Old insulation doesn’t just make your home less comfortable and energy efficient; it also poses a shocking number of health concerns, particularly for anyone who has respiratory issues.
Since insulation is found everywhere in your home, it’s imperative that you replace older insulation with the help of a licensed professional. Here are the primary health concerns that can arise in those who have old insulation in their homes.
The older your attic insulation is, the more likely it’s been exposed to moisture damage or mold growth from condensation. You can easily mitigate a lot of mold issues with proper ventilation and moisture barriers. But even the most minor leaks can allow water to seep into your insulation and create the perfect environment for mold or mildew growth.
Any mold left to grow rampantly in insulation is free to travel through the house via ducts or cracks. Even if you can’t see the mold yourself, there are some telltale signs that you could be dealing with it in your home.
If you or anyone in your home experiences new or unseasonable allergy symptoms like itchy eyes, coughing, or sneezing, it’s worth investigating your attic’s insulation.
Most older insulations are made from fiberglass that looks like puffy sheets or batts. These batts account for nearly 90% of all insulation found in U.S. residential and commercial buildings.
Fiberglass is dangerous to handle, which is why you’ll see many professionals insulating attics while wearing protection like glasses, masks, and clothes that cover exposed skin.
The fiberglass won’t feel like much initially, but the particles are extremely sharp and can irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs. Continuous exposure to these fiberglass particles is associated with chronic health conditions, especially respiratory issues.
While fiberglass insulation is completely safe at first, it breaks down over time and can find its way into your ducts. That’s why it’s essential to replace any fiberglass insulation that’s old or damaged before it can cause serious health problems for you and your family.
Most insulation products host known toxins that, when kept within the insulation, pose virtually no threat to your health. It’s when insulation starts to deteriorate that you can begin experiencing health issues.
A good example is asbestos-based insulation. This type of insulation is now banned from use, but homes built prior to the 1980s could have insulation containing either asbestos or urea-formaldehyde.
It’s crucial that you have this insulation removed by a professional immediately — it is unsafe to take a project like this into your own hands. Even if this type of insulation isn’t necessarily “old” or run-down, it’s outdated and dangerous and should be quickly replaced with a safer alternative.
Identifying Dangerous Attic Insulation
Recognizing when you’re the owner of potentially toxic insulation is important. A professional should look at any signs of damage or old age to prevent anyone in the building from getting sick.
Check for signs of water damage on your insulation. You can start by investigating any wood on the floor or where the attic and the roof meet. Pests can also damage your insulation, as they’ll rummage or munch through every bit of your attic — not even your insulation is safe.
Discolored or damaged insulation is never safe and should be handled by a professional right away. If your insulation was installed before 1990, you should verify that it does not contain asbestos or urea-formaldehyde.
You can contact a professional for an inspection and do a quick web search to learn how to identify these unsafe types of insulation.