In basements all around the country, there is a problem with fiberglass insulation becoming overbaked. What this means is that there were inconsistencies with the process of thermal curing insulation batts. If the insulation is cured for too long, it results in a persistent odor emanating from the batts. Overbaked insulation will give off a very strong odor that smells like something akin to burnt sugar. While not all insulation does this, it is a common enough problem that fiberglass manufacturer Owens Corning has decided to do something about it.
The issue lies in a formaldehyde-based binder used in the production of pink fiberglass insulation becoming replaced with a less toxic alternative. Although the insulation performance stayed the same, there began to be a strange sweet-smelling odor emanating from it.
It almost has a caramel odor profile to it, similar to sugar that has burned. Some investigative work discovered that the ingredient causing the odor is a common substance used in processed foods and beverages called maltodextrin. While relatively non-toxic, some people have experienced adverse symptoms because of the lingering smell.
The sweet odor associated with overbaked insulation is different than formaldehyde sometimes found in insulation. Some newer fiberglass insulation batts have a stronger “burned sugar” smell than others. Sometimes, the smell will linger for quite a while. This has led to an increasing amount of consumer complaints.
The first reaction of most people is to remove and replace the insulation. However, this is a dangerous process that could cause more harm than good. Only experienced professionals, who understand full containment procedures should remove and replace fiberglass insulation. Inhaling fiberglass particles causes severe respiratory damage. In fact, it’s hard to distinguish between asbestos and fiberglass particles under a microscope.
Owens Corning has decided to cover the costs of replacing the insulation for anyone who has an issue with a lingering odor coming from it. Contact IndoorDoctor if you suspect overbaked insulation to rule in our out harmful chemicals like formaldehyde. Ventilating the attic with a mechanical fan like EZ Breathe can help with increased fresh air exchanges.
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