More correctly known as Man-Made Vitreous Fibre (MMVF), mineral wool is used for thermal and acoustic insulation in homes and businesses around the world. Since asbestos was banned in 1999 in most countries, MMVF has de facto become the replacement technology. However, a new study has raised serious questions over the risks to public health posed by this product.
Previously designated as carcinogenic by both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency on the Research on Cancer (IARC), MMVF was declassified as such by both agencies following testing on a reformulated product in 1995 ( although the EU still classifies it as a suspected cause of cancer).
The study reveals that the 1995 tests were conducted on MMVF that had had a key constituent, a form of binder, removed. The product that was tested, and deemed to be non-carcenogenic by the WHO and IARC is not that product being bought and used by construction workers and DIY enthusiasts alike.
As well as fears of cancer, MMVF is also known to be a significant cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a serious long term illness that reduces lung capacity.
|“People do not realise that sometimes it (COPD) is worse than cancer, for some cancers are curable, but this form of pulmonary fibrosis is generally not.” – Dr. Marjolein Drent, University of Maastricht.|
- A report by EU Today, presented at the conference recommends legislative action in three areas.
- The retesting of MMVF to ascertain the risk of cancer posed by the handling of the product.
- Health and Safety legislation to protect construction workers and others exposed to MMVF, to ensure that adequate information about the risks is available, and the mandatory provision and use of safety equipment on site.
- Product labelling to ensure that health warnings are displayed prominently on all packaging.
Concerns about rising energy costs and global warming have both placed insulation high on the political agenda: the rush to find a replacement for Asbestos has led to a potentially carcinogenic product, and one which is known to cause life threatening respiratory disease, becoming the industry norm.
What we now know as Asbestosis was first identified in London in 1900. It took 99 years for governments to act to protect public health – let us hope that today’s legislators can act more promptly.
Download the report here: Mineral Wool Safety 27 June 2018