Irritancy or “Itching”
Some people experience temporary discomfort (or itching) when handling Mineral Wool. This itching is a mechanical reaction to the coarse fibres and generally abates shortly after exposure has ceased. Irritation of the upper respiratory tract or the eyes, similar to that caused by many other forms of dust or foreign bodies, may also be experienced by some. These mechanical irritant effects are totally different to the “chemical” irritants usually assessed as “dangerous substances” according to the EU Directive 1272/2008.
The European Commission’s Dangerous Substances Directive provides classification criteria for irritancy, which initially resulted in a precautionary classification “Irritating to the skin” (R38), being applied to all Mineral Wool. Recently the scientific experts of the European Commission agreed that the transient mechanical itching effect sometimes observed in the handling and use of Mineral Wool products was not a chemical irritancy effect as required by the R38 classification.
All Mineral Wool producers do provide full and suitable guidance on product packaging, and help to users to prevent or minimise any possible itching effect. People, who experience discomfort, or those with existing skin problems, should wear gloves or other suitable protection. Loose fitting clothing should be worn, avoiding constrictions at wrist and neck. If working with products above shoulder height, eye protection should be worn.
The results of intensive studies into human exposure, both in manufacturing and in the user industry, show no link between exposure to Mineral Wool fibre and an increased risk of respiratory disease (e.g. bronchitis). There is no medical evidence that Mineral Wools cause asthma. Although Mineral Wool does not cause respiratory disease, it is generally accepted that any form of dust can exacerbate an existing condition.
Any fibres that are inhaled do not constitute a health risk, since these are readily removed or dissolved by the body’ (bio-soluble). It has nonetheless been noted by a number of organisations that it is always prudent to minimise exposure to any form of dust in the workplace. Industry has, for many years, provided adequate guidance, supported and approved legislators, which gives common sense advice to limit exposure to general nuisance dust.
As previously mentioned, our product is not classified as hazardous although the mechanical effect of fibres in contact with skin may cause temporary itching. We therefore provide guidance on how to handle our product such as pictograms on product packaging. Below is an explanation of the pictograms, which are part of the installation advice, and their meaning.
|Minimise direct contact with skin in order to prevent mechanical itching. In dusty environments use suitable respiratory protection.||After contact with the product, rinse skin in cold water to reduce potential effects of mechanical itching.|
|In dusty environments use vacuum equipment where possible to minimise dust levels.||Where possible, use natural ventilation during installation in order to minimise dust levels.|
|Dispose of surplus product in accordance with local regulations.||Use glasses or goggles when working with mineral wool insulation above shoulder height or in dusty environments.|