Is rock wool carcinogenic? Not at all! Here's what the legislation says

Dakota Academy
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Let's debunk the myth of carcinogenic rock wool

Have you ever heard your customers ask you, "but is rock wool carcinogenic?" After reading this article you will be able to answer them in complete safety "Absolutely not!".

The confirmation comes directly from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which classifies mineral wools at zero risk which, if their fibers were in some way inhaled, would not present a danger to people's health.

But let's go with order and see what the uses of rock wool are and why your client doesn't have to worry about using it.

Rock wool and artificial glass fibers

Stone wool, glass wool and other artificial glass fibers are widely used in construction, thanks mainly to the value for money, which combines great insulating capacity with a small cost.

Both during the production phase of the material and during its use, the use of rock wool is totally safe and not dangerous for the body, although it remains recommended for those who physically carry out the installation to wear gloves, protective glasses, safety clothing and mask, in order to avoid the risk of inhaling particulates.

Even when the material runs out of its purpose and needs to be replaced, at the waste management level the rock wool is classified as non-hazardous special waste and can therefore be disposed of in landfills that house common inert waste, such as rubble obtained from demolitions or building renovations.


The reference standard for rock wool

The Italian Ministry of Health has published a note entitled "Glassy Artificial Fibers (FAV) - Guidelines for the application of legislation concerning the risks of exposures and prevention measures for health protection" precisely to clarify the possible risks deriving from the use of rock wool, glass wool and similar materials.

The note is directly related to the European Regulation (EC) n.1272 / 2008, which uses two methods to verify whether a vitreous fiber can be considered carcinogenic or not: the biosolubility and the average ponderal geometric diameter.

The bio-solubility of rock wool

The regulation draws a distinction between biosoluble and non-biosoluble fibers, inserting rock wool into the first group: the material is, in fact, formed by water-soluble fibers that decompose naturally and that the organism is capable of to dispose of independently before it can cause adverse effects.

The fibers that are not biosoluble instead accumulate inside the respiratory tract and can, over time, trigger reactions of various kinds.

The average weighted geometric diameter

The other parameter considered is the size of the powders released by a material: coarse powders (over 6 microns) are easy to filter both for the respiratory system and for the masks and therefore are not considered dangerous.

The thinner particles (less than 6 microns), on the other hand, are another pair of sleeves: their ability to creep deep into the bronchi and reach the lungs makes them very dangerous because they settle in the body and remain there.

Rock wool, even in this case, is totally harmless because it releases dust with a diameter greater than the limit imposed by the law, in addition to what we have said before, namely that, even if I were to inhale the fibers, these are biosoluble and therefore easily disposable.


How to check if the materials are really safe

To make sure that the product you sell is really safe, you can easily check - and advise your customers to do the same - the composition of the material in the technical data sheets attached to the product, which indicate the bio-solubility and the weight-average geometric diameter of the fibers emitted.

And if a customer asks you how to behave when they are dealing with rock wool laid or produced several years ago and whose composition it is not possible to know? In this case the Guidelines of the Ministry of Health prescribe to verify the chemical composition of the material before proceeding with the works by contacting public analysis laboratories or the ARPA to verify the non-dangerousness of the material.


The litmus test: the studies on operators in contact with rock wool

Some studies have analyzed the incidence of cancer in operators who work daily with rock wool, considering both those who produce the material and those who use it on site.

The result has revealed that the average number of tumors on operators is the same as in the rest of the population.

The conclusion is that therefore working in close daily contact with rock wool is not considered a risk factor for the development of any kind of tumor. Only special purpose glass wool is classified as a possible carcinogen, while stone wool and glass wool for construction use are considered to be completely safe materials.


In conclusion

After analyzing the issue from many points of view, we can feel confident in saying that rock wool is in no way carcinogenic. And not only! It is among the most versatile materials on site, it is economical, it has many features including high mechanical strength and high acoustic insulation capacity, it does not damage the environment, but it is also safe both


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