Do insulation products of man-made vitreous fibres still cause skin discomfort?

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Abstract

Background.

Man-made vitreous fibres (MMVFs) are used in products for insulation and as reinforcement in materials. Contamination of the skin may arise through direct or indirect contact, and from the deposition of airborne fibres. The scientific basis regarding the effects on skin of MMVFs dates from 1970–1980.

Objectives.

To investigate whether currently used insulation MMVF products still cause skin discomfort.

Methods.

Focus group interviews and structured interviews were performed among workers engaged in insulation tasks and among do-it-yourself consumers with a recent experience of MMVF products.

Results.

A majority of interviewees experienced skin discomfort when handling MMVF products. Complaints caused by traditional (yellow) glass fibre products were more severe than those caused by products of rock or slag wool fibres. The wrists, forearms, neck and face were the locations where the skin was most affected. The situations causing problems varied between occupational tasks, but working with the hands over the head or in narrow spaces were described as the worst situations. Building construction apprentices performed insulation tasks more often than senior workers.

Conclusions.

MMVF insulation products do still cause skin discomfort. Updated knowledge about people's experiences of work with such products should influence legislation.

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