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Not an approved method of balancing airflow
June 11, 2012 2:13 PM   Subscribe

My boss is using fiberglass insulation to block an air duct. Am I going to die of cancer because of this?

My boss has a vent in his office that blows way too much air in for his tastes. Today he announced that he has solved his problem by stuffing the vent with fiberglass insulation, forcing the air to blow through it and limiting the amount of air that gets through. I am concerned that blowing air through the fiberglass is going to fill my lungs with nasty bits of carcinogenic insulation. My coworker says I am being overly worked up, and that fiberglass is actually used for air and dust filtration, so this is fine.

Additional details: the vent in question is directly over his desk, and is about as far from my office as it could be and still be in the same building. I believe the return air is taken from the ceiling space, which is presumably also full of insulation, so maybe I have been breathing this stuff in all my life and haven't died yet.

Should I ask my boss to remove the fiberglass or is it a nonissue?
posted by Sternmeyer to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
 
Fiberglass insulation is not going to give you cancer, although it is nasty stuff and it's a rather inelegant solution to the problem. I have no idea what the logistics are, but you could always take a piece of tin (the kind used in ductwork) and come duct tape/gripper tape and plug the hole that way.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:19 PM on June 11, 2012


Oh, I see that you're not sharing the space. The fiberglass is not going to harm you. It's more of a problem for your boss.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:20 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never in my life heard of fiberglass being associated with cancer. You may be thinking of asbestos, which is a completely different thing.
posted by The World Famous at 2:20 PM on June 11, 2012


I think it's fine. But there may be a better way. Most duct runs ending at a register have dampeners. These are used to adjust the flow at each register. these aren't fancy things. just a round disk of sheet metal that opens and closes like a valve inside the duct. It should have a little handle that can be adjusted, maybe a 2-3 inch little flat metal arm. It will likely be at the register or at the closest solid ductwork.
posted by kenaldo at 2:22 PM on June 11, 2012


I think I understand the OP's situation (or, rather, her boss' situation): there's probably a duct in the ceiling right above his desk or something, and it's impossible to turn off or otherwise adjust the airflow. There's just no way. I worked in a couple of offices like that, with the dry, cold air pouring down over me no matter the season. It is enough to drive one mad and do crazy things with insulation.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:27 PM on June 11, 2012


I think you'll be all right.

Check out these fact sheets.

It's not the best thing for anyone, really, but it seems like you should be okay, since you're removed from the area a bit.
posted by batmonkey at 2:35 PM on June 11, 2012


No longer associated with cancer, but fiberglass fibers possibly being blown around are not nice see American Lung Association.
posted by nightwood at 2:37 PM on June 11, 2012


You will probably be ok - but your boss is an idiot.
They make magnetic covers specifically designed for this
posted by Flood at 2:40 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for your answers, folks.

@KokuRyu: Yeah, I have no idea why the heck he decided to stuff insulation up there. We have other vents in the building that have cardboard blocking them already. I guess he just got imaginative. Better that than laundry, I guess.

@kenaldo: I am an HVAC/building automation programmer, so I am familiar with balancing dampers and such. However, there is no balancing damper between his vent and the duct split from the RTU. I am no tinbasher, so other than looking for existing dampers, I am limited to the "cardboard and duct tape" method of flow limiting. I'm not a field guy, so I have no idea what is and isn't dangerous, as far as breathing insulation goes.

@The World Famous: A cursory Google search shows me a non-trivial number of non-crackpot references to potential carcinogenic properties of fiberglass insulation. Additionally, we require our men and women who work in and around fiberglass to mask up to avoid exposure, and the justification given in our OH&S manual is several references to studies showing a possible link between cancer and fiberglass. Sounds like that link is no longer supported by current research. I will fire an email to our OH&S department. Still seems a good idea to wear a mask though.

I am not only concerned about cancer, but also general respiratory health, as I am an asthmatic. Sounds like being a ways from his tomfoolery will keep me just fine.
posted by Sternmeyer at 2:49 PM on June 11, 2012


It's not like this is going to be kicking up a ton of fine dust the way blown fiberglass insulation would, but yeah, not even close to an optimal solution.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:25 PM on June 11, 2012


The boss could probably put a furnace filter over the duct.
posted by Marky at 4:59 PM on June 11, 2012


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