Fiberglass is a common man-made material found in many household and office products. During renovation or construction, you may be exposed to fiberglass dust. This dust contains glass fibers that can irritate your skin, eyes, nose, or throat.
Removing Fiberglass from Your Skin
While touching fiberglass doesn’t usually lead to long-term effects on your health, exposure to it may cause intense itching, redness, or a rash. So, it's important to remove fiberglass from your skin as soon as possible so it doesn’t come in contact with your eyes, nose, or throat.
If you’ve come into contact with fiberglass shards or you have a rash and itchiness after you were exposed to fiberglass, don’t rub or scratch the area. Immediately wash the exposed area with warm water and mild soap and wipe with a washcloth to remove the glass fibers from your skin.
Sometimes, you may be able to clearly see fiberglass fibers in your skin. After you've washed the area, use a small piece of adhesive tape over the area that was exposed to fiberglass and use the tape to pull out the shards.
Take a shower as soon as possible to wash off other traces of fiberglass that may have touched your skin.
Contact your doctor if necessary to treat any rash and other exposure symptoms, like coughing or itching.
Lessen Your Chances of Exposure to Fiberglass
Many roofing, insulation, and heating materials may contain fiberglass, especially in older buildings. If you’re doing a construction project and start to feel itching or irritation on your skin, you may have been exposed to fiberglass dust.
Generally, to lessen your risk of fiberglass exposure on a worksite, do the following:
- Cover your skin with loose-fitting, full-coverage clothing. Always wear gloves, closed-toe shoes, eye goggles, and masks when working near fiberglass materials.
- Keep doors and windows open for better airflow and to lessen exposure to large amounts of fiberglass dust.
- Always wash your hands before eating, drinking, or smoking. Don’t leave food or drinks in the same room as fiberglass dust.
- Wash the clothes you wore on the job site immediately after exposure. Always wash work clothes separately from other clothes to prevent the spread of fiberglass shards. Clean your washing machine thoroughly after you wash your work clothes.
- Wet the floors and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to remove fiberglass dust. Never dry sweep fiberglass dust.
Safety Concerns About Fiberglass Exposure
Even though getting fiberglass out of your skin isn’t easy, not removing it at all can be dangerous to your health.
Untreated, repeated exposure to fiberglass can lead to a skin inflammation called dermatitis — This may trigger an allergic reaction.
If you notice that your rashes caused by fiberglass exposure are getting worse, talk to your doctor immediately.
Fiberglass can easily transfer from your hands to your eyes, nose, throat, or other parts of your body — where it can be even more dangerous to your health. If you think you may have gotten fiberglass in any of these areas, take steps to remove the fibers and get medical help right away.
You may breathe in fiberglass while you check the exposed area on your skin. If you breathe in fiberglass, you may have irritation in your nose and throat along with coughing, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, and nosebleeding.
Dry sweeping, poor ventilation, and not wearing goggles can also raise your chances of exposure to fiberglass.
Fiberglass dust on your hands and in the air can be painful if it gets in your eyes. If you get fiberglass in your eyes, use running water or an eyewash station to flush your eyes for 15 minutes. Lift your upper and lower lids to remove dust trapped near your eye.
Even after removing fiberglass from the exposed area, you may keep having redness, rash, itching, and discomfort. But it’s rare for people to have long-term effects from fiberglass exposure.
Contrary to popular belief, fiberglass isn’t known to cause cancer in humans. Exposure doesn’t make it more likely that you’ll develop respiratory cancers or other lung diseases.
Talk to your doctor for more information about soothing your skin, eyes, nose, or throat after fiberglass exposure.