Concerns are growing over the potential hazards of a building material commonly used throughout Europe. Mineral wool is a type of thermal insulation made from rocks and minerals. After asbestos was banned, mineral wool has been widely used. It has even been promoted as having a role to play in constructing sustainable buildings and improving energy efficiency. However, a new report published in Brussels by EU Today, appears to cast fresh doubt on the use of mineral wool, or Man-Made Vitreous Fibre (MMVF) as it is also known, for such purposes.
The report outlines how since asbestos was banned in most countries in the 1990s MMVF has “effectively emerged as the replacement material”. The report was presented by its author Gary Cartwright at a news briefing at Brussels Press Club. It states: “Asbestos might be the insulation of the past but attention is turning to the materials that are being used today, which cause similar levels of concern.” The report went on to explain that for some: “MMVF is the new asbestos and we should be just as fearful of its health implications.”
The EU Today report says that after initially being classified in the past by the WHO and International Agency on the Research on Cancer as carcinogenic and hazardous to humans, mineral wool was declassified as a carcinogenic in 2002. However, the report claims mineral wool may “pose similar risks to asbestos”, alleging that past tests on mineral wool gave “misleading results” because a component was missing from the test samples and “the product was not tested as it is actually sold and used.”
The report states that: “The worry is not only about carcinogenicity. Mineral wool is known to cause skin and lung abnormalities.” One problem, it adds, is that “little is known about the possible health risks”, including among those in the construction industry and also the general public.
The report quotes a leading pulmonologist, as reportedly saying that “the effects of the fibres of glass wool and stone wool can be compared to those of asbestos.” The expert is quoted in the report as saying, “The point is that these substances are harmful. But people do not realise it sufficiently. And that is something we have to worry about.”
Although the MMVF industry strongly insists that the product is perfectly safe to use, the report says that “mounting medical evidence points to the health risks associated from handling MMVF.”
Speaking at the briefing, the report’s author Gary Cartwright said, “The EU still classifies this as a potential hazard. The danger is that fibres can be released into the atmosphere that can be very harmful.”
The report he compiled makes three recommendations, including re-testing of mineral wool and improved legislation to provide improved protection for workers exposed to the substance. It also calls for “more prominent labelling” on the product.
Mr Cartwright suggests the relevant authorities again look at any potential health and safety issues and his concerns were addressed in a filmed interview.