Health considerations

An extensive discussion of the health effects of mineral wool insu­lation was presented in Chap. 7. In review, injection/implantation studies have determined the carcinogenic hazard of this fibrous material. Although not generally accepted for human health haz­ard assessment, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified both rock and slag wool as a “2B, possibly car­cinogenic to humans.”

Mineral wool is a form of insulation that in the past has been shown to contain lead particles. The lead health hazard during installation came from lead particulate released into the air. Exposure levels were found to be higher than acceptable standards, especially with blown-in applications.14

Rock and slag wool fibers are a catalyst for skin irritation. This irritation is a mechanical reaction of the skin to the ends of rock and slag wool fibers that have rubbed against or become embed­ded in the skin’s outer layer. Workers in contact with mineral wool during manufacturing processes or installation are suscepti­ble to this temporary nuisance. It can be relieved by gently rins­ing the exposed skin with warm water and then washing with mild soap.

Eye irritation occurs when rock wool fibers or slag wool are deposited in the eye by the user’s fingers or through airborne min­eral wool fibers. If this occurs, the eyes should not be rubbed but rinsed thoroughly with warm water. A doctor should be consulted if the irritation persists.

If sufficient amounts of rock and slag wool are released into the air during manufacture or handling, some workers may experience temporary upper respiratory tract irritation. Such exposures to high concentrations of airborne rock and slag wool fibers may result in temporary coughing or wheezing, a mechanical reaction. These effects will subside after the worker is removed from expo­sure. The use of approved respiratory protection can effectively control upper respiratory tract irritation by limiting exposure to airborne fibers.