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Asthma

Asthma and fiberglass dust?

02/22/2010

Question:

I recently helped a friend with some fiberglass insulation in his home, which included a large amount of cutting of fiberglass sheets. I am told this releases a huge quantity of microscopic fiberglass dust into the air. After this I neglected to shower or change my clothes and got into my vehicle and went home. I have vacummed and wiped down the car thoroughly twice, but now my wife is convinced that the car and also our home are now contaminated with fiberglass dust. She has chronic asthma, and is convinced (by some information she has gotten on the internet), that if she inhales even one microscopic piece of this dust that it is going to lodge in her lungs, form a cyst, and further compromise her ability to breathe. I desperately need some accurate information on this issue. Is this true, or would her body remove the dust? And would there be enough of the dust in the house in the first place to be a danger?

Answer:

Fiberglass particles are quite small and can cause skin and respiratory problems after exposure.  However, it is unclear to what extent the home has been contaminated by you not bathing or changing your clothes.  This seems to be an unlikely cause for your wife's asthma to exacerbate.  We do see situations where fiberglass while being blown into the attic gets into the home or the exhaust fan in the attic blows fiberglass dust into the home which can cause respiratory issues but this doesn't seem to be the case.  I recommend you vacuum frequently and get a HEPA filter for the bedroom and main activity room if you don't have one already and make sure your wife continues to take her medications and follow-up with her doctor.  As long as her asthma remains controlled, the likelihood of this being an issue is low.  In the future, to avoid these type of issues, wash your clothes immediately and bath after working with fiberglass and don't bring chemicals, odorants or other noxious stimuli into the home as these are likely to be other non-specific triggers for your wife's asthma.  Good luck.

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Response by:

Jonathan   Bernstein, MD Jonathan Bernstein, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati