The Hidden Dangers Of Fibre-Based Insulation

The Hidden Dangers Of Fibre-Based Insulation

Mineral Wool is what’s known as a Man Made Vitreous Fibre (MMVF) and includes Glass Wool, Rock Wool and Stone Wool. When a customer calls us to survey their loft/roof for insulation, 9 times out of 10, there will be a layer of Fibre-Based Insulation (MMVF) on the loft floor. It’s use has become incredibly widespread throughout the UK and has become the defacto insulation choice.

So if this stuff is any good, why are homeowners calling us to say they are cold in their homes or their heating bills are too high? Quite simply, the cheap, fibre-insulation isn’t up to the job of protecting our homes for the long-term and it will indeed require life long maintenance in the form of replacement and renewal. 

Government Incentives such as Green Deal alongside the Energy Company Obligation to provide free or subsidised insulation has led us all to believe we need some form of fibre-based insulation straddling the floor of our loft.  Now lets focus on the words “free” and “subsidised” – generally speaking, something that’s free will be of low quality, not designed to last and certainly not designed to perform. Maybe that’s a little ungrateful, surely somethings better than nothing, right?

We’re not into scaring people but we’ve long since wondered whether all of this fibre-based insulation is truly healthy for us. Having surveyed thousands of loft spaces to identify how ThermoFoam Insulation could help, we’ve seen the health risks of fibre-based insulation and we are afraid to say, they aren’t pretty:

  • Dust – None of us like dust, especially when it builds up to thick layers. When dust is disturbed, it gets right into the back of our throats, making us cough and wheeze. We don’t recommend you try this but the next time your in your loft, take a look at your fibre-based insulation and see just how dusty it is. You live immediately below that!
  • Pest, Rodents & Droppings – If you were a spider or a mouse, where would you sleep for the winter? Bearing in mind these creatures don’t really like humans, it’s no wonder that they descend on our loft spaces to snuggle up for the winter in the thick layer of fibre-based insulation on your loft floor! The trouble is that rodents like to go to the toilet. Wear a a mask and gloves the next time your in your loft – no-one wants to touch rodent droppings!
  • Damp & Moisture – You’ve insulated the floor of your loft but you’ve still got a cold roof. If any part of the roof condensates or leaks, your fibre-based insulation will happily soak it up, potentially rotting ceiling joists and allowing damp patches to stain your ceilings. Insulation at floor level does very little to stop the cold air enter your property during the winter and if there’s any area of your loft floor that’s not insulated, that cold air will do its best to sink into your living space.

Perhaps most disturbingly of all is the research on MMVF’s (Man-Made Vitreous Fibres) carried out by scientists across the globe. We’ve recently been reading up on the findings of Dr Marjolein Drent, Professor of Interstitial Lung Diseases.

“The effects of the fibres of glass wool and stone wool can be compared to those of asbestos. In the past we did not know asbestos was very dangerous. The results of the effects of fibres in glass wool and mineral wool are only being seen right now, so we must deal with it carefully.”

Evidence suggests that Dr. Drent’s concerns are fully justified. MMVF has become the de facto replacement for Asbestos, which, whilst it is difficult to accurately say how many deaths can be attributed to the use of the product, it is estimated that in the region of 100,000 die from exposure annually globally.

The Hidden Dangers Of Fibre-Based Insulation
A typical home loft…

Whilst the use of Asbestos is banned in building construction in the EU, and has been since 1999, it now appears that its replacement may be potentially just as deadly. Originally classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency on the Research on Cancer (IARC) as carcinogenic and hazardous to humans.

The MMVF industry then altered the composition of their product, which then underwent further tests. In 2002 was declassified as a carcinogen (although the EU still classifies certain MMVF as a cancer risk). Indeed, Asbestos is a silicate, and MMVF are silicate-based.

However it has now emerged that the product as tested was different from that which is commercially available, in that an important ‘binder’ had been removed.There are mounting calls for the European Chemicals Agency (ECA), based in Helsinki, to carry out retesting on the product as sold. The MMVF industry is resisting this, unsurprisingly, by questioning the integrity of the evidence, or even by simply denying that it exists at all.

Thermal insulation material, rock wool.

In the meantime, the need for compulsory use of appropriate safety equipment, such as face masks, by construction workers is being mooted as a short term safety fix. There are also safer alternative technologies quietly being developed as the industry realises that the writing may be on the wall for MMVF. 

From the initial identification of Asbestos as a cause of respiratory problems following an autopsy carried out in a London hospital in 1900 to the banning of its use in buildings took 99 years. Will it take as long for the health risks associated with MMVF to be acknowledged and addressed? 

Maybe further tests will conclude that MMVF’s are perfectly safe and that we shouldn’t worry but based on the accumulation of dust and the attraction of such materials to pests and rodents, could it be the right time to consider a better option?

ThermoFoam Insulation offers a viable alternative to MMVF’s with better thermal performance per inch, better air tightness, no place for pests and rodents to breed and certainly no concerns over dust accumulation.

Book a free loft survey today!

** Some Information and research has been taken from ThermoFoam shall not be held liable for any facts and figures as disclosed in this article nor that from any external source **