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The Home Depot

The Dangers of Insulation

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Insulation > The Dangers of Insulation
The Dangers of Insulation

Insulating is an important part of the home construction process and it also plays a role in energy costs incurred. A home that is appropriately insulated will see average utility bills because the air conditioning and heating systems will work efficiently in the right conditions. A lot depends on the type of insulation used in your house. About 90 percent of insulated homes in the United States have fiberglass insulation. This type of insulation is made from different materials like sand and recycled glass. Foam, cellulose, vermiculite, and perlite are the other less common types of insulation used. Each one of these has its own sets of drawbacks and dangers.


Government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and city health departments have issued warnings to residents about the presence of asbestos and other harmful agents in home insulation. Vermiculite insulation which is predominantly found in concrete walls is known to contain asbestos and is seen in older houses.


Being aware of what dangers insulation can pose to you and your family will stand you in good stead should the need arise. At times, it is difficult to understand why certain ailments have sprung up suddenly among your family members. Knowing the possibilities is one way of being prepared to tackle the problems.

  1. 1.Fiberglass Insulation

    Insulation installers need to take sufficient precautions to safeguard themselves from exposure to harmful substances.

    Fiberglass is the most commonly used insulation in homes mainly because it is lightweight and installation is simple. However, any contact with this cotton candy-like material can cause intense itching bouts. This is mainly because the fibers cause small incisions on human skin on contact. If these fibers are inhaled, then it can irritate the respiratory system since cuts may be formed on the throat and sinuses as well. Since the lungs are extremely vulnerable, it can immediately lead to serious breathing issues. Fiberglass is not 100 percent fire safe and if it is set on fire, it will smolder and emit toxic gases which can be hazardous to your health. Studies have also indicated that extensive exposure to fiberglass may lead to lung cancer in some instances.

  2. 2.Foam Insulation

    Foam insulations include urethane, polystyrene, isocyanurate, and urea-formaldehyde. Most people hesitate to use foam insulation in residences because it has been linked to numerous health problems. These are caused by the formaldehyde gas that is emitted when the insulation is not installed properly. Some foam insulation contains chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gas that can leak out gradually. Among the health problems caused by foam insulation are blurry vision, respiratory tract irritation, and skin problems. Too much smoke from burned foam insulation can even lead to blindness in some instances.

  3. 3.Cellulose Insulation

    This is made from recycled newspapers which are treated with different chemicals to make it fire and rodent resistant. But the ink from the newspapers will still remain in the insulation and this is what leads to health hazards. It is easy to inhale the ink and this can lead to dizziness and nausea among other effects.

  4. 4.Vermiculite and Perlite

    Vermiculite is primarily found in the concrete walls and is lightweight, fire resistant, odorless, and absorbent. Its appearance might be pebble-like and is usually light brown or gold in color. It may contain asbestos and if you are uncertain of whether your home has vermiculite insulation, you should consult a professional who can take a look at it and tell you. Inhaling asbestos fibers may not immediately bring about an ailment, but it has significant long-term impact. Perlite, meanwhile, is a silicate volcanic rock. It is very dusty and may have been treated with silicone. Inhaling this dust can be harmful and some people also have reactions to silicone.


    Insulation that is installed in the right manner and sealed will not raise concerns of fibers, dust and particles getting into the air. Insulation installers need to take sufficient precautions to safeguard themselves from exposure to harmful substances. The use of dust masks, gloves, and protective clothing can help minimize any possible exposure. Cork is a very eco-friendly and non-toxic insulation option since it is made from the bark of a tree. However, its main drawback is its high cost and so most people cannot afford it as an insulation material.

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