The Effects of Fiberglass Insulation on the Brain

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Fiberglass insulation impacts the brain and causes both short- and long-term effects.
Fiberglass insulation impacts the brain and causes both short- and long-term effects. (Image: blue brain image by John Sfondilias from Fotolia.com)

Fiberglass insulation is an energy-efficient and cost-effective product that lowers energy bills by maintaining an optimal temperature within homes and offices. Fiberglass has a high thermal performance, fire and moisture resistance, prevents the seepage of air and provides a lifetime of service. The use of the material, however, has met with controversy and extensive research has established its known health hazards, particularly on the central nervous system (CNS) and brain. The health effects of fiberglass insulation are due to the various binders used in its production, including formaldehyde, styrene and methyl ethyl ketone (MEK).

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Neurotoxic Effects

According to David M. Whiteacre in the book “Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, Volume 203,” exposure to formaldehyde in residential fiberglass insulation can cause irreversible neurotoxicity and neurodegenerative disorders. Nick H. Proctor et.al., in the book “Proctor and Hughes' Chemical Hazards of the Workplace,” list methyl ethyl ketone as a neurotoxic and exposure to MEK in fiberglass insulation as a cause for dizziness, nausea, headaches, depression and unconsciousness. According to Teresa Holler in the book “Holler for Your Health,” styrene is toxic to the nervous system and exposure to styrene in fiberglass insulation causes behavioral changes, concentration problems, depression, tiredness, headaches, memory problems and weakness.

Brain Cancer

Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and exposure to fiberglass insulation formaldehyde causes brain cancer. According to John D. Spengler et.al., in the “Indoor Air Quality Handbook,” residents of mobile homes who are exposed to fiberglass insulation are at increased risk of brain cancer. According to Andre E. Baert in the book “Biomedical and Health Research,” long-term exposure to styrene in fiberglass insulation causes brain tumors and cancer.

Central Nervous System Damage

The solvents used in fiberglass insulation affect the central nervous system the same way alcohol does. According to Russell Kick in the book “You are Being Lied To,” chronic ingestion of formaldehyde in fiberglass insulation at low doses causes nervous system changes and damage. These CNS effects appear in the form of malaise, headaches, dizziness, anorexia and insomnia. According to the California Department of Public Health, frequent exposure to fiberglass insulation causes permanent changes in the central nervous system, the symptoms of which include personality changes, poor coordination, fatigue and poor concentration.

References

  • National Toxicology Program: Report on Carcinogens
  • “You are Being Lied to”; Russell Kick; 2009 (Pg 386)
  • “Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology”; David M. Whitacre; 2009 (Pg 108)
  • “Indoor Air Quality Handbook”; John Spengler, Jonathan Samet and John McCarthy; 2001 (Pg. 32)
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