Rockwool is an insulation created by spinning together natural and artificial metal oxides and minerals. It is commonly used across the home building industry as an asbestos alternative though data suggests that the compound may be just as harmful. Workers handling the compound are at risk of developing acute symptoms as well as developing harmful long term health conditions.
Irritation and Redness
According to the website for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, skin exposure to rockwool can cause acute irritation of the skin, eyes and the upper respiratory tract which causes difficulty breathing and can lead to infection. Sharp fibers also can pierce the skin increasing the risk of infection. To prevent skin damage and inhalation it is recommended that those handling rockwool wear protective gloves, respirators and goggles.
Rockwool that is inhaled and retained in the respiratory tract can pose a significant health risk. Scarring of internal tissues and the development of cancerous tumors have been associated with long-term exposure to rock wool and other synthetic fibers. Risk of developing chronic diseases of the lungs such as pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma also have shown to increase with long-term rockwool exposure according to the Center for Disease Control.
Industies That Use Rockwool
Rockwool is a key ingredient in home insulation fibers for its heat conductive and sound absorption properties. Workers in the insulation and drywall installation industry are at increased risk for prolonged exposure to rockwool and must take appropriate precautions to avoid its debilitating effects. Even if workers do not develop cancer they may still develop nonmalignant respiratory disease which can diminish lung capacity and make performing simple strenuous tasks difficult.