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Worksite Health

Fiberglass and Being Pregnant

11/30/2009

Question:

I work in a fiberglass plant and I was wondering if I become pregnant is it bad to breathe in the fiberglass while pregnant?

Answer:

First of all, I would say that I don’t think there are any particular, known risks to a pregnant woman from fiberglass (also called synthetic vitreous fibers) insulation. I found the following on at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene:

Direct contact with fiberglass or with airborne dust containing fiberglass may irritate the skin, eyes, nose, and throat.

High levels of exposure to airborne fiberglass may aggravate asthma or bronchitis.

Long-term health effects associated with fiberglass are not completely known. However, studies of people routinely working with fiberglass have not shown increased risk of long-term health conditions, such as respiratory disease, cancer, or allergic sensitization.

I also found this site from the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry

The authors of this document found:

1) no human or animal studies showing an increase in mortality after breathing these fibers;

2) numerous animal studies showing minimal to moderate lung fibrosis (stiffening of the tissue) and inflammation;

3) temporary symptoms of irritation from short-term exposure and no serious health effects from long-term exposure in humans;

4) no evidence of cancer risk in human studies; and

5) there were no studies on reproductive or developmental effects.

The risks appear to be minimal. My recommendation, however, is that you continue working as long as you are comfortable doing so, but I would take every measure possible to minimize or eliminate your exposure while pregnant.

Since there are no studies relevant to pregnancy, it is best if you err on the side of caution. Can you be temporarily reassigned to different duties? Or, can you separate yourself from fibers and dust produced in the work process? Or, can you at least wear respiratory protection? You could go to a store specializing in occupational safety equipment, explain your circumstances, and be fit with the appropriate respirator.

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Response by:

J Mac Crawford, PhD, RN J Mac Crawford, PhD, RN
Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
College of Public Health
The Ohio State University