Fiberglass Dust Information
A number of industries generate fiberglass particulates. Exposure to fiberglass dust in the work environment can occur in a number of ways. Therefore, it is beneficial to be aware of the dangers of working with fiberglass and how exposure can happen. In this article we will examine some important things to know about fiberglass and why dust collection is important.
Where Fiberglass is Found
Fiberglass is used in many types of fabrication and other industries. In fact, we have a post discussing dust collection and industrial environments. For example, fiberglass is used in autobody repair shops. But that is not the only place you will find this respirable dust. Here is a list of industries or occupations that can cause fiberglass dust:
- Nautical Industry – watercraft body repair and fabrication jobs.
- Aerospace Industry – aircraft repair and body work.
- Demolition Industry – building demolition generates a variety of dust. One type is fiberglass dust from the insulation.
- Autobody Industry – automotive body repair work.
- Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning – ductwork cleaning and installation.
- Construction – insulation and other surfaces used in construction contain fiberglass.
Is Working With Fiberglass Dangerous?
Depending on how you define “danger” and which kind of work the discussion is about, you may conclude that working with fiberglass is a hazard. The effects of this material can range from itching and discomfort to to lung damage. OSHA has abundant information about Synthetic Mineral Fibers including fibrous glass. The goal then is to minimize exposure through various means.
Exposure to Fiberglass Dust
Exposure to fiberglass can occur in a number of ways. Fiberglass dust on the skin, in the eyes and even lung exposure are some of the common ways that people are affected by fiberglass dust.
Anyone that has worked with insulation for any length of time and has not had gloves on knows just how uncomfortable getting fiberglass on the skin can be. The itching and perhaps even burning of the skin ragnes from uncofortable to downright irritating. Redness, swelling, and pain are not pleasurable sensations for the skin; especially the sensitive areas.
Fiberglass dust can easily get into your eyes and wreak havoc in that moist environment. It is one thing to have itchy skin from fiberglass, but it is altogether different to have fiberglass in your eyes. Itchy eyes are very difficult to resist rubbing. And rubbing your eyes when they have fiberglass dust in them, can result in damage. The best opition is to not get the dust in your eyes in the first place.
Breathing Fiberglass Particles
Perhaps the type of exposure that is most concerning is lung exposure through inhalation of fiberglass dust. There has been much debate throughout the years over whether fiberglass dust causes cancer. However, the bodily reactions we have already described give an indication that your lungs are not going to be welcoming this intruder into your body. Even if the effects of fiberglass dust are not cancerous, it stands to reason that most workers would not want to breath in a substance that the skin and eyes find irritating.
Keeping the Workplace Safe
OSHA’s purpose is stated on their about OSHA page. The mission of OSHA is:
With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.
OSHA Guidelines for Fiberglass Dust Exposure
There are guidelines for limiting workplace exposure to fiberglass that have been in existence since 1999. OSHA and others established a voluntary workpalce exposure limit for breathable fiberglass. Additional infomration can be found via the link referenced above in this same article.
In the end, each kind of breathable particulate brings with it a measure of risk. For the most part though, materials are not usually composed of just one type of substance. Often times working with fiberglass means working with other materials as well. And sanding virtually any material will generate a dust that is breathable. A good rule of thumb, then, is to simply use a dust collection solution when dust is generated. If your shop or workspace does this, you will be more likely to reduce any health risks that could come from exposure to dust from fiberglass materials.
Fiberglass Dust Collectors