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Fiberglass and Air Quality

Posted on December 11, 2012
by Wendy Stackhouse


When we published yesterday’s blog at Alliance Environmental Group “Is Fiberglass the New Asbestos?” we had no idea we were also opening a discussion about air quality as well, but it turns out that fiberglass is not only an environmental challenge because it is used in so many products that formerly used asbestos, but also because of its increasing presence in our air itself.

From yesterday’s blog post:

According to Wikipedia:

“Fiberglass is a lightweight, extremely strong, and robust material. Although strength properties are somewhat lower than carbon fiber and it is less stiff, the material is typically far less brittle, and the raw materials are much less expensive. Its bulk strength and weight properties are also very favorable when compared to metals, and it can be easily formed using molding processes.”

Fiberglass has been in use since its discovery in 1932. It began to be used in aircraft manufacturing as early as World War II and started being used for car bodies and boats in the 1950’s. Although it is being taken over slowly by carbon fiber, many products make use of fiberglass today including:

Hot tubs
Piping for drinking water and sewers
Office plant display containers
Flat roof systems
In the telecommunications industry to make antennae fit into existing environments
Electrical insulators
Storage tanks
Door surrounds, window canopies and dormers, chimneys, coping systems and other residental construction items
High end bicycles
Circuit boards
Wind Turbine Blades
Coils in MRI scanners
Re-enforcement of asphalt pavement, as a fabric or mesh interlayer

This is most definitely NOT a complete list of the uses of fiberglass.

Glass wool fibers are classified by the National Toxicology Program as “[r]easonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Workers in fiberglass factories suffer from more lung cancer than other workers. Fiberglass may even be more carcinogenic than asbestos and the danger is exacerbated by the fact that fiberglass is literally everywhere. There are measurable levels of fiberglass particles in the air we all breathe.

Today I came across an article by Daniel Friedman which discusses not only his findings of fiberglass particles in the indoor air of buildings with fiberglass duct material and fiberglass insulation and Mr. Friedman’s belief that these particles constitute a health risk. Our discussion on LinkedIn also generated a comment about odors in fiberglass insulation that has become wet, even after it has dried and mold growth in fiberglass insulation.

At AirTek we are concerned with everything that can contaminate indoor air, especially if it comes from duct and ventilation systems. We will be keeping an eye out for news about fiberglass products which may be contaminating our air, perhaps even from the ducts themselves.

Read our entire blog post: “Is Fiberglass the New Asbestos?”

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and Alliance Environmental Group. She welcomes your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! For updates on Asbestos, Bed Bugs, Mold, Lead and other environmental issues, Like us at Alliance Environmental Group on Facebook!


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