Is glass wool insulation dangerous

Danger of cancer from mineral fibers?

Danger of cancer from mineral fibers?

Anyone who has ever processed glass wool or rock wool without a protective suit knows the itchiness that arises. The material cannot be healthy, you think. The itching itself is unpleasant, but not dangerous - according to the current state of science. This restriction naturally applies to everything that is stated here about the health risks posed by artificial material fibers (KMF, i.e. glass or rock wool).

And according to the current state of science, it cannot be said unequivocally that artificial mineral fibers are dangerous or harmless. Rather, it depends on different things. That is annoying, the mineral fibers are well suited as insulating material, inexpensive and also easy to work with. So here's the good news: It is entirely acceptable to process them.

But that's not always been the case. KMF have been made from waste glass, sedimentary rock or blast furnace slag since the 1960s and were used as Substitute for asbestos put on the market after its harmful properties were recognized. This did not solve the problem, it just made it smaller.

The problem is that fibers are of a certain order of magnitude - when the diameter is less than three thousandths of a millimeter (micrometer) and the length is greater than five micrometers, when the ratio of length to diameter is also greater than three to one. Then fibers that get into the lungs through the air they breathe settle there, and so-called phagocytes also fail to switch them off to a sufficient extent. This can lead to pulmonary fibrosis, damage to the lung connective tissue, but also to changes in the cells and thus to cancer.

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asbestos works in the same way, by the way, but much more intensely. Because there the proportion of thin fibers is greater, and the asbestos fibers split up lengthways. It also takes a lot longer for asbestos fibers to break down in the lungs. Alarm calls such as glass and rock wool are as dangerous as asbestos were already inappropriate in the seventies and eighties.

Today there can be no more talk of that. The health hazards associated with artificial mineral fibers were known as early as the early 1990s. Because the manufacturers reacted and brought from 1995 a new generation of mineral fibers on the market. Their proportion of respirable fibers is considerably lower, and these can be broken down much more quickly in the lungs. In figures: old stone wool is reduced by half in 300 days, with new stone wool it is 60 days.

Finally were all mineral fibers manufactured before 1997 officially classified as suspicious in principle of causing cancer. These fibers had previously caused tumors to grow in animal experiments. KMF with fibers smaller than three micrometers have been banned since 2000, and this ban will apply across Europe from 2005. When buying mineral wool, you should make sure that it is compatible with the RAL quality mark of the G├╝tegemeinschaft Mineralwolle are marked. This is mandatory from 2001, in 2010 the criteria were tightened.

But: When classifying the KMF, the German Research Foundation for the Testing of Hazardous Working Materials declared whether a material is questionable, depends on the individual product and the level of exposure. Newer fabrics have a much lower proportion of respirable fibers, can be read in other sources. And finally fiber dust can be released during processing, which is questionable. With new artificial mineral fibers, health hazards are extremely reduced, but not completely excluded.

Whether you want to use them is one of them Question of personal consideration. After all, you also accept increased health risks when you go into traffic, and you by no means always choose the safest option. These are individual decisions that you have to make personally. As I said, there is by no means a health hazard that would be even remotely comparable to that associated with asbestos.

In any case, glass and rock wool should be installed correctly - So that no fibers and no dust can get into the room air. If insulation is done in a way that corresponds to the state of the art, i.e. with a vapor barrier, then this is impossible. In addition, cladding is always added, mostly in the form of plasterboard.

For craftsmen during installation Respiratory protection and protective clothing prescribed, do-it-yourselfers should at least ventilate well, but also work better with respiratory protection. A protective suit helps against the unpleasant itching. Safety glasses are also very useful; this reduces the risk to an acceptable level by today's standards. In addition, you should work, store and transport with little dust.

All of these precautionary measures are of course all the more important when it's under Demolition and renovation work It is about expanding insulation materials from KMF. If they were installed before 1996, it is very likely that you are dealing with questionable material. If you don't want to take any risks, hire a specialist company to do this. In any case, artificial mineral fibers are classified as hazardous waste and must be disposed of separately.

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