirts, goggles, gloves, and a disposable dust respirator. Once installed in a home, there is no reason why people would be bothered by fiber glass insulation as it is installed behind walls, in enclosed attics and other closed off locations.
Q. IS FIBER GLASS LIKE ASBESTOS?
Absolutely not. Both materials consist of fibers and are used for insulation purposes. The similarities end there. There are a number of differences but the main one is that fiber glass tends to dissolve in the lungs, while asbestos fibers are much more durable. Also, asbestos fibers have been shown to cause cancer in humans. On the other hand, the weight of scientific evidence has shown no causal relationship between exposure to fiber glass and cancer or non-malignant respiratory disease in humans. In addition, the fiber glass industry has an ongoing medical-scientific research program. In fact, fiber glass is probably one of the most tested building products in the world. Research spans more than 50 years, and in recent years tens of millions of dollars have been spent on both human and animal studies. Most scientists agree that fiber glass insulation is safe to manufacture, install and use when simple, recommended work practices are followed.
Q. IF FIBER GLASS IS SAFE TO USE, WHY DOES THE PRODUCT HAVE HEALTH WARNINGS ON ITS PACKAGING?
Manufacturers have provided warning labels on fiber glass products for years. In addition to basic product information, these labels have customarily contained appropriate health and safety warnings as to the potential hazards posed by the use of the products regarding skin, respiratory and eye irritation. While the reference to the inhalation of fiber glass as being a possible cause of cancer may appear alarming to the new or casual user of fiber glass products, the primary purpose of that reference is simply to identify a potential hazard. The manufacturers of these products remain confident that the risk associated with the use of fiber glass products, if there is any risk at all, can be effectively controlled via reduction of work place exposures and adherence to simple work practices.
Q. IS CELLULOSE INSULATION SAFER THAN FIBER GLASS INSULATION?
In spite of the fact that wood dust is a known carcinogen and boric acid, borax and sulfuric acid (often used to make cellulose fire retardant) are all considered toxic materials and can pose health threats over time, there has been little health testing or research on cellulose insulation. On the other hand, fiber glass manufacturers have been conducting research on the health aspects of their products for over 50 years.
For more information about the health and safety of fiber glass insulation, write to the CertainTeed Home Institute, P.O. Box 860, Valley Forge, PA 19482 or call 1-800-782-8777.
CertainTeed Insulation Group has an unwavering commitment to health and safety – from the products we manufacture to each of our employees.