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Community and Q&A

Blown cellulose vs fiberglass, re: health concerns

nvman | Posted in General Questions on

Hi all,

We are at the stage where we have to blow in some loose fill insulation into our attic.
I have been researching fiberglass and cellulose due to some environmental sensitivities that my wife has. I was leaning to an all borate stabilized cellulose product but it seems that it is hard to find in my neck of the woods (Vancouver, BC) so I am back to square one.

I have read all the research about the pros and cons of each product but I really value the comments and opinions provided by the readers and Martin.

I am most concerned with off-gassing even though it will be going into a sealed attic but I am interested in any opinions related to health issues of each product.
Also, if anyone knows of a distributor in BC for a loose fill cellulose without ammonium sulphate, please let me know.


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  1. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #1

    I thought in B.C. it was a code requirement to have an air tight polyethlyene vapor barrier between the ceiling gypsum & insulation(?). If true, that renders outgassing issues somewhat moot in vented attic.

    Have you looked for blown rock wool intstallers? Rock wool has fewer outgassing issues than fiberglass, but usually has a miniscule amount of oily stuff in to get it to work correctly with insulation blowers.

  2. Expert Member

    The BC code allows a variety of materials for use as vapour barriers including poly, membranes,, sheet goods and coatings on the drywall. All it mandates is that they "shall have a permeance not greater than 60 ng/(Pa.s.m2)" and that it be located "sufficiently close to the warm side of the building assembly to prevent condensation at design conditions".
    The most common practice is still to use poly for this, and I bet most insulators think it is code.

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    It's always a good idea to perform air sealing work at the ceiling plane before installing attic insulation. This air sealing work should reassure you and your wife concerning offgassing of insulation products.

    I have never heard of health issues arising from properly installed attic fiberglass insulation or attic cellulose insulation.

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    A web search shows contact information for the following company:

    A-1 Cellulose Blower Insulation & Soundproofing
    13555 23A Avenue
    Surrey, BC
    Postal Code: V4A 9V1
    Phone: (604) 324-6812

    I am not recommending them, since I don't know anything about the company. But I thought I would pass along the information.

  5. nvman | | #5

    Thank you all for your replies.

    Martin, that insulation contractor works out of his home.
    Contractors from that end of the city have a reputation for low balling and cutting corners.
    Not that I am painting all with the same brush but you really need a personal reference.

    I did make enquiries with the ceiling contractor that did our walls and cathedral ceiling.
    All they would do is send me the MSDS sheet.
    They would not provide any opinion as to which is a more "benign" product.

    Dana, I did not know that there was a blown version of rock wool.
    I will research that. Thanks.

    However, I did air seal the ceiling plane and it is a vented attic so thanks for reminding of that.
    Maybe I should not worry as much.


  6. Expert Member

    I didn't want to be the one to bring it up, but yeah - Surrey is a net exporter of all sorts of trouble.

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