Fiberglass

What is fiberglass?

  • Fiberglass is a man-made material found in many consumer and industrial products. It is commonly used in insulation and furnace filters in homes and workplaces. It is also used as insulation in appliances, automobiles and airplanes, and in roofing materials.
  • Fiberglass is a type of synthetic vitreous fiber (SVF). SVFs vary widely in use and potential health effects. This fact sheet is limited to fiberglass and glass/mineral wools (other types of SVFs) because they have similar uses and potential health effects.

How are people exposed to fiberglass?

  • When fiberglass is handled, cut, or otherwise disturbed, people can be exposed by skin and eye contact, or by breathing in fibers that have become airborne.
  • Once installed in buildings, exposure to fiberglass in indoor environments is very unlikely, unless the material is disturbed during renovations or other activities.

Who is most likely to be exposed to fiberglass?

  • Workers in the following industries:
    • Building construction and maintenance (especially those who work with insulation)
    • Fiberglass manufacturing
    • Automobile body repair
  • "Do-it-yourselfers" who install fiberglass or disturb existing fiberglass insulation.

Building occupants and residents may also be exposed if fiberglass is dispersed into occupied areas during building renovations or other disturbances.

What are the health effects of fiberglass?

  • Direct contact with fiberglass or with airborne dust containing fiberglass may irritate the skin, eyes, nose, and throat.
  • High levels of exposure to airborne fiberglass may aggravate asthma or bronchitis.
  • Long-term health effects associated with fiberglass are not completely known. However, studies of people routinely working with fiberglass have not shown increased risk of long-term health conditions, such as respiratory disease, cancer, or allergic sensitization.

How can workers reduce their exposure to fiberglass?

When working directly with fiberglass:

  • Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing and gloves. This will reduce skin contact and irritation.
    • Exposed skin should be thoroughly washed with soap and water to remove fibers.
    • Clothing worn while working with fiberglass should be removed and washed separately from other clothing.
  • Wear a 'N95' NIOSH-approved particulate respirator to protect the nose, throat, and lungs.
  • Wear goggles or safety glasses with side shields to protect the eyes.

How can building occupants or others reduce their exposure to fiberglass?

  • Avoid directly touching or disturbing insulation or other materials that may contain fiberglass.
  • To clean fiberglass dust and debris from surfaces, use wet mops and cloths, or a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter. Do not dry sweep or perform other activities that may stir up dust.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact with fiberglass and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Are there medical tests to evaluate exposure to fiberglass?

There are no specific medical tests to show whether you have been exposed to fiberglass.

How can I get more information?

Call 311 for more information on fiberglass and other environmental health topics.