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H0014

Health & Safety

Mineral Wool is the most common type of thermal insulation worldwide and has been widely used over the past 60 years. Mineral Wool insulation products are designed and produced to ensure healthy, safe and environmentally-friendly places to live and work. Mineral Wool insulation products are safe to manufacture, install and use when recommended work practices are followed.

Our products provide much more than thermal insulation. They are a key component in the safety and quality of buildings, factories, offshore facilities and even ships.

  • Mineral Wool insulation helps to keep our homes and offices warm or cool, depending on the season of the year, making them not only more comfortable but also healthier places to live and work;
  • Industrial facilities often include extremely hot or cold piping or equipment. Mineral Wool insulation is used to shield the work force from these extreme temperatures;
  • Whether at home, at work or in schools, Mineral Wool insulation keeps the noise out and acts as a passive fire protection barrier in the event of a fire;
  • When insulating with Mineral Wool insulation, out-door air quality is substantially improved, and the indoor environment becomes warmer with less draught and risk of mould growth.

At the same time, as producers of manufactured products, the health and safety of those working, installing and living with our products is our first priority. Workers, installers and users of Mineral Wool insulation can be confident about the safety of our products. Reviews of up to thousand independent scientific studies have concluded that these products are safe when recommended work practices are followed.

Studies covering over 40,000 manufacturing workers over a period of fifty years in plants throughout Europe and the United States underline that there is no increase in work-related illnesses due to regular contact with our products. This result is confirmed by laboratory studies.

As a responsible industry, we are committed to ensuring that our products live up to all existing regulatory requirements and the highest possible product health, safety and stewardship standards while engaging in continuous progress through our research and development program.

What do the regulators say?

The European Union does not classify bio-soluble mineral wool fibres. The European Regulation2 (EC) No 1272/2008 on the classification, labelling and packaging (CLP regulation) of substances and mixtures, that is directly applicable to manufacturers in the EU who produce, import, use or distribute chemical substances and mixtures, exonerates bio-soluble Mineral Wool insulation fibres (Note Q under Annex VI of CLP Regulation) from classification under this strict regulation.

Additionally, Mineral wool fibres, as well as the binder substances used in some products, are subject to the world’s toughest chemicals regime, the EU’s REACH regulation. Mineral Wool manufacturers in the European Union have registered mineral wool fibres under REACH1 with the following definition: "Man-made vitreous (silicate) fibres with random orientation with alkaline oxide and alkali earth oxide (Na2O+K2O+CaO+MgO+BaO) content greater than 18% by weight and fulfilling one of the nota Q conditions".

To comply with this regulation, all companies must identify and manage all possible risks linked to the substances they manufacture and market in the EU. This includes demonstrating to ECHA, the European Chemicals Agency, how these substances can be safely used and how risk management measures are communicated to users.

The World Health Organizations’ International Agency for the Research on Cancer (IARC) considers Mineral Wool insulation fibres as not classifiable for cancer in humans. In 2001, based on a fundamental review of existing science, an international expert-panel at IARC concluded that Mineral Wool is ‘not classifiable as human carcinogen’ (category 3). This is the same classification as tea.

In the United States, both the US government and the State of California do not consider bio-soluble mineral wool fibres as a possible carcinogen.

In addition to the European regulatory requirements (CLP and REACH) and despite the conclusions by the WHO (IARC), European mineral wool insulation producers have voluntarily established and developed the European Certification Board for Mineral Wool Products (EUCEB) to ensure robust quality control and communication towards the users of our products.

EUCEB is a means of certifying that the insulation is manufactured to meet European requirements and regulations related to product health and safety (Note Q of Regulation (EC) No. 1272/2008 on classification, labeling and packaging of substances). EUCEB certification promotes quality manufacturing and fibre-composition according to a precisely defined system of monitoring and controls. Only those manufacturers who meet the EUCEB requirements are allowed to use the EUCEB trademark on their packaging. EUCEB-Certification is managed by the independent Belgian Construction Certification Association (BCCA).

How to recognise the EUCEB quality mark

EUCEB Logo

More information and the list of EUCEB-certified production sites is available at BCCA.

Does mineral wool have other health effects?

There is no evidence that exposure to mineral wool insulation causes chronic adverse effects.

Peer-reviewed literature by the WHO and independent research conclude that there is no indication of a significant excess of respiratory symptoms or of a significant decrease in lung function reported for mineral wool workers.

Users do experience itching during the normal use of the mineral wool insulation products. The effect is due to the physical contact with mineral wool rather than a chemical reaction. This is a temporary effect, well-known by our industry, and disappears shortly after contact and can easily be prevented by following the recommendations that appear on the packaging of our products. On this basis the European Union does not classify Mineral Wool as irritant.

Safe to Use Tips

Eurima members pro-actively put clear installation recommendations on all product-packaging through pictograms to ensure that the installation is safe, clean, and conforms to local regulations, the use of which is monitored by Eurima on a yearly basis.

Safe Use Instruction Sheets similar to Safety data sheets are available from each producer.

Information that can be seen on the packaging of mineral wool products in the European Union is the following statement “The mechanical effect of fibres in contact with skin may cause temporary itching” (or equivalent wording fulfilling the same meaning) plus either the set of pictograms below (or equivalent pictograms fulfilling the same meaning) or a statement of precaution as follows:

When installing insulation in unventilated spaces, a suitable disposable face mask should be used. When handling product, cover exposed skin. Wear goggles when working with product overhead. Dispose of waste in accordance with local regulations. Clean area using vacuum equipment. If itching occurs, it may be lessened by rinsing in cold water before washing. (or equivalent wording fulfilling the same meaning)

  • Cover exposed skinCover exposed skin.
    When working in unventilated areas, wear a disposable face mask.
  • Rinse hands in cold water before washing Rinse hands in cold water before washing.
  • Clean the area using vacuum equipment Clean the area using vacuum equipment.
  • Ventilate the working area if possible Ventilate the working area if possible.
  • Dispose of waste according to local regulations Dispose of waste according to local regulations.
  • Wear goggles when working with products overheadWear goggles when working with products overhead.
 

Why are there sometimes questions on Mineral Wool insulation and Health

Concerns over the effects of all fibres particles and dust, including mineral wool fibres, were naturally heightened due to the discovery of the effects of asbestos on human health. At the same time this discovery allowed the scientific community to understand the causes of this problem and to offer solutions that will avoid similar phenomenon in the future and are anchored in the regulatory framework.

Mineral wool fibres are very different from asbestos fibres: not only in the dimension of the fibres, but also in their chemical composition, mineral structure and their bio-persistence.

  • Mineral wool fibres are man-made and their chemical composition and shape are closely controlled.
  • Mineral wool fibres do not split into thinner fibres, like asbestos, but break to give shorter fibres easier to be removed from the lung by its natural defense system if inhaled.
  • Mineral wool fibres are much more bio-soluble and so are eliminated quickly from the lung if inhaled.

What criteria are used to assess whether mineral wool is potentially hazardous?

For all particles, fibres and dust the, so called, 3D paradigm: Dose, Dimension, Durability is used to explain the key determinants of fiber toxicology.

In short, people must first be exposed to possibly inhale fibres; for this to be possible the fibres must be respirable which depends on both the diameter and the length of the fibres. If and when, in spite of the natural clearance mechanisms of the body, it is deposited in the lung it must remain in the pulmonary region for a longer period of time to cause adverse effects. This means that fibres that are not cleared naturally by the body’s clearance mechanism must have a certain level of bio-solubility to disappear before any adverse effect will occur. As mineral wool insulation fibres are man-made all these parameters are taken into account in the production process thus avoiding any adverse effects.

What are the levels of exposure of workers to mineral wool?

An occupational exposure limit value of 1 fiber/ml exists in many EU member states. This value is an indicative one only. Measurements results show that exposure to mineral wool fibres is actually 5-10 times lower than this limit. It has been demonstrated also that keeping the total dust (not otherwise specified) exposure level below 10 mg/m3 allows having an exposure level to mineral wool fibres below 1 fiber/ml.

Individual measurements taken on operators

Types of applicationNumber of measurementsAverage (f/ml)Median (f/ml)Probability of exceeding the ELV (1 f/ml)
Walls - Mineral wool on steel framework 9 0.10 0.07 0.07%
Walls - Lining complex 7 0.23 0.19 2.01%
Roofs - Tamping mineral wool 8 0.09 0.05 0.12%
Rampant - Mineral wool 4 0.008 0.006 0%
Gunning - Mineral wool (feeding operator) 6 0.07 0.06 0%
Gunning - Mineral wool (slinger) 10 0.07 0.06 0%
Ceilings 4 0.06 0.06 0%

Despite the wealth of scientific research on our products, we are committed to continuing to invest in research on our products’ potential effects on health and the environment.

Researchers with an interest in conducting studies on mineral wool are invited to contact Eurima.

Indoor Air

Comprehensive studies done on full scale chambers have demonstrated that mineral wool insulation products do not contribute to the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) or formaldehyde indoor air pollution.

Tunga Salthammer, Sibel Mentese and Rainer Marutzky, Chem. Rev., 2010, 110 (4), pp 2536–2572 Visit link

Outdoor Air

It is well-known that building insulation can bring energy savings; greenhouse gases emission reductions; higher energy security; higher employment and competitiveness. It is however not as well-known that building insulation also triggers significant public health benefits and thus reduces related societal costs.

How? Because building insulation reduces the use of energy used in domestic heating and cooling and as a consequent the related in and outdoor air pollution. A recent Eurima sponsored research across EU25 shows that there are significant societal savings, both in term of health and life expectancy as well as related financial savings which can be above 6 billion € per year.

To do so an improved insulation scenario with an annual retrofit rate of 2% was compared with a business-as-usual one from the period 2005 to 2020.

A first study focussed on the effect on air pollution. View link on sciencedirect.com

A second study translated this impact into avoided health problems and related societal costs: View link on lodel.irevues.inist.fr

Key benefits of mineral wool products

Fire Safety

Because of mineral wool’s non combustibility, there is no contribution to the fire load of buildings. As a result, mineral wool products in a building allows for improved fire safety. Mineral wool products contain no flame retardant chemicals.

Noise reduction

Mineral wool products can provide a very high level of noise adsorption, a property which is utilized efficiently in mineral wool acoustic ceilings.

Mineral wool insulation in walls, roofs and under floors prevents noise from outside - or from adjacent rooms - penetrating the building.

Mineral wool products can ensure a good acoustical indoor environment.

Durability

Durability is defined as the ability of a product to maintain the performance of a certain property for a certain time.

For mineral wool products the durability aspect is assessed in accordance with the mineral wool product standards EN 13162 (products for building insulation) and EN 14303 (products for building equipment and industrial installations).

In general mineral wool products, used in applications in accordance with these product standards, can be assessed to have durability as long as the lifetime of the building components or installations in which they are built.

Moisture

Mineral wool products are both water repellent and moisture resistant. Moisture and nutrient are necessary conditions for mould growth. Since more than 95% of the mass of mineral wool products are inorganic, there is little nutrient source to allow fungi/mould growth. Thanks to this, mineral wool products contain no biocides.

Other Statements

Eurima Statement on Recent Media Coverage Relating to the Safety of Mineral Wool Insulation

1 Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European parliament and of the Council concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals

2 Note Q of Regulation (EC) n° 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures updated by Regulation (EC) n°790/2009