When it comes to fiberglass insulation, knowing the dangers that it poses is essential in protecting yourself from the unseen risks it presents.
The majority of homes in the U.S. currently contain fiberglass insulation. This is the insulation material of choice for most homeowners, and it’s no mystery as to why.
Fiberglass does a great job of keeping the home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s not a totally innocuous material, though.
Read on to learn more about the potential health risks associated with this type of insulation. You’ll also learn how you can avoid them and what you should do if you or someone in your family starts presenting any unpleasant symptoms.
What Is Fiberglass Insulation?
As the name suggests, fiberglass insulation is composed of very fine glass fibers.
It’s used as insulation for homes in two different forms: blanket form and loose-fill. You can also buy fiberglass in rigid board form and as duct insulation.
Fiberglass is present throughout many people’s homes. It’s most often used in unfinished walls, ceilings, and floors.
There are some significant benefits that come from using this type of insulation.
It’s quite affordable, and it is easy to place in walls, ceilings, and other areas of the home by yourself. For homeowners who are working with a strict budget, fiberglass can seem like a lifesaving insulation solution.
Fiberglass Insulation Health Risks
Of course, exposure to fiberglass also presents some serious health risks. The following are some of the most well-known health problems associated with it:
If you come in contact with fiberglass, you could end up with skin irritation.
It’s not uncommon for people to develop rashes after touching fiberglass. This is especially common among people who have very sensitive skin.
Because it’s made of tiny glass fibers, fiberglass can also leave small cuts on the hands or other parts of the body. If left untreated, these cuts could become infected.
Fiberglass can also cause severe eye irritation.
If it’s disturbed, the particles that make up the insulation could break free and come in contact with the eyes. This, in turn, can lead to redness, itchiness, and watery eyes.
In some cases, loose fiberglass particles could even cause small cuts around or on the eyes themselves.
This is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (or OSHA) recommends that people wear goggles whenever they’re working with fiberglass.
Breathing in fiberglass particles isn’t good for you, either.
Some people experience respiratory issues when they’re exposed to fiberglass without proper mouth and nose coverings. These issues may include coughing, sneezing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing.
In some cases, the particles can even become lodged in the lungs. When this happens, respiratory symptoms often get even worse.
Fiberglass can also trap allergens. Even if the fiberglass itself is not an issue for you, having allergens trapped in your walls and in other parts of your home definitely is not good for your overall respiratory health.
Fiberglass has the potential to trap moisture. This, in turn, can lead to mold growth in your home. Long-term mold exposure can cause a wide range of health problems.
Many people dealing with mold toxicity experience symptoms like migraines, chronic fatigue, and chronic respiratory issues. It often takes a long time to get to the root of these issues, too.
Fiberglass is a possible carcinogen, too. This means that exposure to it may increase one’s risk of developing cancer.
Most of the research on fiberglass and cancer has been conducted in animals. The jury is still out on whether or not it may cause cancer in humans.
That being said, it’s still better to be safe than sorry, especially where cancer is concerned.
How to Avoid These Risks
The easiest way to avoid these potential health problems is to switch to a different type of insulation. Fiberglass may be the most popular insulation material on the market, but it’s definitely not your only option.
The following are some alternative insulation materials that work just as well (if not better) and do not come with any serious health risks:
Cellulose is a plant-based material. It was once made from plant materials like cotton, straw, sawdust, and hemp. Now, it’s made mainly from recycled newspapers.
Cellulose is another inexpensive insulation material, and it does not come with the same health risks as fiberglass. It’s also treated with a special process that makes it less of a fire hazard.
Cotton insulation is another great option. It’s made mainly from recycled denim that gets treated with a fire retardant solution.
This type of insulation comes in batt form for the most part. You can use it on your floors and your walls without any problems.
Mineral wool is made of a combination of recycled slag and basalt rock. This combination is naturally fire-resistant. Mineral wool also does a great job of blocking out sound.
There are some airborne-particle risks associated with it, though. Because of this, it may not be a great option for individuals who are prone to respiratory issues.
If you want to avoid these dangers associated with fiberglass insulation, vegetable foam is another good material to consider. Manufacturers make vegetable foam from the oils that come from plants like soy, corn, and sugarcane.
It’s a good alternative to other spray-in insulation materials and can be used in places where batts will not work. You can also use it to fill in small air leaks around your home.
Keep Your Home and Your Family Safe
Many people have no idea of the potential dangers associated with the fiberglass insulation in the attic and walls of their homes.
If you’re just learning about these risks for the first time, don’t panic. Do keep this information in mind, though, so you can make sure no one in your family (including you) experience unpleasant health symptoms as a result of fiberglass exposure.
Do you want to learn about other ways you can keep your home and your family safe? If so, check out the home improvement section of our site today for more advice.