This week we will focus on fiberglass and indoor air quality issues with environmental engineer Jeff Bradley. Mr. Bradley is an environmental consultant with a MS degree in Environmental Engineering from Southern Methodist University. He is the owner of Indoor Doctor and provides indoor environmental quality consulting for clients in New England. This week we will focus on an IAQ issue that gets little attention when Mr. Bradley discusses IEQ and airborne fiberglass.
Click the link below to listen to the broadcast
In the summer of 1957, my family moved from a duplex owned by my grandfather to our own house. My father, skilled in carpentry, quickly set about remodeling our new home. One of the first orders of business was adding rolls of pink fiberglass insulation in the attic. As a skinny 7 year old the job of insulating the spaces that were too small and tight for my father to fit into such as where the ceiling joists and roof rafters came together fell to me. I vividly remember being grimy, sweaty and most of all itchy. An uncomfortable itchy that wasn’t entirely washed away by soap and a shower.
Today’s guest on IAQradio, Jeff Bradley an environmental engineer from Derry, NH became interested in stray fiberglass particles as a contaminate in indoor environments when airborne fiberglass particles were found in expanded spore trap sampling in buildings where occupants were concerned about mold were unexplained by treating physicians. Jeff made a very profound point, heightened awareness over fiberglass particles in indoor environments has waned due to a faulty assumption that once installed risk would become negligible.
Nuggets mined from the show:
· Fiberglass is polymer reinforced by fine fibers of glass
· Beneficial characteristics of fiberglass include: durability, strength (8 X stronger than PVC), non electric conducting, fire retardant and weatherproof. Fiberglass is used in a wide range of building products: insulation, furnace filters, windows, roofing, piping, sheetrock, etc.
· When respiratory and eye irritation among children from infancy-3 years old are unexplained by treating physicians, IEPs should consider fiberglass as a potential irritant. Airborne fiberglass particles cause eye, nose and throat irritation as well as skin cuts and abrasions.
· Fiberglass is most commonly encountered as insulation in attics.
· Fiberglass particles pass through into occupied space through unsealed recessed lighting and occupant activities such as exercise equipment. Rodent nesting activities and duct cleaning also dislodge fiberglass particles. In commercial spaces fiberglass passes through from above drop ceilings and from within fiberglass lined ductwork.
· Under microscopy particles look like consistently colorless clear jagged rods, size variable due to type of manufacturing process
· The term friable is linked legally to asbestos, so friable is not an appropriate term to be used in conjunction with fiberglass.
Advice for remediators:
· Fiberglass particles are hard to capture, Depending on the quantity of fiberglass particles dispersed, and their resistance to being captured, advises remediators to run AFDs for an additional 5-7 days after completion of the project.
· During demolition and/or removal don’t track insulation through living spaces, remove directly to outdoors whenever and wherever possible.
· Use double containment zones, with sticky mats, negative air, use cleaning techniques effective in mold, lead and asbestos remediation.
· Don’t make matters worse, incorporate appropriate containment into work scope. Homeowners should insist on proper containment and over sight.
Tip for homeowners:
· On foam insulation projects, when contractors claim that their product is safe, non-toxic, and non off-gassing, have them write these claims into the scope of work.
· Rock wool is another type of fiberglass.
· Modern fiberglass particles are approximately 100 microns in size, non-respirable, “if you can’t inhale it, it can’t cause the respiratory disease.