Most homes in America have fiberglass insulation, and some people worry that it could be harmful to their health. They are concerned that fiberglass may cause cancer, although the National Toxicology Program ruled that the warning applies only to some kinds of glass wool fibers that can be inhaled—such as during the insulation installation process.
Fiberglass is a man-made fiber that has been widely used as insulation material. It is also a component in the manufacture of curtains, plastics, and roofing materials. Fiberglass is made from glass that is spun to a very fine form to constitute a mass that looks like wool. When applying fiberglass insulation, the installer can inhale or swallow the fine fibers of the insulating material. Those fibers could remain in the lungs for an extended period, giving rise to potential health problems such as cancer and respiratory illnesses.
Fiberglass is not believed to harm the home dwellers while the insulating material safely remains within the closed confines of the attic. However, some people fear that the fibers might migrate from the attic down to the living areas of the house. Once the fibers reach these areas, they worry that they could be inhaled or swallowed by residents.
With these concerns in mind, many homeowners now replace their fiberglass insulation with other materials to avoid risks.
In addition to being associated with cancer, exposure to fiberglass can cause the following:
- Irritation to the eyes, throat, and nose.
- Itchiness and rash
- Stomach irritation (if a person swallows the fibers)
- Exacerbated bronchitis and asthma.
To avoid problems when working with fiberglass insulation, do the following:
- Wear disposable overalls or work clothes with long sleeves
- Wear a dust mask
- Wear gloves and safety glasses
- Increase ventilation in the area by opening a door or window. This will also reduce the level of dust in the area.
- Use a shop vacuum after wetting the fibers and the dust.
If you are looking for a fiberglass alternative, there are different green products that may be used to insulate homes. Most of these green insulation options are made from recycled materials that require less energy to manufacture. They are non-toxic and natural. They include the following:
- Recycled blue jean material
- Recycled paper products such as newspapers
- Cotton fiber
- Sheep’s wool
While there is no clear proof that fiberglass can cause cancer, many people choose to err on the side of safety and replace their old insulation with green, non-toxic insulation materials.