Whether you’ve recently moved into a home with old insulation or you’re preparing for a DIY attic project, a pressing question might be on your mind—can insulation make you sick?
There are certainly negative health implications to consider related to your home’s improperly installed attic insulation—some include fiberglass-related risks, mold and mildew issues, pest-borne illnesses, and allergies.
We’ll explore each of these and break down prevention methods that can keep you and your family safe.
Can improper attic insulation make you sick? Yes—but attic and insulation experts can help you prevent potential health problems.
Health Risks Related to Insulation
Bad ductwork installation, whether it is improperly installed, old, or just poor-quality insulation, has the potential to create significant health risk for those exposed. Let’s explore some of these risks in more detail.
#1 Fiberglass Risks
Introduced in the 1930s, fiberglass is a powerful material with impressive insulation capacity.1 But anytime you traverse your insulated attic space, you run the risk of being exposed to fiberglass fibers via:
- Spin exposure from touching the material
- Inhaling dust or fibers
- Swallowing fiberglass particles
Luckily, fiberglass exposure generally only leads to temporary symptoms, including:
- A skin rash developed after touching fiberglass (which should fade after a few days)
- Red, itchy eyes
- Sore throat and nose
- Aggravation of asthma symptoms
- Stomach irritation
The fiberglass injuries above are very avoidable with the right precautionary measures. Anytime you’ll be in an insulated space for a prolonged period, make sure to wear clothes and gloves that cover as much skin as possible, cover your nose and mouth with a mask, don protective eyewear, and open a window or run a portable fan to increase ventilation.
#2 Mold and Mildew Implications
Mold and mildew growth is very common, particularly in humid and warm indoor spaces—like your attic.
While mold and mildew exposure can cause adverse health effects, not everyone is at risk.2 However, you may be particularly susceptible to mold-related symptoms if:
- You have a respiratory condition like:
- You’re allergic to mold spores
- You have an immune system condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis
While health organizations like the CDC and WHO are still researching the health impacts of mold exposure, the conditions above can increase the likelihood that you’ll develop symptoms like:
- Breathing problems
- Wheezing or coughing
- Itchy eyes, nose, or throat
- Skin irritation from skin contact
Eradicating the mold and reducing your overall exposure can decrease the likelihood of future reactions.
#3 Pest-Borne Illnesses
Old or poorly-installed insulation is the perfect environment for pest infiltration—particularly by rodents, which can burrow into it.
You might encounter rodents in your attic if:
- Your insulation is old
- Your insulation was poorly installed
- Your contractor didn’t implement high-quality pest control methods
- You had an existing pest problem that wasn’t eradicated before installing new insulation material
Rodent-related diseases or injuries are some of the most important considerations to make while managing your home’s attic or insulation.3 Rodents can:
- Spread diseases, like:
- Rat-Bite Fever
- West Nile virus
- Bite or scratch
- Damage your property
- Leave droppings that increase infection exposure risk
#4 Allergy Symptoms
While not everyone has allergies, you may experience temporary illness or allergy-related symptoms if you’re sensitive to any of the following:
- Mold or mildew – Insulation installed in warm, humid environments, which can cause condensation in your attic, could develop mold or mildew, which can aggravate allergies.
- Dust – Attics that aren’t regularly or properly cleaned may get dusty, and dust can cling to insulation fibers.
- Animal dander – Even if you’ve eradicated rodents from your attic, their dander or hair could stay behind in your insulation.
- Pollen – In leaky or unsealed attics, pollen could waft into the attic space, settling on insulation or other surfaces.
Insulation itself may not trigger an allergic reaction—unless you’re allergic to fiberglass, cellulose, or another insulation material—but the age or condition of your insulation could cause an allergic response. So can old insulation make you sick? Perhaps not on its own, but yes, because of the related conditions above.
How to Prevent Insulation Health Risks
So, how can you prevent these health risks from occurring?
- Reducing your fiberglass exposure – If you plan to spend significant time in your attic or perform DIY insulation work, make sure to protect yourself from hazards related to fiberglass. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilate the space, and wash your hands and clothes thoroughly before touching your face.
- Managing mold and mildew – If you have a mold allergy, eradicate any spores growing in your attic. Clean surfaces with a bleach solution and wash your hands thoroughly after mold removal.4 Install moisture mitigation tools (like DampRid) and increase your attic ventilation with an attic fan. Learning when to use a vapor barrier with your insulation can also help limit the amount of mold and mildew in your attic.
- Control pests – Pests should be managed by a professional—if you have rodent infiltration, contact a local pest control or attic cleaning company. After the rodents are gone, consider installing new insulation and sealing up potential pest entry points in your home.
- Allergy mitigation – If you have specific allergies to insulation materials, mold spores, animal dander, or dust, take over-the-counter medications to alleviate your symptoms and eliminate the allergen source in your home’s indoor air quality.
Attic Construction: The Insulation Experts You Can Trust
While insulation may not directly make you sick, consider the illness vectors above if you experience symptoms while you’re at home.
And, when it’s time to take action, consult with the attic professionals you can trust. Attic Construction can help you safely manage potential illness triggers in your home, keep your attic clean, and provide high-quality insulation removal, replacement, or installation.
We’re the Orange County attic cleaning experts you can lean on when tackling one of your home’s most critical spaces, as well as having experts in San Diego and Phoenix insulation installation. Attic Construction can help you reduce the risk of insulation-related health issues and improve your overall quality of life.
- Illinois Department of Public Health. Fiberglass. https://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/environmental-health-protection/toxicology/hazardous-substances/fiberglass.html
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Basic Facts About Mold and Dampness. https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diseases Spread By Rodents. https://www.cdc.gov/rodents/diseases/index.html
- Home Depot. How to Get Rid of Mold. https://www.homedepot.com/c/ah/how-to-get-rid-of-mold/9ba683603be9fa5395fab907c52351c