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Possible allergic reaction after fiberglass replacement?

I just wanted to ask a quick question to see if anyone thinks or has had experience with a client getting respiratory problems after fiberglass batt removal and replacement? We had a rodent infestation in our crawlspace and had the old infested fiberglass removed (after trapping and killing all rodents) and new fiberglass batts installed. The new batts are the formaldehyde free Eco Batts by Knauf. They were installed on the ceiling of the crawlspace, under the floor of our living space. The installers were never in the living space of the home. The crawl space access is outside, however we do have lots of air leakage through the floorboards as identified on an energy audit. The occupants were not home during the removal/install process.

Since the fiberglass was replaced, 2 of the occupants have had respiratory symptoms (runny nose, cough, throat irritation and soreness with the main symptoms being a 'tickle" in the back of the throat which causes a cough reaction), the other occupant just reports the "throat tickle". It's been over a week since the work was done. I am concerned this is a reaction to either chemicals in the fiberglass that I was unaware of beforehand when researching the product (I thought the Eco Batt was a good "green" option), or fiberglass fibers that made their way into the home. However I am aware it could be just coincidence and could be caused by other issues such as perhaps a virus or allergy to an unrelated substance.

The main reason I am asking this is (see my other thread) we need to address the air leakage from the crawlspace through the floor anyway, and are deciding what to do about that. (Replace current insulation with spray foam or caulk gaps and re-hang the fiberglass or possibly replace it with cotton batts) Having information linking either the new insulation to the symptoms we are having or not will help us ultimately figure out how to proceed.

Asked by morgan martin
Posted May 15, 2011 12:25 PM ET

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10 Answers

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1.

Morgan,
1. First of all, it's a bummer that you installed fiberglass batts in a crawl space. That's a bad choice. For photos of what fiberglass batts look like after a few years in a crawl space, see Building an Unvented Crawl Space.

2. Secondly, I will once again point out that when it comes to allergies or other medical problems, the patients should seek advice from their doctors, not from builders or architects. Good luck.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted May 16, 2011 10:09 AM ET
Edited May 16, 2011 10:17 AM ET.

2.

Hi Martin,
I did ask my Dr. first...She thought it could be a formaldehyde reaction. However when I told her it was a formaldehyde free product (which I picked purposely due to my chemical sensitivity) she just didn't know. She wondered if maybe some fibers got into the house during install and we breathed them. When I told her the access to the crawl was outside, she wasn't sure if they could migrate through the floorboards. She was the one who told me to ask a builder!

The reason we have the fiberglass in there currently was due to the rodent infestation and damage, we had to get the crawl professionally cleaned out by a crawl space cleaning company. They usually replace the insulation with the same thing that was there (ie: fiberglass in our case). At the time I was focused on getting a product that would not make me sick due to the chemical sensitivity I have, so I thought I was doing the right thing to choose the Eco Batt product.

However, later, after getting my house the energy audit, I realized that fiberglass does not do anything for air transfer from the crawl to living space. So that was why I posted my questions on the other post. I am now working with a green builder to find a solution to fix the air transfer problem, as well as not trigger my chemical sensitivity,

In the meantime until we come up with a better solution, we are stuck in our current situation with the new fiberglass under there and I was just wondering if anyone on here has an idea why it might be irritating to us.

Answered by morgan martin
Posted May 16, 2011 1:07 PM ET

3.

For what it's worth, I frequently get those exact symptoms after inspecting homes with almost any type of insulation. I therefore attribute it to dust and my own foolishness for not wearing a mask all the time.

Jeremy

Answered by Jeremy Marin
Posted May 16, 2011 8:29 PM ET

4.

There are a lot of nasty germs in mouse dropping that become air borne when distrubed. That along with other things like mold, pollen etc. Hopefully things get better quickly but if not see the doctor again.

Answered by Robert Hronek
Posted May 16, 2011 9:05 PM ET

5.

I've been thinking a lot about your replies and I wonder if it is an allergic reaction to the old fiberglass and whatever it contained. I think it was probably from the original owners who built the home...So that would make it 18 years old. Yuck. It doesn't seem to be getting worse so I am reassured it's not some crazy rat borne illness. But I guess from what you all wrote it's either from fibers, mold, dust, or pollen? I hope it goes away soon. It's been about 1 and a half weeks.

Answered by morgan martin
Posted May 17, 2011 10:03 PM ET

6.

Hi Morgan - What did was the end-result on this issue? Did the symptoms go away and did you keep the Eco-batt? What was the solution?

Answered by K. L
Posted Jun 29, 2012 2:13 AM ET

7.

Same problem here with Eco Insulation by another company. Had to have it pulled out. It has been weeks and the redness/severe itching over the outside of the throat and trach area still there, as well as rash on the arms and hands. Thinking fibers are being drawn through the air conditioning vent work. I suspect if you are allergic to trees, plants, and other products from nature, in addition to your chemical sensitivities, there is a possibility that eco products may not be for you or me. Too bad companies don't divulge their products' specific components for people like us. One thing's for sure if there's an insulation with soy or trees, I'm sunk. Martin, you could be less of a jerk.

Answered by Margaret Rinicker
Posted Jul 6, 2014 12:36 AM ET

8.

Martin stated his response well and direct. Martin is a tolerant polite moderator here and is far nicer than a guy like me. Myself I will never build for a chemically sensitive person. I'm all for building green, no particle board cabinets etc... But there just is no way to guarantee what I build would be right for someone's sensitivity needs.

It's a very very specialized field.

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Jul 6, 2014 10:06 AM ET

9.

Mr. Martin,
We are sorry we just came across these questions. At Knauf Insulation, we take indoor air quality very seriously. We are very proud of the fact that we were the first product (ever) GREENGUARD certified back in 2002. We know the new EcoBatt product is very interior friendly from and indoor air quality standpoint. Because EcoBatt carries the GREENGUARD/UL Environment Gold designation and is also formaldehyde free; we are very confident in this assessment. Since we have not had problems of this nature with the with EcoBatt before, we truly suspect the problem was related to distribution of microbial growth or other contamination due to air exhange with the "disturbed"crawl space. "Regarding what is in EcoBatt" ? The complete formulation of EcoBatt is disclosed at the Declare (for the Living Building Challenge) website.

With regard to animals nesting in the insulation; it is not uncommon for animals to nest in any fibrous material and this has nothing to due with the formulation of the product. . Before we launched the Ecose Tecnology found in EcoBatt we very thoroughly evaluated the technology via Entomology studies at Purdue University. The EcoBatt product was not different from traditonal Phenol-Formaldehyde (PF) -based product with regard to insect and rodent attractiveness. PF based products had several decades of sucessful use in the field. We would be glad to discuss your problem in detail. I am Director of Sustainability and Product Affairs at Knauf Insulation, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please contact me at scott.miller@knaufinsulation.com should you still have questions regarding this matter.

Answered by Scott Miller
Posted Jul 7, 2014 9:21 AM ET

10.

I came across this blog in early January when I was searching for information relating to fiberglass-induced dermatitis. Following an energy audit by our local / regional energy company, we followed the recommendations and sealed our HVAC ducts and added blown fiberglass insulation to bring house back to R-30 level. I developed dermatitis on face and neck that required medical treatment because of its severity. I noted Mr. Miller's response dated July 7, 2014, and I contacted him. I was amazed at his responsiveness. He sent Mr. Frank Bridges, a Knauf business development and specifications at Knauf in Greenville, SC to our home in Winter Park, FL to investigate the "problem". Mr. Bridges inspected the installation and used a manometer to see if we had negative pressure that could cause fiberglass to be pulled through the light canister into the bedroom. Mr. Bridges ruled out both the insulation and the negative-pressure theory, and we speculated that I have an adverse reaction to the water-based mastic that had been used to seal the ducts. I want to compliment Messrs. Miller and Bridges as well as Knauf for their responsiveness in determining that my allergies could not be due to the fiberglass.

Answered by Thomas Burke
Posted Feb 7, 2015 1:52 AM ET

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