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Fiberglass is a substance made when small glass particles are extruded into thin strands of material used to reinforce polymer products or as insulation. Fiberglas, invented in 1938 by Russell Games Slayter for Owens-Corning, is the typical referent when the generic term “fiberglass” is used, and it is well known across America as the pink, fluffy material resembling cotton candy that is used as insulation in 90 percent of buildings in the country. As health concerns rose about asbestos throughout the 20th century, leading to its general banning and phasing out as insulation in many countries worldwide, fiberglass production steadily increased and its use replaced asbestos in many applications. Asbestos concerns centered around the particulate air contamination it led to, which caused lung diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer and others. However, with higher amounts of fiberglass insulation nationwide, there have also been higher concerns about possible health hazards.
Fiberglass is a synthetic material primarily made of silica, a type of silicon oxide polymer that does not have a melting point and has long been used for its hardness properties. Silica is commonly in sand or quartz, and is used to create many types of glass, including window glass, drinking glasses and optical fibers. There are various types of fiberglass, distinguished by their chemical makeup, including:
Safety Precautions for Fiberglass
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