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Odor Of Fiberglass Insulation


The odor in fiberglass insulation is the formaldehyde binder that holds the glass fibers together. There is a lot of controversy around the amount of the stuff that is actually safe so what we're trying to do here is present the facts and you can draw your own conclusions. The big question is are we living in houses of poison that will have major long term effects on our health? It's a well known fact that formaldehyde causes cancer in laboratory rats and is believed to cause cancer in humans.


The majority of the information out there states that no viable studies have been done on humans to prove the theory but we'd need to be walking around with our eyes closed to say that formaldehyde is harmless. If you've smelled the odor of insulation for any length of time you'd know that it can cause a headache and eye, nose and throat irritation.

odor of insulationThe concentration at which the odor of insulation becomes noticeable to most people is about 50 ppb (50 parts per billion) a level that a certain environmental institute called Greenguard calls acceptable. Not all institutions agree. More below. The photo to the left shows how we as builders have our installers dress when using insulation with formaldehyde binder in it. Personally we don't want to breath or eat it and are phasing it out to the point where very soon we will refuse to install it. Again this is a personal preference not to be mistaken for science. We are bombarded with chemicals from every direction and if we can all take one or two of the culprits out of our lives we'll all be much more healthy.

The same goes when it comes to the health of our homes and what affect they have on our health. Again if there is an alternative why not use it. Which brings me back to what another institution believes are acceptable levels for formaldehyde.




The California Air Resources Board has classified formaldehyde (the odor of fiberglass insulation) as a toxic air contaminant based on it's potential to cause cancer and other bad health effects. Their guidelines state that at 40-500 ppb, there is eye and nose irritation, nasal stuffiness, lung discomfort (coughing, wheezing, bronchitis symptoms) and as far as cancer is concerned, there is no known level with zero risk which means a cancer risk.



no insulation odor
Yo Mark. I loved your article and information regarding smell and insulation and am looking into JM. However, the new Owen's Corning pink insulation is formaldehyde free and is still causing all manner of smell problems. Being a chronic migraineur, I'm worried that ANY insulation will present a problem. Is JM different than the "new" Owen's Corning? Suggestions?

Insulation with no odor and no formaldehyde is available.

Hi Kerry, Good to see that the pink stuff is now formaldehyde free, I'll need to change my page on this, actually I've just become aware of this in the past couple of weeks and have since used Owens Corning in my own project. I'm extremely non supportive of formaldehyde. All insulation has a binder that holds it together and anything that is manufactured will have an inherent odor. I guess we would need to open up a bundle of each side by side to compare the odor of the products? Once the insulation is in the wall and covered with vapor barrier and sealed properly the odor won't be a problem, at this point, I would say either one is fine being free of the poison stuff. Thanks, Mark





© Mark Saville 2014 Reprint prohibited.

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