Is Mineral Wool the New Asbestos?
Since asbestos was exposed as a known carcinogen, the search has been on for other substances to replace asbestos for many uses:
Elevator Brake Shoes
HVAC Duct Insulation
Asphalt Floor Tile
Vinyl Floor Tile Ductwork
Flexible Fabric Connections
Vinyl Sheet Flooring
Heating and Electrical Ducts
Electrical Panel Partitions
Electric Wiring Insulation
Ceiling Tiles and Lay-in Panels
Thermal Paper Products
High Temperature Gaskets
Laboratory Hoods/Table Tops
Vinyl Wall Coverings
Elevator Equipment Panels
I was going to make this a shorter list, but since it is only a sample list from the EPA, it had better all stay there.
What are we using to replace asbestos in those products and materials?
In a continuing series, today we are looking at another substance which is being used in many applications that previously used asbestos: Mineral Wool.
What is Mineral Wool?
According to Wikipedia, "Mineral wool, mineral fibers, or man-made mineral fibers are fibers made from natural or synthetic minerals. The term "man-made mineral fibers" is generally used to refer solely to synthetic materials including fiberglass, ceramic fibers and stone wool."
The first Mineral Wool was called Slag Wool and it was made in 1840, but the production process soon had to be discontinued because the fibers "floated about the works with the slightest breeze" and caused illness in the people who worked with it. Sounds like they were more proactive with slag wool than anyone has ever been with asbestos.
Stone Wool is made from molten rock blown by steam or air into a fibrous form. It can also be spun in a process similar to that for making cotton candy. But don't eat it!
You can read about Fiberglass on our blog: Is Fiberglass the New Asbestos?
It has taken literally hundreds of years for us to understand that it is important to stop using and working with asbestos, but have we really learned our lesson? We are producing other fibers similar to asbestos from both natural and man-made substances, but they may very well come with the same dangers.
Ceramic fibers are "reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens."
Glass wool fibers are also classified by the National Toxicology Program as "[r]easonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." Workers in fiberglass factories suffer from more lung cancer than other workers. Fiberglass may even be more carcinogenic than asbestos and the danger is exacerbated by the fact that fiberglass is literally everywhere. There are measurable levels of fiberglass particles in the air we all breathe. --Is Fiberglass the New Asbestos? on the Alliance Blog
Stone Wool is currently listed as "not classifiable as to carcinogenicity in humans" but we are hoping that the necessary studies will be done.
Insulation is important and asbestos is everywhere because its properties are so valuable. But we need to be careful replacing asbestos and remember the millions of people who have been made sick and died of asbestos-related diseases already and those still to come when we replace it with other materials.
If you find exposed asbestos in your home or other construction or renovation project or want to replace asbestos-containing materials with something safer, do not do the work yourself! Working with asbestos is not safe! Call a professional asbestos removal company like Alliance Environmental Group to remove it, contain it and dispose of it properly. Don't take any chances! Even one exposure to airborne asbestos can be dangerous!
Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for Alliance Environmental Group and AirTek Indoor Air Solutions. We welcome your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! For updates on indoor air challenges, Like us at AirTek on Facebook!