Fibreglass, which is also known as glass wool or rock wool, is a man-made mineral product that is used for insulation, carpet and air filters in homes and office buildings. It is constructed by melting glass, then pulling it out into long strands. Because of the delicate nature of fibreglass, particles can break off and float in the air. Consequently, some people develop sensitivities or allergies from breathing fibreglass or getting it on their skin.
About fibreglass allergies
Fibreglass allergies are often hard to detect. The fibreglass particles to which people react are believed to become more electrically charged when airborne, which can cause irritation and inflammation of the mucus membranes. People with fibreglass allergies tend to get sore throats, inflamed nasal passages and even dry, hacking coughs.
People who have fibreglass allergies may be reacting to the polyester or epoxy resins that are used to hold the glass fibres together. Epoxy emits a powerful, gaseous odour that some people can detect, especially if they are already predisposed to allergies. Epoxy contains chemicals such as formaldehyde and phenol, which can affect people with chemical allergies or multiple chemical sensitivities. Fibreglass allergy sufferers may also be affected by the dye in fibreglass.
People with fibreglass allergies can experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, severe sinus problems, swollen, red or watery eyes, bloody noses, insomnia, depression, irritability, asthma and even gastrointestinal problems. Some people may even get contact dermatitis from fibreglass, which can cause itching and swollen skin rashes or blisters. The skin can often flake or thicken as a result of airborne fibreglass.
The best prevention for fibreglass allergies is to avoid the material. Also, there are alternatives to fibreglass air filters and insulation, including cellulose insulation. Cellulose is usually made from shredded newspapers and can be blown into an attic or dry-packed in walls like regular insulation. Other options for fibreglass allergy sufferers include using either cotton, a seawater derivative of cement and air bubbles or denim textile.
Those who suffer from fibreglass allergies on a job or home can use HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters to eradicate fibreglass particles from the air. One may also take antihistamines, use over-the-counter nasal sprays or undergo immunotherapy or allergy shots through an allergy doctor to alleviate symptoms. Over time, individuals may overcome their fibreglass allergy symptoms.