Lung Complications, Itchy Throat, Nose Bleeds, Skin Rashes – The Real Hazards of Fiberglass
As children, we crawled into the attic and were filled with delight at the sight of fluffy pink clouds. However, our parents warned us never to touch the mesmerizing material. Home insulation is often the first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word “fiberglass,” but there are many other uses for the material – one being enclosures.
The Scoop on Fiberglass
Fiberglass, a.k.a. glass reinforced plastic, is a tough, lightweight material. There are two types of finished fiberglass material – continuous woven glass filament and glass wool. Glass wool comes in the form of house installation, and continuous woven glass filament is what we are more familiar with when it comes to enclosures, tent poles, roofing, hot tubs and many other products.
Plastic is fused with fiber-reinforced polymers in order to make fiberglass. These fibers are made of various man-made materials, but glass comprises the majority of the fibrous strands. This popular material is found all over and is easy to produce. However, working with fiberglass comes at a price.
Warning: Please Wear Protective Gear
Technically, fiberglass is not classified as a potential cause of cancer, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does make it a point to regulate its exposure in the workplace. According to OSHA, the legal airborne exposure cannot exceed 5 mg/m3, and on average, workers are exposed to a total of 15mg/m3 during an 8-hour shift.
No Clean Air
Lung complications are the most detrimental hazard of working with fiberglass. Inhaling the splintering glass fibers can reduce your lung’s functionality and cause inflammation. For workers with asthma, bronchitis or any other lung-related disease, it is especially difficult for them to work with fiberglass in the glass wool form.
Fortunately during the enclosure modification process, workers are not at a great risk of developing these lung conditions. Because continuous woven glass filament is too thick to breathe in, skin and eye irritation are the only hazards workers run into when working with continuous woven glass filament.
Eyes, Skin and Nose Irritation
Interacting with fiberglass can cause skin rashes, itchy skin and irritation. Some may have a more severe reaction and break out into hives. Also, interaction with fiberglass can cause puffy, red and irritated eyes. This can greatly impact productivity and result in alarming pain. Lastly, continued exposure to glass dust or fiberglass can cause nosebleeds. Because of the glass fiber’s harsh characteristics, the fibers will build up and inflame your nose.
Alternatives to Fiberglass
When it comes to enclosures, stainless steel is often the default material. However, Integra Enclosures® has traveled down the unbeaten path and decided that polycarbonate is the best alternative to both fiberglass and stainless steel.
One of the main disadvantages of working with fiberglass enclosures is the risk manufacturers take when they are making modifications. When drilled holes are needed on an enclosure, pieces of fiberglass splinter off and create glass dust. As we’ve discussed, this dust can irritate your skin, eyes and nose.
Fortunately, a facemask is not needed during polycarbonate enclosure modifications. Instead, you are left with smooth and refined edges to work with and less irritating by-products. Given this, we question why anyone would want to work with a material that requires any safety warnings for your protection. There’s really no need when polycarbonate is easier to work with, and better for your health.
Contact an Integra associate to discuss all the advantages of working with polycarbonate, and how making the switch from fiberglass to polycarbonate can improve your health.