Health hazards of fibreglass roof insulation

Written by tyler lacoma
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Health hazards of fibreglass roof insulation
Fibreglass may cause cancer, physical irritation and mould problems. (NA/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Fibreglass is a type of synthetic resin that is spun into threads and fibres for use as insulation. Contractors use fibreglass bundles to line the inside of rooftops to help slow down heat transfer. The more slowly heat moves, the more efficient the building is at heating and cooling, which leads to lower utility bills. Although fibreglass is common, it carries certain health risks, especially if it is improperly installed.

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Carcinogens

Carcinogens are small particles that may cause cancer when they are absorbed by the human body. Fibreglass insulation trails small, floating glass fibres that have carcinogenic properties. These particles may be especially prevalent during roofing insulation, where workers spend more time moving and adjusting the insulation. This is why fibreglass is carefully covered, and installers use protective clothes and masks.

Irritation

While fibreglass particles loose in the air may or may not cause cancer, irritation is a far more common symptom. Inhalation of the fibres cause irritation and pain in the lungs and stomach, where they come to rest. Eye and skin irritation also is a possibility.

Fire

Fibreglass has fire-resistant properties but in some cases, insulation heat-resistant properties contribute to smoke or fire problems. This may occur if the material is accidentally installed over a heat source or light bulb. The insulation can concentrate the heat and make it easier for older heating devices to cause fires.

Mould

Fibreglass can absorb moisture and hold it for long periods of time. This makes wet insulation a prime growing area for mould. Mould can quickly infest porous surfaces and spread spores throughout a building. Depending on the type of mould, contact with these spores can result in allergic reactions or pose serious health risks.

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