Product stewardship and science: Safe manufacture and use of fiber glass

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Abstract

This paper describes a proactive product stewardship program for glass fibers. That effort included epidemiological studies of workers, establishment of stringent workplace exposure limits, liaison with customers on safe use of products and, most importantly, a research program to evaluate the safety of existing glass fiber products and guide development of new even safer products. Chronic inhalation exposure bioassays were conducted with rodents and hamsters. Amosite and crocidolite asbestos produced respiratory tract cancers as did exposure to “biopersistent” synthetic vitreous fibers. “less biopersistent” glass fibers did not cause respiratory tract cancers. Corollary studies demonstrated the role of slow fiber dissolution rates and biopersistence in cancer induction. These results guided development of safer glass fiber products and have been used in Europe to regulate fibers and by IARC and NTP in classifying fibers. IARC concluded special purpose fibers and refractory ceramic fibers are “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and insulation glass wool, continuous glass filament, rock wool and slag wool are “not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to human.” The NTP’s 12th report on carcinogens lists “Certain Glass Wool Fibers (Inhalable)” as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” “Certain” in the descriptor refers to “biopersistent” glass fibers and excludes “less biopersistent” glass fibers.

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