April 3, 2012
Whistleblower Exposes Shocking Evidence About A Carcinogen That is Absolutely Everywhere
It's found everywhere, from homes, schools, office buildings, cars to medications and even toothpaste. You can't escape fiberglass and we're only beginning to find out why it is so lethal. A whistleblower and former hazardous materials expert is exposing shocking and under-reported evidence that attenuated fiberglass, the kind used to insulate your home and found in countless consumer products, is more carcinogenic than asbestos.
The fiberglass manufacturing industry includes many of the same corporations which created the asbestos tragedy, except now these corporations are larger and operate in many countries. Despite recent bankruptcies, the fiberglass manufacturers retain much wealth, in the form of factories, brand names and distribution channels. Their long fingers reach into universities and medical centers, where their money pays for "research" on the safety of their products.
The Asbestos Toxicity Nightmare
In 1973, a legislative declaration was made that asbestos constituted a public health safety hazard"
"Airborne asbestos dust and particles, such as those from sprayed asbestos slurry, asbestos-coated ventilating ducts, and certain other applications of asbestos are known to produce irreversible lung damage and bronchogenic carcinoma. One American of every four dying in urban areas of the United States has asbestos particles or dust in his or her lungs. The nature of this problem is such as to constitute a hazard to the public health and safety, and should be brought under appropriate regulation."
Shortly after, construction safety legislations were enacted to prohibit the used of sprayed-on asbestos or the use of asbestos containing materials (ACMs). At that time asbestos was integrated in almost all building materials including adhesives, caulking, plaster, insulation, tiles, cement products, shingles, flooring, wallboards and even tapes. Once valued for its thermal insulation and fire resistant properties, asbestos was eventually classified as a toxic nightmare. Some estimates state that asbestos has killed approximately 400,000 people in the United States alone.
Although the toxicity of fiberglass was known after the World War I shortage of asbestos, the chemical industry eventually persuaded politicians to accept fiberglass as a suitable and gradual replacement to highly toxic asbestos in the 1970s. This spurred large full-scale commercial operations and production of fiberglass in the U.S.
Fiberglass: The New Asbestos, Only More Toxic
What was not known then, that is known now, is that fiberglass may be higher in toxicity levels compared to asbestos. As asbestos was phased out, fiberglass production steadily increased. More than 30,000 commercial products now contain fiberglass. Common uses most people are aware of include thermal insulation, acoustic insulation, fireproofing and various applications in automotive components. Fiberglass insulation is present in 90 percent of homes, buildings, schools and offices. What most people may not be aware of are the lesser known uses in medications, toothpaste, nicotine products and many other consumer goods.
Fiber glass --a material that nature does not make --is now measurable everywhere in the air. The air in cities, rural areas, and remote mountain tops now contains measurable concentrations of fiber glass. If the dose-response curve is a straight line (that is to say, if half as much fiber glass causes half as much cancer) and if there is no threshold dose (no dose below which the cancer hazard disappears), then exposing the Earth's 5.7 billion human inhabitants to low concentrations of fiber glass will inevitably take its toll by causing excess cancers in some portion of the population.
In the early 1970s, a body of evidence linking these ubiquitous fibers to lung disease began to accumulate. In a series of papers published from 1969 to 1977, the National Cancer Institute determined that tiny glass fibers were “potent carcinogens” in laboratory rats and that “it is unlikely that different mechanisms are operative in man.” Specifically noted was the cancerous potential of fibrous glass in the pleura of lab animals. The pleura is the outer casing of the lungs; in humans, cancer of the pleura is called mesothelioma and it is caused by asbestos fibers.
In 1987, The New York Times reported "these synthetic fibers, already in wide use as building materials and insulation, in cars, furniture and packaging and for many other applications in a $3 billion-a-year industry, are increasingly being employed as substitutes for asbestos, a known cause of cancer and other serious illness."
Just last June the U.S. government finally added formaldehyde, a substance found in fiberglass and other commonly used products, to a list of known carcinogens.
The finding that fiberglass causes diseases similar or even more severe than asbestos was chilling news in the early 1970s and an additional 25 years of research has only confirmed the earlier warnings. In 1990, members of the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), who represent ten federal health agencies, stated unanimously: “Fiberglass may reasonably be anticipated to be a carcinogen” in humans. NTP was preparing to include fiberglass in its 1992 Seventh Annual Report on Carcinogens when politics intervened. Although fiberglass industry lobbying delayed publication of NTP’s conclusions for two years, the report was sent to Congress in June 1994.
This caused public health officials to ignore the growing number of epidemiological studies that showed how deadly fiberglass really was.
HazMat Whistleblower Tells All
Paul Ayers worked as a Certified Hazardous Materials Supervisor with extensive industrial experience in the asbestos abatement industry. For much of his career, he was exposed to the removal of chemical and solid waste following "stringent" laws in regards to toxic waste and management.
Ayers has worked extensively within a variety of installations and settings including FBI, military, U.S. Marshall's offices as well as power generation companies, chemical refineries, educational institutions, hospitals and medical centers to name a few. His credibility and experience in the industry are well established spanning almost a decade.
He presented evidence from a position paper sent to
C. Everett Koop on behalf of Victims of Fiberglass which quoted " asbestos causes cancer NOT because it is asbestos, but because it is a (RDF) Respirable Durable Fiber (Stanton 1974). RDF's completely unrelated to asbestos such as fiberglass and rock wool are equally carcinogenic."
"A question arises from the Abatement of the Asbestos," according to Ayers. Mainly, what material to reinsulate thermally that is safer than asbestos?
"A product was made by Dow Corning called Attenuated FiberGlass, a 'safe' product as claimed by its manufacturer, this product comes in various forms," he added.
"Many times in general construction this attenuated fiberglass was blown into attics, walls, cavities to insulate properly. With a major issue, no one stated that attenuated fiberglass was found to be extremely dangerous. It is glass and the verification of friable toxicity and carcinogenic," he stated.
He questions that somehow the toxicity of fiberglass must have been purposely
hidden from the public. "Could it be because it is the globally corporate replacement for ultra hazardous asbestos, and this attenuated fiberglass is everywhere literally!"
Depending on specific factors, Ayers proclaimed that attenuated fiberglass may potentially be 10 times more carcinogenic than asbestos. "Why did the FDA and Federal officials allow this attenuated fiberglass [to] be placed by drug companies in medications?"
The arrangement between the fiberglass and pharmaceutical industries was a favourable one because it allowed the integration of fiberglass in medications so that tiny glass shards would create very small incisions in the stomach lining to increase the absorbability of medications. The use and labeling within medications is typically masked under the general grouping of silicon dioxide additives.
Abrasives constitute at least 50% of a typical toothpaste. Colgate and other varieties of toothpaste originally allowed fiberglass within their formulations to facilitate tiny incisions on the gums which promoted fluoride absorption directly into the blood stream. The toothpaste industry now also incorporates the use silicon dioxide which functions much in the same way fiberglass does.
In tobacco products a similar method in cigarette filters allows for increased nicotine absorption. Researchers from the Department of Molecular Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute reporting in the Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prevention Journal, documented the contamination of a cigarette-appearing smoking articles labeled Eclipse with glass fibers, fragments, and particles.
In Ayers' research, he claims that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), colon cancer, ulcers and lymphomas may all be caused by attenuated fiberglass.
"I have come to several friable facts," according to Ayers:
1. Doctors are ignorant of this very fact!
2. Government has knowledge of attenuated fiberglass and the studies and analytical testing performed with certifiable research and development.
3.Attenuated fiberglass is everywhere, in almost every car, every building in some form or fashion, heating ducts, even inside cooking stoves and refrigerators.
Three different kinds of glass fibers were poisonous to cells and damaged DNA in studies performed by a team of doctors at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the medical research arm of the U.S. Department of Labor. Damaged DNA can unleash a process of accelerated and even unrestrained cell growth, and the research showed cells with fiberglass-damaged DNA exhibited these tendencies. Although the exact mechanism by which cancers and tumors grow is not yet deciphered, damaged DNA and abnormal cellular reproduction is widely thought to be the first step.
NIOSH researchers set out to answer three questions about glass fibers: whether they can introduce a transformation in the structure and form of cells, whether the induction of "morphological" changes could be related to fiber size, and whether cells thus transformed would exhibit accelerated, tumor-like (neoplastic), growth.
"These results indicate that glass fibers are capable of transforming mammalian (BALB/c-3T3) cells in vitro as a function of their physical properties and that glass-fiber-induced transformed cells possess neoplastic characteristics."
Although the exact mechanism is unclear, there is little doubt of the carcinogenic potential
of fiberglass and its ability to negatively affect DNA.
Fiberglass Nominated As a Top Occupational Hazard
Fiberglass was nominated as a top concern on the synthetic mineral fiber list to The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) Priority Planning Committee by Victims of Fiberglass in 1994.
"The OSHA Priority Planning Process has been aimed at identifying the top priority workplace safety and health hazards in need of either regulatory or non-regulatory action," according to an OSHA statement. "The resulting set of priorities is intended to round out the agency's existing programs in order to ensure that the leading causes of occupational injuries, illnesses and deaths are being effectively addressed."
OSHA papers noted that fiberglass exposed workers demonstrated a significant excess of lung cancer.
"Several epidemiological studies have demonstrated statistically significant elevations in the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory system cancers among workers employed in fibrous glass and mineral wool manufacturing facilities," an OSHA official stated.
According to OSHA researchers, an 8-hour exposure to 0.043 glass fibers per cubic centimeter of air is sufficient to cause lung cancer in one-in-every-thousand exposed workers during a 45-year working lifetime. In rural areas, the concentration of fiber glass in outdoor air is reported to be 0.00004 fibers per cubic centimeter, about 1000 times below the amount thought to endanger one-in-every-thousand fiber glass workers.
However, people in rural areas breathe the air 24 hours a day, not 8 hours. Furthermore, a human lifetime is 70 years, not the 45 years assumed for a "work lifetime." Moreover, one-in-a-thousand is not adequate protection for the general public; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses one-in-100,000 or one-in-a-million as a standard for public exposures. (And, finally, in urban air, there's 10 to 40 times as much fiber glass as in rural air.) Therefore, the amount of fiber glass in the outdoor air in the U.S. and Europe (and presumably elsewhere) already seems higher than prudent public health policies would permit. Assuming a straight-line dose-response curve and no threshold, we believe there is ample reason to be concerned about the human health hazards posed by fiber glass in the general environment. (And this says nothing about the hazards to wildlife.)
It has been 25 years since researchers at the National Cancer Institute concluded that fiber glass is a potent carcinogen in experimental animals. During that time, additional research has confirmed those findings again and again. During the same period, the amount of fiber glass manufactured has increased rapidly year after year. Ninety percent of American homes now contain fiber glass insulation. All of this fiber glass will eventually be released into the environment unless special (and very expensive) precautions are taken to prevent its release. We believe the likelihood of Americans taking such precautions is nil. Billions of pounds of fiber glass now in buildings will eventually be dumped into landfills, from which it will leak out slowly as time passes. Elevated concentrations of fiber glass are already measurable in the air above landfills today.
Why You Are At Risk and What To Do About It
According to the American Lung Association, "home owners are at risk." Like asbestos, fiberglass is now recognized for creating serious health problems. According to the American Lung Association, fiberglass insulation packages display cancer warning labels.
“These labels,” says the Lung Association, “are required by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) based on determinations made by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Toxicology Program.”
The signs of fiberglass poisoning in your home are straightforward and obvious to even the mildly observant person:
- Pervasive dustiness, even after repeated cleanings
- Glass-like dust which glitters when struck by light.
- Most or all individuals in the home, including pets, have strange illnesses which do not respond to conventional treatments, especially skin and breathing ailments
- Ill individuals feel better when out of the house for extended periods of time.
- Individuals feel worse when the heating or air conditioning is on.
- Strange stains around or under HVAC output areas.
If some or all of these symptoms are present, then it's time to do some sleuthing.
If you are convinced that your health woes are worse when the heating or air conditioning is on, buy some wide, clear cellophane tape. Partially cover the registers of the heating/ac system, then run it for several hours. If the tape becomes covered with glassy dust, then you may have found the source of your problems.
Another quick test is to shine a strong flashlight in the dark. If you observe glimmering fiber-like particles, you have more reason to continue sleuthing.
To find out more about what is coming out of the ducts, you may hire an industrial hygienist to run some scientifically acceptable tests. The test mediums may be taken to a laboratory and analyzed under a scanning electron microscope or similar device. Such analysis can tell you how many fibers there are and their sizes, but may not be able to tell you the composition of the fibers (i.e. glass, asbestos, slag etc.)
Your hygienist may also be able to do a "wipe" test. To do one of these, find some area in the house which does not get disturbed or dusted often. Wipe some of the dust onto a perfectly clean cloth or paper medium, and place that into a clean plastic bag. Whatever shows up on that towel is what you are breathing.
Discovering your home is contaminated with fiberglass is shocking and frightening. Coping with the disaster, and cleaning it up, can be exhausting and time consuming, but it also can be empowering, as you take control over your environment and methodically remove the source of your ills.
The best recourse in all instances of fiberglass contamination is to make alternate living arrangements until your home is safe to occupy. Stay in a hotel, with friends, neighbors or relatives, stay in a tent in your back yard if the weather is accommodating. You will be amazed at how quickly you recover from your most debilitating fiberglass poisoning symptoms, how your mental outlook improves, and how well you sleep, once you relocate to a clean environment.
Unless your home is a rental, and you can simply leave*, you will need to clean the house inside and out. The most critical part of any clean up is the planning; in order to be completely effective, the clean up must encompass the source of the contamination, every area of the house and the entire contents of the house. Any element which is left uncleaned could ultimately re-contaminate the entire house.
You may wish to enlist the help of professionals to clean your house. Professional cleaning services abound in any populated area. As with most things, it is best to interview several firms. Their experience, the services they offer, and the prices they quote will vary widely.
Cleaners with little experience may do an incompetent job, and therefore may turn out to be a waste of time and money. Highly qualified specialists, such as asbestos removal companies, may be quite costly, but if they do the job right, could be the best bargain. It may be most cost effective to contract out the more difficult or specialized work, while directing the various contractors and doing much of the grunt work yourself.
Especially important is the cleaning of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This is one area where it is particularly beneficial to have professional help. Once again, the whole system must be cleaned and sealed at once. Cleaning or replacing part of a contaminated HVAC system almost never yields a fiberglass-free system. That is because once fiberglass gets into the HVAC system, it is distributed by the air handler throughout the entire system, as well as the entire house.
If the contamination is severe, or if the ducts themselves are lined on the inside with exposed fiberglass, consider replacing the system. It will be nearly impossible to clean. Ducts with exposed fiberglass lining on the inside are particularly susceptible to mold and bacteria growth in hot, humid climates. Cleaning the exposed fiberglass lining on these ducts may compromise the resins holding the fibers down, leading to more fiber shedding and more contamination. Flexible ducts, which often have fiberglass sealed between two layers of plastic, are relatively inexpensive and less toxic.
Does it make sense to continue allowing needless suffering from the inhaling of microscopic shards of glass coated with formaldehyde?
Because of its monstrous potential liability, the fiberglass industry can never admit to a sliver of possibility its products cause disease, especially cancer. A candid discussion about the merits and hazards of today's insulation products benefits society substantially in the long run. The asbestos legacy shows that senseless human suffering and mind-numbing litigation always follow when society allows wealthy manufacturers to do as they please.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.