Fiberglass window hazards are often associated with insulation dangers. In fact, some hazards with fiberglass windows do exist but not to the same extent as with the insulation. Additionally, when proper safety procedures are used, fiberglass windows can be safely used.
What is Fiberglass?
Fiberglass is a synthetic material made of various natural materials such as sand and recycled items such as glass from old windows and bottles. Fiberglass has been around for a very long time - about 80-plus years. Fiberglass is used widely as a home insulator, and recently, its windows have caught on because of their energy saving properties. The creation of fiberglass is unique and pretty interesting. All of the materials are melted together and then spun or sort of pulled apart to create tiny strands of what's called fiberglass that when settled together form a sort of glass wool.
Benefits of fiberglass include noise reduction and energy-saving properties because it insulates against heat loss in winter and heat penetration in summer. This saves consumers money - another great benefit.
Fiberglass Window Basics
Fiberglass window framing is increasing in popularity. Right now, it's still not heavy in the construction industry but as the demand for greener products increase likely so will manufactures of fiberglass windows. One major downside is primary cost. Fiberglass window framing can cost 20 percent to 30 percent more than typical framing materials. This is most likely because it's not as widely used though. Once more companies start to sell these windows they will lower in price. Something to consider though is that while expensive at first they will lower energy costs and last a very long time.
Benefits of fiberglass window framing are varied. They do insulate well and are extremely long lasting and durable, compared to other materials such as vinyl and aluminum. Fiberglass window framing is also easier to install than some other materials because it won't warp during installation. They won't rot or corrode, rarely crack which makes them nearly maintenance-free plus they can be painted easily. As long as care is taken to avoid fiberglass window hazards they can be a valuable building and homeowner asset.
The Dangers of Fiberglass Windows
The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has in the past noted that fiberglass is one of 18 "Priority Safety and Health Hazards." The problem with fiberglass is that the fibers (often during manufacturing or installation) can be inhaled. However, after research was completed in the past it was found that only fibers of a specific length can get into the upper respiratory tract. Fibers need to be less than one-eighth of an inch and most fiberglass now is manufactured to be longer than that.
OSHA reports that, "There is insufficient evidence that synthetic mineral fibers cause respiratory disease in humans." That does not however mean that precaution should not be taken. Problems may occur in manufacturing and research can change.
Additionally, while OSHA reports that respiratory disease due to fiberglass is unproven, they also note that fiberglass dust can cause:
- Moderate irritation to the eyes, ears and throat
- Breathing difficulty
- Sore throat
- Hoarseness and cough
Technically OSHA on one materials safety sheet names fiberglass as an irritation material more so than a clear health hazard yet their placing it on the 18 "Priority Safety and Health Hazards" is an interesting and seemingly contradictory act. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention names fiberglass dust as a danger especially when used for the long term. California law says that fiberglass materials must be listed as a possible cancer agent yet other studies say no true cancer cases due only to fiberglass have ever been proven.
If it seems confusing that's because it is. One thing to consider is that it's the fiberglass dust that is charged with health hazards. Fiberglass window hazards are likely few and far between when installed correctly. Once installed they are safe because dust won't simply leak from the windows you'd have to take a sledgehammer to the framing. The best thing when dealing with any construction material dust that arises from materials - especially synthetic materials is to take precautions.
Although the research on fiberglass window hazards varies you don't want to take any unsafe chances. Better safe than sorry is always a good rule of thumb in the building industry.
Avoiding Fiberglass Window Hazards
There are far too many precautions you can take against fiberglass dust to discuss here. The good news is that as far as hazardous material scenarios go fiberglass is good in that there are ways to almost completely protect your health. The main point is to always protect the areas of your body that may take in dust such as your eyes, nose, ears, skin, and mouth. You can easily find the proper protective clothing online.