Fiberglass Dangers and How to Protect Yourself

Scott Dylan Westerlund
Updated October 4, 2021
Exposed fiberglass insulation in a home
Bilanol -

While adding new fiberglass to your home offers tons of "green" and money-saving benefits, DIY fiberglass insulation comes with health hazards

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Homeowners have a million reasons to want to add more fiberglass insulation to their homes. Beefing up your home's efficiency with this type of insulation can provide:

  • More comfort

  • Cooler summers indoors

  • Warmer winters indoors

  • Lower energy bills

While a homeowner might be a fool not to boost insulation, it's also important to be wise regarding safety. Fiberglass insulation needs to be handled gingerly! Let's break down the need-to-know safety tidbits about handling fiberglass before installing home insulation.

What Is Fiberglass?

Does fiberglass actually contain glass? Yes! The most common form of insulation found in homes, fiberglass is a woven product made of plastic that is reinforced with glass fibers. Resin and binding substances are added to fiberglass to create strength and durability.

Hazard #1: Skin Irritation

If your uncovered skin comes into contact with fiberglass, it's very easy for the tiny shards of glass within the fiber to cut your skin. Those cuts can create severe itching and irritation.

While you may think you're breaking out in a skin rash after touching fiberglass, those markings are probably cuts.

Hazard #2: Eye Irritation

If fiberglass comes into contact with your eyes, your eyes are likely going to become red, irritated, and swollen.

Hazard #3: Breathing Problems

Fiberglass particles are easy to inhale. Once the tiny glass fibers enter your body, they can actually cut and penetrate your organs and tissues. Some commons signs that you've inhaled fiberglass include:

  • Sore or irritated throat

  • Painful nasal passages

  • Irritated, sore lungs

  • Trouble breathing

If you suffer from health conditions like asthma or bronchitis, exposure to fiberglass can exacerbate your symptoms. It could also trigger a respiratory emergency if you have compromised or vulnerable airways. Lastly, ingesting fiberglass particles can cause severe stomach pain and irritation.

Hazard #4: Cancer Risks

Fiberglass is a suspected carcinogen. While some studies have shown an increased cancer risk in mice when lung tissue was exposed to fiberglass, the jury is still very much out when it comes to the cancer risk in humans. Any contractor you talk to will tell you that the protocol is to limit direct contact by as much as possible.

However, concerns over fiberglass shouldn't be confused with the confirmed link between lung cancer and asbestos. These are two different substances.

Fiberglass isn't considered dangerous in a passive way once it's installed in your home. The health hazards associated with fiberglass are only relevant when we're talking about direct contact and exposure.

How to Reduce DIY Fiberglass Hazards

Man installing fiberglass insulation
Bilanol -

If you're about to start a DIY fiberglass insulation, here are some tips to reduce exposure:

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing to minimize skin contact

  • Wear gloves

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth

  • Wear safety goggles with side shields

  • Create ventilation using doors and windows

  • Use a shop vacuum when dust and fibers are wet

If you've never installed insulation before, adding fiberglass insulation with zero exposure can be a challenge. That's why one of the best ways to eliminate fiberglass danger is to call in an insulation pro instead!

If you decide to install fiberglass insulation on your own, you'll need to create adequate ventilation, suit up in the right gear, avoid skin-to-skin contact, and clean up properly.

The reasonable insulation costs per square foot from insulation companies around the country may inspire you to get out of the house for a few hours while someone else tackles all the preparation and safety precautions.

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