Fiberglass is a popular residential and commercial insulator because of its energy saving qualities and minimal fire hazards. There are, however, a few dangers associated with the installation of fiberglass. If you are considering installing fiberglass insulation in your home, here are a few dangers to know before you get started.
Fiberglass insulation comes in a variety of shapes and colors. The two most common forms are blankets, also referred to as batts, and loose fill. Batts typically come pre-cut to different widths and are stapled to the wall to keep secured. Loose fill comes in bags and is usually blown into places like the attic and floor cavities. There are hazards associated with both types of fiberglass installation.
Particles that become detached from fiberglass batts can cause skin irritation on contact. These particles can lodge themselves into pores in the skin and cause dryness. They can also potentially scratch the skin upon contact, creating irritation and rashes. Avoid unwanted skin irritation by handling the fiberglass carefully and wearing long sleeves, pants, and gloves throughout the entire installation process.
Fiberglass also poses a threat to the eyes. When disturbed, fiberglass particles can break free and reach the eye, causing serious injury. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends wearing goggles whenever installing fiberglass. When removing old fiberglass, dampen the walls to help lessen the chances of particles going airborne.
Installing fiberglass can also lead to respiratory problems if you do not wear proper safety equipment. Inhaling fiberglass particles can cause nose bleeds, severe coughing, and lung damage. In the worst case scenario, small particles can reach the lungs and become lodged into the tissue. Always wear a respirator when blowing fiberglass into spaces. The respirator should include a particulate filter to adequately block fiberglass particles.
OSHA requires manufacturers to place a cancer warning on all fiberglass materials. Fiberglass can become a problem if enough airborne particles are ingested. According to OSHA, there is ample evidence to suggest fiberglass and other synthetic materials can cause respiratory disease in people. You can help avoid these unfortunate outcomes by wearing proper safety equipment or using an alternate insulating material.
Other Insulation Alternatives
Cellulose is a plant-based material that has been around in insulation form for hundreds of years. In the past, it has been made out of a variety of materials including cotton, hemp, straw, sawdust, and plant byproducts. Nowadays, manufactures make cellulose insulation from recycled newspapers. The newspapers undergo a chemical process that makes them less of a fire hazard. Not only does cellulose pose less health hazards than fiberglass, but it's also inexpensive.
Cotton insulation is produced from recycled denim. The denim goes through a similar process as cellulose and is treated with a fire retardant. Cotton insulation is typically made in batt form, which can be used in both floors and walls.
Vegetable spray foam is an even greener option to consider for insulation in your home. This type of foam is made out of oils from sugarcane, soy, corn fructose, and other plant-based sources. Spray foam is a great alternative if you need to spray in large areas where batts are not an option. You can also use foam to fill in small air leaks in places like the foundation of your house.
Mineral wool is comprised of basalt rock and recycled slag, which makes it resistant to fire from the start. While mineral wool is also a great sound blocker, it's associated with a few airborne-particle risks. Proper safety equipment should be worn when installing this material.
If you ultimately decide to use fiberglass for insulation, then there are some things you need to do after the installation is complete. Once the fiberglass is in place, remember to wash your hands and arms to remove all traces of the material. Put the faucet on a cold setting because warm water will expand the pores in your skin and potentially trap fiberglass particles even deeper.