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ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS - INSPECT, TEST, REMEDY
AIR CLEANER PURIFIER TYPES
AIR FILTER EFFICIENCY
AIR FILTERS for HVAC SYSTEMS
AIR HANDLER / BLOWER UNITS
AIR LEAK DETECTION TOOLS
AIR LEAK SEALING PROCEDURE
AIR POLLUTANTS, COMMON INDOOR
AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT STRATEGIES
AIR SEALING STRATEGIES
ALLERGEN TESTS for BUILDINGS
ALLERGY TESTS for PEOPLE
ANIMAL ALLERGENS / PET DANDER
ANIMAL ODORS IN BUILDINGS
ASBESTOS-FREE INSULATION MATERIALS
ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION IN BUILDINGS
ATTORNEYS and EXPERT WITNESSES
BIBLIOGAPHY ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, MOLD, IAQ
BLOWER DOORS & AIR INFILTRATION
BLOWER FAN OPERATION & TESTING
BOOKSTORE - ENVIRONMENTAL
CAR MOLD CONTAMINATION
CARPET DUST IDENTIFICATION
CARPET MOLD CONTAMINATION
CARPETING & INDOOR AIR QUALITY
CAT DANDER in BUILDINGS
CHIMNEY INSPECTION DIAGNOSIS REPAIR
COMBUSTION GASES & PARTICLE HAZARDS
CONDENSATION or SWEATING PIPES, TANKS
CPSC Indoor Air Pollution Book Online Copy
DUCT SYSTEM & DUCT DEFECTS
EMF RF FIELD & FREQUENCY DEFINITIONS
EMERGENCY RESPONSE, IAQ, GAS, MOLD
EMF ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS & HUMAN EXPOSURE
Fiberboard Insulation Sheathing Mold
FIBERGLASS DUCT, RIGID CONSTRUCTION
FIBERGLASS INSULATION IDENTIFICATION
FIREPLACES & WOODSTOVES CONTAMINANTS
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOODS IN BUILDINGS-mold
FLOORING MATERIALS, Age, Types
FORMALDEHYDE GAS HAZARD REDUCTION
GAS DETECTION INSTRUMENTS
GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS, TOXIC
HOME HEATING SAFETY
HUMIDITY CONTROL & TARGETS INDOORS
HOUSE DUST ANALYSIS
HOUSE DUST COMPONENTS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY & HOUSE TIGHTNESS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
ASBESTOS INSULATION on PIPES
Insulation Air & Heat Leaks
INSULATION FACT SHEET- DOE
INSULATION IDENTIFICATION GUIDE
INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT
INSULATION MOLD RESISTANCE of FOAM
INSULATION, UFFI UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
LEED Building Designation & IAQ
MILDEW REMOVAL & PREVENTION
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD
MOLD APPEARANCE - WHAT MOLD LOOKS LIKE
MOLD APPEARANCE - STUFF THAT IS NOT MOLD
MOLD CLEANUP GUIDE- HOW TO GET RID OF MOLD
MOLD or INDOOR AIR EMERGENCY RESPONSE
MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE
MOLD GROWTH on SURFACES, TABLE OF
MOLD GROWTH in/on BUILDING INSULATION
MOLD TESTING METHOD VALIDITY
MOLD TESTING SERVICES
MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
MYCOPHOBIA, STAINS MISTAKEN for MOLD
MYCOTOXIN EFFECTS of MOLD EXPOSURE
Museum Artifact Preservation
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OIL TANKS INSPECT LEAK TEST ABANDON REGS
OZONE for MOLD OR ODORS
PARTICLE SIZES & IAQ
Particulates & Allergens Indoors
RADON HAZARD TESTS & MITIGATION
SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
SICK HOUSE IAQ QUESTIONNAIRE
SMELL PATCH TEST to Track Down Odors
SOUND CONTROL in BUILDINGS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
THERMAL TRACKING & HEAT LOSS
UFFI UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION
URETHANE FOAM Deterioration, Outgassing
VAPOR BARRIERS & AIR SEALING at BAND JOISTS
VAPOR BARRIERS & CONDENSATION in BUILDINGS
VAPOR BARRIERS & HOUSEWRAP
VAPOR CONDENSATION & BUILDING SHEATHING
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
VINYL Siding or PLASTIC Window ODORS
Volatile Organic Compounds VOCs
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WORLD TRADE CENTER 9-11 DUST PHOTOS
Fiberglass hazards in buildings: this article series provides information about how to identify fiberglass insulation in buildings and fiberglass hazards and fiberglass insulation contamination issues in residential and light-commercial buildings.
The fiberglass research literature is replete with studies indicating that there are no health hazards associated with airborne fiberglass particles, and with other studies reaching quite the opposite conclusion. We recommend that readers examine carefully the methodology used in such studies, the expertise of the researchers, and the sources financing of such work.
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Based on literature review as well as both field and laboratory experience, it is reasonable to claim that large particles of fiberglass are far more likely to be a respiratory or skin irritant than a carcinogen or other more serious health hazard.
However some of our field and lab inspections detect very small, even sub-micron sized particles which are traced to building insulation.
These much smaller particles may indeed be a health hazard, and may be entirely omitted or simply missed by some laboratories charged with reporting on the level of fiberglass in building air or dust.
This article explains the recognition of types of fiberglass insulation in buildings, other fiberglass particle sources, and some possible health concerns that involve these materials.
What does fiberglass building insulation look like & what are the colors of different brands of fiberglass insulation?
Fiberglass building insulation is commonly installed in batts or chopped forms and may be yellow, pink, green, or white in color as is shown in these four photographs.
While this material is not and should not be confused with asbestos nor with the well-studied health hazards associated with exposure to asbestos fibers or dust, our separate article on Airborne Fiberglass Building Insulation Hazards and HVAC duct work insulation hazards contains additional discussion about possible air quality and health concerns which may be associated with exposure to fiberglass dust.
Fiberglass duct insulation material appears in several forms in heating and air conditioning systems in both ducts and air handlers themselves.
The most common uses of fiberglass insulating material in HVAC systems includes the cases listed below.
The annotated duct system photographs shown in the article cited below will permit any careful observer to identify the most common types of fiberglass HVAC duct materials.
We provide these (C)-protected photographs of fiberglass insulated ducts and HVAC components to aid in recognition of these materials.
Our detailed article on how to recognize fiberglass duct insulation and its characteristics and hazards can be read in its entirety at Recognizing Fiberglass Duct Insulation.
Special challenges face consumers requesting lab services for identification of fiberglass fragments in air, dust, or material samples are easily identified in the forensic laboratory using light and polarized light microscopy and common slide preparation techniques.
Our photograph (left) shows a typical fiberglass insulation fiber with droplets of resin binder attached. It's easy to identify large fiberglass fibers in transmitted-light microscopy.
But identification of very small fiberglass fragments in a building dust or air sample can be difficult to detect unless the microscopist is trained and looking for that material, and special methods such as use of phase contrast may be needed.
Binder Resins in Fiberglass Insulation Help Trace Source
Observing the color of a fiberglass bonding resin can help trace particular fiberglass in a building air or dust sample back to its source.
Other fiberglass products, such as this Certainteed un bonded blowing wool (fiberglass) lack a characteristic resin. Interestingly in this client-provided sample of nearly-new blown-in fiberglass insulation we found very few small fiber fragments. Dust tested from that home was also low in fiberglass fragments.
The common errors which result in failing to detect small fiberglass particles in building air and dust are discussed in detail at Lab Identification of Fiberglass
In that article we also discuss techniques which permit the forensic microscopy lab to identify the source or reservoir of particular fiberglass fragments in a building, sorting out among many possible fiber sources to pinpoint the particular problem such as damaged building insulation, damaged HVAC duct work, or other particle sources.
We also discuss how to distinguish among types of insulating and other fibers, comparing various types of fiberglass insulation, mineral wool insulation, asbestos insulation, and other fibers.
Frequent presence of fiberglass fragments in air and some dust samples, suggests that an HVAC duct system or exposed fiberglass insulation in the building may be contributing unwanted and potentially unsafe levels of these fibers. This discussion can be read in its entirety at Fiberglass Detection in Building Air.
Moldy fiberglass insulation
We have also detected high levels of problematic mold in fiberglass building insulation where other mold reservoirs were either not present or had been previously removed.
This article can be read in its entirety at Mold in Fiberglass Insulation
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: Continued Itching after Fiberglass Demolition
I have a question regarding fiberglass insulation. I pest control worker, who is trying to rid us of rats in the attic, removed the fiberglass insulation from the attic space but dragged the insulation through the house. Now, we are constantly itching. Is is due to fiberglass particles in the air? What can we do? We've vacuumed a lot but it's not helping. Help! Thank you for your time, M & M.
Reply: clean up, wash, laundry clothing, check with your doctor, consider dust testing
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem such as incomplete cleaning, or some other problem source yet unnoticed, including a biological hazard associated with the rodents themselves.
That said, here are some things to consider about itching after messing with fiberglass insulation:
Dragging fiberglass refuse through a building causes dust contamination
Dragging fiberglass through a building is likely to have left a fair amount of broken fiberglass fragments on floors and through air transport, as settled dust on surfaces. If you haven't done so you may want to clean the rooms through which insulation was dragged using damp wiping and then HEPA vacuuming of all surfaces, especially floors, carpets and any nearby furniture, shelving, etc.
Continued skin irritation after handling fiberglass insulation
It can take two or in a few cases even three trips through the washing machine to remove enough fine insulation fragments from clothing that it would not any longer be irritating to your skin
In my experience, working with insulation, especially during demolition when lots of material is broken up and airborne, the skin itching can last for a day or two after the work has been completed. Taking a couple of showers, washing fully, may remove the dust, debris, and fiber fragments, or nearly all of them, from your person, but the skin may have become irritated, taking a bit longer to recover.
Check with your doctor if skin irritation continues past 1-3 days.
If itching continues after you've cleaned yourself, clothing, and any dust left in the building (use a HEPA vacuum when vacuuming up fine dust), then I suggest checking with your doctor or a dermatologist.
Consider dust sampling if you are not sure the building cleaning was adequate
If you have reason to suspect that there remains irritating dust and an irritating dust source in the building, I'd consider collecting one or two tape samples of settled dust from a horizontal surface in an area where you spend the most time and in an area where you think the dust is worst.
Have those samples analyzed to identify the dominant particles - as that may be diagnostic. Cost per sample for such analysis, using microscopy, should be in the $50. ballpark per sample. You shouldn't need many samples, perhaps two or at most two plus a control. A settled dust collection procedure for collecting a dust sample that should be just fine is found at MOLD TEST KITS for DIY MOLD TESTS. Please do not send us your sample. I want to avoid even the appearance of any conflict of interest.
Question: device for proving clothing is contaminated with fiberglass
I wish there was a device for seeing & proving clothing is contaminated with fibreglass. - 8/7/11
Because sampling and microscopic examination are needed, I don't foresee an economical, free, or cheap stand-alone "device" specifically to test clothing for fiberglass contamination.
Question: Is there any way that I can tell if the apartment is safe?
Just renting an apartment, but may want to raise kids in it. Is there any way that I can tell if the apartment is safe? - Jon 11/28/11
PS- See comment below - Is in what would be the attic, floorboards don't have any sealant between them so is why I'm a bit worried.
Question: a turbine vent on the roof has me worried that it's contaminating my sleeping area
Hi! I installed one of those rotating air vents which suck the air out of the roof cavity into the roof space some time ago. The composition of the roof is "wooden coverings > insulation layer (grey) > glass fiber (or so I think it is - a yellow wooly stuff like the one in your very first picture all the way on the left). The roof itself is thin - 20-30 cm or so, so we sleep in a room directly under that vent (i.e. the vent is about 30 cm higher than the top of the roof which we can touch from the inside).
I had to open up the grey insulation layer and remove some of the yellow wooly stuff when I installed the fan. Though I sealed the roof itself (corrugated iron), I did not seal much around the fiberglass, though I put it somewhat out of the way around the area in between the actual rotating roof vent and the roof vent (in the wood). So basically it is now like this: wood (with plastic roof vent) > open area of about 20-30cm height which contains the yellow wooly stuff and the opened up insulation later, both these starting about 5-10cm inwards > the actual roof vent/corrugated roof. IOW,
I assume it is quite possible for fibers to dislodge from the yellow stuff and to enter through the plastic vent. We have a newborn sleeping upstairs, so I am concerned now that I have been looking more into this all. Another thing is that the wood (which is basically the whole roof of our bedroom) also has tiny holes. I guess this is not much of a concern since the grey insulation layer is still on top of it (I think, I have to go back onto the roof and see if the grey insulation is actually on top of the wood - presumably so - or on top of the yellow stuff).
In any case, the vent concerns me now more than ever. What should I do? I have been thinking about getting some thin aluminum or so and making the roof vent tunnel complete (all the way to the wood - about 20-30cm) and sealing it up with silicon etc. Please advice, bit scared. - Anthony 12/20/11
Anthony I'm sorry but I don't quite understand exactly the question nor situation you describe. Normally a roof vent or turbine vent as you describe pulls air (and thus any dust within the air) out of a roof cavity or attic, it doesn't send it backwards into the occupied space. Maybe a sketch or photo would help us understand what you're seeing.
Question: I cough when the forced air heat/cooling system runs; my boss has developed a lung condition.
I work for thomas brothers office furnishings. the building was built in 1883, so its has many issues. What concerns me is the forced air system. when it cycles, i and others have coughing fits. Recently my boss who has shared the same air as me for for the last 10 years now has a lung condition. He will either die from it or he will have to have a lung transplant. so of course now I'm worried. he's always said it was just dust. I've ask to be moved to another area of the building, but he said i d have to do it on my own time, that's ok with me but he won t move the phone or internet. So i really couldn't work there.
I would like to have this checked out. in a way that wouldn't cost me my job. I think the insulation in the duct work is breaking down and blowing out small flakes that we are breathing. Also i ask to wear a dust mask. My boss really got mad and would not let me wear it. Also i ve told him of my concerns he just thinks i m causing trouble. Also he is selling the building he s had it for 25 years. i can send a sample of the stuff in the duct work. what can i or should i do - Mike 1/23/12
Some of your questions such as wearing a respirator and possible unsafe or unhealthy conditions in the workplace are topics that would better be addressed by an OSHA representative, a union rep, or an attorney with appropriate expertise. From the nature of your question it sounds to me as if you should pursue those sources of help.
Dust of a variety of compositions can be a respiratory irritant at sufficient levels and of course some dust may contain more harmful or dangerous particles. T
o accurately assess the health of the workplace would require inspection and testing by a qualified expert. But sometimes even an amateur dust sample, such as a tape sample of settled dust collected from a recently-cleaned surface in the work area can give credible evidence of a possible or even probable problem.
Such tests as a rough, inexpert screening procedure are nto something I recommend as a normal thing to do - lest we waste people's time and money, but if you have reason to be particularly worried about your environment that might be a low-key and low-cost place to start.
Question: what should I do about my clothes exposed to fiberglass in my A/C closet?
I live in an apartment. Recently I found exposed yellow fiberglass insulation in my A/C closet. For about 1 1/2 months I have been uncomfortable. Itching, burning skin and finding particals embedded in my skin an bleeding and sores on my skin. I've had to soak in epson salts and hydrogen peroxide to calm my skin. I'm concerned about this apt being a safe and healthy environment. Should I just move, or is there a remedy to make this environment livable? - Carolyn 9/22/12
Question: reader confusion about fiberglass exposure hazards, rock wool hazards, mineral wool hazards, coal dust & other hazards found in building attics
In 1964 I worked in a rock-wool insulation manufacturing plant, it was common knowledge amongst the workers then that the product was highly dangerous e.g lung cancer, stomach cancers and major chest disease, 50 years late all my fears have come true, proven in part by the fact a large majority of my old workmates are now dead long, and you can guess the cause.
FIBREGLASS has been laid in multi-millions of roofs, and you can state without any exaggeration that domestic lofts and attics are the next multi-billion dollar clean-up-zone, or cover it up clean up zone. The US Govet said it was carcinogenic, and how right they are. E.W., Leeds, England 14 September 2013, Insulation background including sales.
Thank you for sharing your view - I agree in part - that there can be fiberglass hazards in air, but not completely with your statement; it seems to me that there are many situations in which the fiberglass is undamaged and presents chiefly large particles that studies have shown are much less hazardous than asbestos.
What I have found in my own lab and field research is that there may be small particles even in the 1-micron range that at high levels in air may indeed be a health hazard; it appears to me that many researchers and labs simply don't use methods that will accurately detect much less report such particles - special measures are needed to find them; in other words, you don't see what you're not looking for.
I've published some notes on this matter at
FIBERGLASS DETECTION in BUILDING AIR & DUST - about finding small particles
and would welcome any further comment you might offer.
I have been in thousands of English lofts with tile roofs, these places were always dusty because about 50% of English homes still do not have a roofing felt under the tiles. Before 1955 the builders cemented the tile joints with a dab of cement to close them k.as 'sarking' , after 30 years this cement fell away from the tiles leaving the loft or attic space open to the weather especially the wind, blown snow and blown rain, and birds.
The worst hazard for fibreglass layers was caused by the lack of a house under-tile roofing felt which allowed smoke DUST k/as 'soot' to enter the loft from adjoining homes British coal fires, this was a black/grey soot / dust which 'smelled' and was laid everywhere in the roof space to an average depth of 1/2 inch, caused because during the UK house building period 1800 - 1955 no roofing felt was fitted.
From 1960 onwards just 1 inch of fibreglass insulation was laid between the joists, Rockwool was laid also but had less than 8% share of the market, Pilkington Brothers Fibreglass dominated the market, most English roofs have been insulated twice, because the Government brought out a free insulation scheme in 1966, called the top-up-scheme, by laying it again on top of the existing insulation, which was walked on, re-handled, moved and collapsed into glass fibre dust, if the roof had a roofing felt this soot and dust was contained inside the loft space, but if no roofing felt was fitted this dust was picked up by the wind inside the loft, and blown around the loft, and outside under the tile gaps - to drift everywhere, (we are talking about UK 20 million homes here)
In areas in England were they use a red tile called a 'Pantile', you can often see small birds flying under the tiles to get inside the loft or roof space without slowing down, and when you are inside the loft you can often look down onto the street below and watch whats happening there, whats strange is these property owners insist their roof is sound, and very few know the tiles contain quite sizable gaps, and the heat loss is substantial.
A QUESTION I have often asked myself is 'Does Roof Insulation work? I say it does not, that it's density is minimal, and if held up to the light you can see it cannot do much good. It's a myth. Heat rises through loft insulation and continues on it's way outside the home, and retaining it is an impossible job. If insulation retains heat then why doe sit always feel cold inside a loft space, and if you lift the insulation and place your hand on the ceiling below it feel no different to ant other wall or ceiling in the house, the ceiling is cold and not warm?
It sounds as if there were other air quality hazards in the spaces you described - coal dust, other dust, and where a roof leaked, perhaps mould contamination as well. Combining the long history you describe, dating back more than fifty years, and the age of the population involved, and the combination of particles to which you and co-workers were exposed, it would be a bit of a stretch to presume that the health hazards sufferd by some were due to fiberglass, particularly as
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