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Long-term exposure to Fiberglass Insulation
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Long-term exposure to Fiberglass Insulation

Hi,

I moved into my condo about 4 years ago that has a partially finished basement that I've been using for office work.  I spend a good amount of time there (an average of 8-12 hrs/day at times.)  The partially finished basement has exposed fiberglass insulation between the studs, which I didn't notice until recently.  Doing a search on google, I found exposed fiberglass is listed as dangerous for breathing.

For the last four years I have had a somewhat chronic respiratory problem.  The problem seems to during/after I have been working out doing aerobic exercise, mainly running.  If I run two miles for 15 minutes for example, after I am done I have a horrible problem with constant sneezing and A LOT of mucous which will last anywhere from a 3-4 hours to a few days, during which I am unable to breathe properly.

My lungs and throat also feel very scratchy when I am not exercising, and I am very afraid that this is due to spending so much time in the basement with the exposed fiberglass insulation (the basement gets VERY dusty.)
I had just ignored this, but now I realize the extent and possible dangers of the problem with fiberglass.  I just have a few questions as follows:

a.)  I was wondering if this exposed fiberglass insulation could be the main cause causing my respiratory problem??  The exercise problem is still there, where my sinuses, throat, and lungs stuff up incredibly with a lot of mucous with even a short distance of running.  I am normally sneezing non-stop and can't breathe for 4 hours after running outside.

b.)  Should I be worried about adverse effects due to such long period (almost 4 years) of fiberglass insulation exposure?  I am really worried about cancer, as I read somewhere online that fiberglass dust can be a LOT worse than cigarettes!!!!  Is this really true?

b.)  Should I go to a doctor or are there any tests, for example, a chest x-ray, that could possibly determine the extent of/damage due to fiberglass insulation to my lungs??
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A partially finished basement can harbor a variety of potential allergens and irritants.  Some of these would be from insect and animal matter, wood/concrete & other dust, asbestos, infectious/allergic agents (bacteria/molds/fungi), paints and other chemicals, lead….and the list goes on, to include your visible fiberglass.  One could conclude from this that many, if not all your symptoms are in response to your sustained, basement exposures.  As it might be difficult, if not impossible to isolate the cause(s), the best suggestion I can provide is that you should relocate your office and completely avoid the basement.  

In general, fiberglass alone has not been implicated as a cause of serious lung disease.  But, there is a wide range of fiber size and some, because of their size, are much more respirable than others.  The good news is that the evidence uniformly supports the belief that fiberglass is not a carcinogen..  In short, cigarettes and asbestos for example are true carcinogens.  Given the state of your basement, however, you may well have been exposed to other toxins or carcinogens.

The first thing you should do is to totally absent yourself from the basement and then keep a diary regarding the frequency and severity of your upper and lower respiratory symptoms.  It is conceivable that you might experience a significant decrease in your symptoms.  You should, however, have baseline pulmonary function tests and a chest X-ray performed.  The doctor you see should not be just any doctor or, for that matter, just any pulmonologist (lung specialist).  You should seek out a physician trained in both pulmonary disease and occupational/environmental medicine.

You could check with your local Medical Society regarding finding a physician whose training meets these specifications.  One such clinic is at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado; an institution that specializes in allergy, immunology, environmental medicine and a variety of pulmonary diseases including but not limited to asthma, COPD, allergic/immunologic lung disease, occupational/environmental lung disease, rheumatologic lung disease and lung diseases of uncertain cause, such as Sarcoid and Pulmonary Fibrosis.

Good luck
2 Comments
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Avatar_m_tn
So sorry you were exposed to asbestos. I recently suffered from exposure to basement furnace exhaust.
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Avatar_f_tn
It is very incorrect to say fiberglass does not cause disease - it is more that doctors don't acknowledged it and instead would rather diagnose asthma or psychological problems.  I ( and others) have had chest pains for years and extreme breathing problems due to fiberglass insulation exposure in a house I lived in for one year.  
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