Non-Coronavirus Health and Safety Question about Insulation
March 31, 2020 11:00 AM   Subscribe

During my time sequestered at home, I am finally building the audio-isolation booth for voice-over work that I have been planning and designing for over a year. The construction is a pretty basic framing job (with a few tweaks and flourishes to optimize for soundproofing), and part of the construction involves installing fire- and sound-retardant insulation in the wall cavities between the studs. And therein lies my question:

The fibers of this stuff are nasty, and tend to get airborne while working with the material. Of course I will be wearing long sleeves and gloves and eye protection, and laundering the clothes separately. But I should also be wearing a face mask, and I have none. And even if I did, given the current state of the world I wouldn't want to take away supplies from where they are seriously needed.

So: will wearing a bandana or rag around my face to cover my mouth and nose be sufficient to keep me safe for a small job? Or do I absolutely need to source out a face mask or respirator while working on this? Or do you have any other suggestions?
posted by Lokheed to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
Assuming you're talking about fiberglass insulation, the particles are very small. It's not exactly the same stuff, but this article found that a thrice folded bandana is like 40% effective for filtering volcanic ash particles (which are sort of approximately the same size), whereas N95 filters, by definition, filter out at least 95% of even very small particles.

Fiberglass particles are pretty bad for you, so yeah, you should find some kind of proper mask or respirator.
posted by aubilenon at 11:16 AM on March 31, 2020

...or use a different insulation. Rockwool, formerly known as Roxul, has none of the scary properties of fiberglass, and is much easier to work with. One serrated bread knife and you're good to go.
posted by kate4914 at 11:23 AM on March 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Given this is a tiny job and the situation with masks at the moment, A bandana will be fine. I wouldn't try to do a 1000 sqft of attic space, but what you're doing is fine.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:26 AM on March 31, 2020

I wouldn't, I hate fiberglass and even small amounts can be harmful to your lungs. Can you borrow a full cartridge respirator from a friend and just replace the cartridges later on?
posted by fshgrl at 11:31 AM on March 31, 2020

Rockwool is also a better acoustic insulator and firestop than glass fiber, I have read.
posted by Glomar response at 12:33 PM on March 31, 2020

> even small amounts can be harmful to your lungs

Do you have a source for that? All product warning information I could find says that the health risk and effects of small fibers in the lungs is unknown.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:34 PM on March 31, 2020

The actual product is JM Sound and Fireblock Mineral Wool Insulation
posted by Lokheed at 12:41 PM on March 31, 2020

Oh. thank you so much! The packaging itself talks about respirators. I really really don't want to survive a pandemic only to be killed by personal stupidity. Or, worse, be killed by normally-survivable personal stupidity due to pandemic-related medical capacity constraints.
posted by Lokheed at 1:02 PM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

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