Health & Safety

The health and safety of building materials are a priority for commercial building owners and occupants—including insulation. In terms of insulation safety and health properties, not all types of insulation are equal.

Note that the health and safety factors listed below are for informational purposes only. Please contact the insulation manufacturer for definitive information.

Duct Cleanliness

The best way to make sure an HVAC system can provide efficient, quiet air delivery and occupant comfort is by following a regular maintenance schedule and implementing a high-efficiency filtration system. Improperly maintained HVAC systems can lead to an accumulation of dirt, dust and moisture which can restrict air flow and jeopardize indoor air quality.

Mineral fiber (fiberglass, rock wool, and slag wool) air duct insulations are designed to withstand the rigours of proper cleaning—with surfaces that are resistant to damage. Learn more about cleaning fibrous glass or lined sheet metal ducts, including recommended contact vacuuming, power brushing, remediation, building code-compliant sealant, and the avoidance of any damaging sanitizers and biocides.

Mould

For years, fibrous glass materials have been incorrectly cited for contributing to mould growth. The fact is, mould can grow in any environment where there’s moisture and food for mould spores, so many organic materials can be food for mould. Mineral fiber insulation is inorganic, and therefore doesn’t feed mould growth. Furthermore, testing in accordance with UL1 and ASTM2 standards confirm that fiberglass insulation does not support mould growth.

Even though some products claim to be mould-resistant, mould can grow on ANY surface under moist conditions if organic material exists to support the spores. In order to prevent microbial growth, moisture must be controlled.

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Health Impacts

Not all insulation materials have undergone the same level of testing and scrutiny when it comes to health and safety.

Mineral fiber insulation

The International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) has stated that mineral fiber thermal and acoustic insulation are not considered classifiable as to carcinogenicity.

Cellulose insulation

Questions about the health and safety aspects of cellulose insulation persist in the building industry, because very little medical or scientific testing of the products has been conducted. There’s still a need for full toxicological testing of dust from cellulose building insulation and dust from pure cellulose fibers. Safety conclusions can’t really be drawn until extensive testing is completed.

Spray foam

The safety of spray foam insulation is still being evaluated. If you’re worried about the impact of chemicals on your home and family, you’ll want to learn more about the chemical components of spray foam. According to the California Department of Toxic Substance Control, one of the main ingredients in spray foam, methylene diphenyl diisocyanate, could post a number of health risks, including lung damage and asthma.

Different spray foam manufacturers publish different guidelines for length of evacuation times during installation and curing. Note that there are no established evacuation timelines from any government agency.

Corrosion

Risk of corrosion to pipes, wires, and fasteners is a factor to consider at all phases of building or retrofit, and insulation is no exception. Your insulation choices can affect the possibility of corrosion, including:

  • Fiberglass, rock wool, and slag wool insulation are not corrosive and contains no chemicals that can corrode pipes and wires
  • Cellulose insulation contains certain chemicals routinely applied as a fire retardant to some cellulose insulation. These chemicals, particularly the sulfates, can cause the corrosion of pipes, wires, and fasteners under some conditions[1]

[1] K. Sheppard, R. Weil, and A. Desjarlais, “Corrosiveness of Residential Thermal Insulation Materials Under Simulated Service Conditions,” Insulation Materials, Testing and Applications, D.L. McElroy and J.F. Kimpflen, Eds. (ASTM: Philadelphia, PA, 1990), pp. 634-654; “Corrosiveness Testing of Thermal Insulation Materials – A Simulated Field Exposure Study Using a Test Wall, Report ORNL/Sug. 78-7556/4, September 1988