Fiberglass is a popular product that has tens if not hundreds of applications. It is a popular construction material, and it has been used for many decades all over the world. But just as it is popular, it is a feared product by a good number of the population.
Here, we are going to take a deeper look at fiberglass and its implications on our health. We will answer the question of whether breathing fiberglass can kill you. We will also take a look at research done by experts on how dangerous fiberglass is to our health. At the end of reading the article, you will have adequate information on how effective fiberglass is and the danger, if any, it poses to you and your loved ones.
Depending on where you live, you can write fiberglass or fiberglass. This is a material made using very fine glass fibers. The glass fiber is mixed with other materials to make fiberglass, a type of plastic. The glass fibers are implanted into the resin matric, which then becomes the fiberglass we use for insulation purposes, among other applications. Fiberglass can also be said to be a textile fabric made using woven glass strands or filaments.
Fiberglass is very light and versatile when it comes to molding it to whatever you want. It is very durable and sturdy, making it a preferable construction material by builders. Compared to carbon fiber and other insulation materials, fiberglass is way cheaper, less bulky, light, and effective in its role. Because of its versatility, it is highly embraced in the aerospace, construction, and automotive industries.
The use of fiberglass in home construction exposes almost everyone residing there, even though not every time. Exposure to fiberglass has been debated for decades, and there is no exact answer to whether it causes a specific disease or not. Exposure to fiberglass is highly discouraged because of the obvious immediate effects on your body, but facts about long-term effects remain elusive.
Can breathing fiberglass kill you?
The short answer to this question is no. But wait a minute; there is plenty of research on the topic, and it is only fair to listen to qualified and unbiased scientists on fiberglass’s effects on our health. Let us stroll through the research papers, the evidence gathered, and the experience of people with one-on-one contact with this material.
Fiberglass is used to manufacture insulating material, a common feature in home and commercial building installations. It is also found in electrical insulation, cement reinforcement, and acoustic and heat insulation. It is, therefore, a common feature in schools, homes, offices, and even hospitals. It will be found in ceilings, ventilation ducts, and walls. As such, we are always a step away from exposure to this very fine unique dust.
How can I get exposed to fiberglass?
You can get exposed to fiberglass in a number of ways; breathing, skin contact, and ingestion. Exposure can happen by accidentally encountering disintegrated fiberglass or working around fiberglass. Of course, a person whose occupation is around fiberglass is at a higher risk of exposure.
The exposure will vary depending on the amount of fiberglass found in the materials one is working with. The airflow quality in a room is also a major factor determining the extent of exposure a worker gets. On the other hand, if you live in a house or a room where fiberglass is present, avoid disturbing it.
When working on a wall, ceiling, floor, or anything containing fiberglass, you expose yourself to fiberglass. Exposure happens when you move or work on an object that contains fiberglass.
For a person whose occupation revolves around fiberglass, it is imperative that they wear protective gear always. Among the protective measures to take when it comes to fiberglass are;
- Always wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothes. Wear work gloves too. This type of clothing reduces your exposure to fiberglass and minimizes the risk of skin irritation.
- A face mask prevents glass wool from entering your body via the nose or mouth.
- The safety glasses ensure your eyes are protected. Where safety glasses are unavailable, you will get a bit of protection by wearing goggles.
- While working on fiberglass, ensure the room is well-ventilated to reduce dust levels. Open the windows and doors.
- After you are done working, use a vacuum cleaner. This should be done after the dust and the glass wool.
What effects does fiberglass have on your body?
Just like every element you come by, the more you have of something, the higher the effect. Exposure to fiberglass affects your body, but the severity varies according to your exposure to it. Several researches and studies have been done over the years to try and determine whether there is a higher risk of getting sick when exposed to this material.
1) Breathing problems
Fiberglass particles detach from the wall, insulating material, and float in the air. They are very light, and if you are in a room where fiberglass is floating around, you will most likely breathe in the particles. For an asthmatic person, the effects can be severe. A person without any breathing complications will likely develop minor breathing issues because the fiberglass particles enter your lungs and breathing system.
Asthma and bronchitis are aggravated when glass wool enters your respiratory system. You will also experience soreness in your throat when you inhale glass wool. Moreover, if you ingest fiberglass, you will experience stomach irritation even momentarily. The body will remove the fiberglass ingested, and such will exit the body with feces.
Your body will start fighting off these particles by coughing and sneezing. In earlier years, fiberglass was feared to be a potential cause of lung cancer. However, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) no longer requires manufacturers to put a sticker saying fiberglass can cause cancer. The government body only requires the manufacturers to indicate that the fiberglass is a nuisance dust.
2) Skin irritation
When fiberglass disintegrates, glass wool, which is the fiberglass insulation, comes off. Glass wool floating in the environment will easily embed on your skin. Touching fiberglass will cause redness in your eyes, skin rash and irritation, and soreness in your nose. This irritation is prevented by long-sleeved clothing and safety glasses.
3) Burnt fiberglass gases
In case of a fire, fiberglass, even though not fireproof, will resist it. It takes time before it can actually catch fire. While it smolders, which should give you time to escape from the house, fiberglass releases highly toxic gases such as formaldehyde. Recent research shows that manufacturers sometimes use less formaldehyde as a binder in fiberglass making.
What are the short-term and long-term effects?
In the short term, contact with fiberglass irritates the skin and the eyes. The symptoms of fiberglass effect on your skin range from rashes, swelling, redness, and itching. All these symptoms last for a few hours and, in a bit more severe instances, a few days.
On the other hand, breathing or ingesting fiberglass comes with breathing difficulties. If a person has an asthmatic or bronchitis history, their health condition worsens from contracting fiberglass. One will have stomach irritation or upset when they ingest glass wool. All of these effects are temporary and should go away relatively fast.
Many studies have been conducted over time to establish fiberglass’s effects on the human body and the environment. In 2000, for example, the National Academy of Sciences of the USA reviewed studies done earlier to conclude that fiberglass doesn’t appear to increase the risk of one getting respiratory system cancer.
In 2001, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stated that glass wool is no longer to be classified as a human carcinogen. The agency further noted that deaths from all types of cancer, even lung cancer, in people working in the fiberglass industry do not vary in consistency with those in the general population in the US.
Studies done on rats showed fiberglass can cause cancer when implanted in the lung tissue. The results are, however, controversial because of how the glass wool was implanted. The classification of glass wool in Group 3 (not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans) led to National Toxicology Program (NTP) requirement that fiberglass carry a cancer warning label.
Fiberglass has been in use for many decades. In earlier years, health agencies, after evaluating the fine fiber particles, declared glass wool carcinogenic. More research was, however, conducted, and the relevant bodies found that the particles do not necessarily cause cancer or other severe illnesses. This led to NTP removing a requirement for fiberglass manufacturers to include a cancer warning on their products.
Further research is definitely required on the health effects of fiberglass on humans. For now, though, we can rest easy knowing that no evidence is available to cause concern. Remember always to wear safety protection and avoid dragging, rubbing, or disturbing items made using fiberglass.
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