Fibreglass is a material that is very commonly used in construction. It can be hardened to form a sturdy material for building boats, and it is also a very common insulator in homes and offices. There has been a long-standing controversy regarding the safety of fibreglass roofing materials, and while there is no direct evidence of serious health dangers from fibreglass exposure, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued several notices regarding potential hazards.
The particles in fibreglass can greatly irritate the skin upon contact among people who are sensitive to it. Common symptoms associated with it are redness, itching, and the possible formation of a rash. Fibreglass has many fine particles in it, and these can prickle the skin when the material is being handled, much like a splinter. It is best to handle fibreglass insulation with gloves, to prevent any prolonged exposure. If the skin gets irritated, rinse it thoroughly with water as soon as possible.
Fibreglass can irritate the eyes in the same manner as it does the skin. The eyes can start watering, turn itchy and red, and severe swelling can result. Vision can be adversely affected as well. Safety goggles can help prevent this from happening, as well as working in a well ventilated area so fibreglass particles can be dispersed in air currents. If one or both eyes start to show irritation, they should be rinsed out with water immediately.
Small particles of fibreglass can float in the air and be inhaled into the lungs. While the risk of cancer and other conditions related to handling fibreglass have been debated, there is no doubt that asthma and other respiratory problems can result from exposure. Stomach irritation can also result if any of the fibres are inadvertently swallowed. Using a dust mask and working in a ventilated area can help limit this risk. If you start to experience breathing problems while working with fibreglass, move into fresh air as soon as possible.