The Potential Hazards of Fiberglass Insulation

Man and doctor

Fiberglass insulation has been the dominant type of insulation for most homes since it became commercially available in the 1930s, and no wonder: it is affordable, readily available, and easy to install. Properly insulated homes and healthy HVAC systems keep Largo homeowners comfortable no matter the time of year. But in spite of its benefits, there is some speculation that fiberglass insulation may pose a potential health hazard to homeowners.

Skin and Eye Irritation

Fiberglass insulation is made of tiny shards of glass. If the insulation contacts bare skin, it can cause an itchy and painful rash that lasts for a few hours or a few days. Microscopic fiberglass particles from the insulation can get into the eyes, causing intense itching, irritation and possibly eye damage that could be permanent.

Breathing Problems

Fiberglass insulation is a stable material once it is installed and typically does not shed particles unless it is damaged. Particles from damaged insulation can find their way through air vents and into the respiratory tracts of people living in the home. The result can be several days or weeks of sneezing, coughing and wheezing, as well as pain in the mouth, throat or chest. Such effects are troublesome for healthy individuals and quite serious for those already suffering from breathing problems.

Contains Carcinogens

The little shards of glass that make up fiberglass insulation are coated with chemicals called resins. These resins are what make the shards stick together, give fiberglass insulation its durability and shape, and provide heat resistance. A common component of these resins is formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is considered a human carcinogen. Contacting fiberglass insulation directly or inhaling its particles cannot only be physically damaging, but could allow carcinogens to enter the body.

There are some potential hazards to using fiberglass insulation in the home but common sense can help avoid such risks. Any issues that have the potential to damage the insulation, such as mold or rodent infestations, should be addressed right away. When working directly with fiberglass insulation, make sure to wear protective clothing for the skin, safety goggles for the eyes and a face mask to avoid inhaling the particles.