Insulation is one of the most important aspects of home construction as it hugely impacts the energy efficiency of your home. Heat naturally flows from warm spaces to cool spaces through a process called convection. Your home can suffer from this transfer of heat, especially during extreme cold or hot weather conditions. In winter, warm air from the inside of your home will escape to the outside, making you feel cold indoors. And in summer, hot air will move from the outside and fill the inside of your home, making it hot, humid, and uncomfortable.
There are several types of insulating materials for attics, including loose-fill cellulose, mineral fiberglass/wool batts, and Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF). These insulations help to regulate the temperature in your home, but you need to be careful when handling these materials as they can have undesirable health effects. This guide highlights some of these health effects and tips on how to safely handle insulation materials.
Health Effects of Insulation
Exposure to some insulation products can affect your health if the materials are mishandled, misused, or if the wrong product is applied in certain environments. Common health effects include itchy, watery, or irritating sensation of the eyes, throat, or nose. You could also suffer itchy skin or skin rashes.
Occasionally, some homeowners have reported breathing difficulties, especially if they have pre-existing asthmatic conditions or other breathing disorders. On rare occasions, some people have reported nausea, confusion/difficulty concentrating, and headache. Moreover, you can experience an unpleasant odor that doesn’t seem to go away.
When glass fiber insulation gets wet, it temporarily loses its thermal resistance, which negatively affects your home’s energy efficiency. However, if it dries up quickly before it becomes compacted, it can regain its insulating properties.
Wet insulation in your attic will usually not dry out as quickly as you’d expect. The wetness will gradually migrate to the bottom, soaking the attic board and other framing materials. So, wetness that is left to sit for a few days will not only affect the insulation properties of your home but could also trigger the growth of mold and cause wood decay.
Let your roofing contractor use a moisture meter to detect wetness in the insulation and find means to dry it out before it causes further damage. The roofer should also investigate the cause of wetness and mitigate it appropriately.
Common Effects of Touching Insulation
Other than breathing the chemical composition in insulation materials, having skin contact with these materials can cause some health effects. When you cut dried form or handle loose, fluffy fiberglass or cellulose insulation, there is a substantial amount of dust generated. Fiberglass can also shed tiny glass pieces that are itchy on your skin.
Whenever an insulation contractor has completed work on your insulation, they should thoroughly clean the area using a vacuum with a HEPA filter to suck up the dust. This should be done before you get back into the home to avoid harmful health effects. Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) insulation is reported to be fairly safe, but it is still associated with work-related asthma.
Causes of Itchiness from Insulation
Coming into contact with fiberglass insulation material can cause itchiness on your skin. The tiny fibers of glass from the insulation wool can irritate your eyes and your skin. Too much contact with fiberglass can result in irritant contact dermatitis or skin inflammation. You should always avoid touching insulation materials unless you’re fully protected with a head covering, facemask, protective goggles, hand gloves, and an overall (long-sleeved).
Other Health Hazards of Insulation
Fiberglass is associated with eye, nose, skin, and respiratory tract irritation. SPF is common in new constructions or retrofitting projects and can pose some health risks as well. SPF contains Isocyanates that have been reported to cause work-related asthma (WRA). It is also known to cause some chemical hazards and fires.
Safety Precautions to Take When Handling Insulation
Fiberglass insulation is safe to install and use as long as you observe the recommended safety measures. The major hazard with most insulation materials is the irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and upper respiratory tract. You can mitigate these hazards by wearing personal protective equipment and carefully handling the insulation to keep the amount of fiberglass dust down.
When working with fiberglass insulation, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, socks, gloves, and a hat. Other protective gear to use include:
- safety goggles to protect your eyes
- dust mask to protect your respiratory tract
To minimize exposure to fiberglass dust, never attempt to remove fiberglass materials from the packaging until it is ready to be installed. Again, use recommended hand tools to cut or shape the insulation. If you must use power tools, they must be equipped with effective dust collection devices. Keep your work area clean and free of waste insulation materials and ensure proper ventilation throughout the installation.
Measures to Take When You Come into Contact with Insulation
If by any chance fiberglass dust gets on your skin, get rid of them by using an adhesive tape. The fibers should stick to the adhesive tape as you pull it off. If fiberglass gets in your eye, don’t rub it. Instead, flush it out with clean water or an eye-wash solution. Take a cold shower (to close your pores, preventing the fiberglass from going deeper into your skin). Follow the cold shower with a hot shower to helo any remaining fiberglass leave your skin – and also for a relaxing effect on your skin.
Apply a quality coconut oil or lotion to your body and face, especially where you feel itchy. The oil will help soothe your skin and prevent itchiness. Wear clean clothing and take the clothing you used when handling the insulation outdoors. Clean them thoroughly with soap without mixing with other clothing and dry them in a line or dryer.
Work with Superior Attic Insulation Service
If you need to install new insulation or replace worn-out or inefficient attic insulation, consider Wyoming Roofing in North East Wyoming. We are the only Owens Corning Platinum installation contractor who guarantees professional-grade products with expert installation. Contact us today to learn more about our attic insulation service.