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Can the type of ceiling insulation affect asthma?

I moved into my house nearly 20 years ago. I have since had many health issues and been also diagnosed with asthma. I have had 2 other people who slept in my current bedroom for a week went on to develop worsening asthma symptoms. This was despite having the room clean, vacuumed etc for their stay. I have got the cellulose type insulation with a peg board covered manhole positioned in my walk in wardrobe. Also an exhaust fan in my ensuite, as possible direct air flow to my ceiling cavity. The cellulose insulation was topped up approximately 12 years ago. I noticed a lot of insulation that would escape to the outside of my house after that and bits would also find their way down through the exhaust fan areas. Can anyone relate asthma symptoms to the type of insulation in their ceiling, or maybe collected dust, mould etc in the ceiling over time? All research I have done, suggests that the cellulose treated with borax/bromide is not allergenic and helps prevent mould growth and vermin. Any insights please?

  1. Hi. Welcome to our asthma community. And thank you for your post. Sorry that you have been diagnosed with asthma and are having to deal with that since moving into your new home 20 years ago. As you may know, it is possible to develop asthma at any time in one's life. And, while we can speculate, it is often difficult to know why this happens. Likewise, I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes it is very difficult to know exactly what triggers an asthma flare-up. That said, from my research, I have learned that insulation may harbor dust mites and mold or other such asthma triggers. So, if you think insulation may be getting into the air and irritating your lungs, this may be a good thing to have checked out. I'm not really sure who you can call, but I am sure there are people who can inspect your house and your vents to see if insulation particles are getting into the air and, if so, fix these problems. Perhaps doing so will help improve your asthma control. Is this something you were considering? John. community moderator.

    1. Hi John.
      Thank you for your response. I do imagine that I have an incredible amount of dust up in my roof space. I am planning on getting the cellulose vacuumed out and replaced. While the cellulose insulation comes with great recommendations, I am concerned of its breakdown properties, the same as any insulation that is put into a roof space. There doesn't seem to be any medical studies into insulation and breathing issues that I can find. Most comments on insulation and health seem to have a biased perspective as if the studies were paid by production companies. Hence, any scientifically based studies that are known of would be appreciated.
      I have also pulled up all the carpet in this room/house and have smaller rugs that are vacuumed regularly. I am also planning to get new curtains in case the old ones are shedding fibres, creating more dust particles.
      Cheers
      R A

      1. Thank you for the update. Those are all good actions that you are taking to help remove asthma triggers from your house. As I did a brief search of online health magazines, I was able to find a few study/articles -- such as this one (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3281289/). This one pretty much affirms your theory that this topic needs to be better studied. If I see any newer/ better wisdom on this topic I will be sure to share it with you. Wishing you all the best. John. community moderator

    2. Hi there! I have come to the same conclusion for myself! I do not own a home. Having moved several times into different types of dwellings, certain ones will trigger me. I figured it out to be the type of insulation found in the ceiling/crawl space. I have not seen any info online about this type of situation. I figure it will only take time for the associations to be made and studdied.
      John is full of info. Until he gave the link to the article above, I did not know it existed. Good luck to you!

      1. Thank you for joining the conversation here. Glad to hear that you found the article I linked to above helpful. What I am learning from my years of studying this disease, is that anything that can become airborne (visible or invisible) can potentially trigger asthma. So I surprised the links between insulation particles and asthma has not been more extensively studied. Although, as you say, I am sure more studies will be done. In the meantime, one thing you may find helpful is a device called an air quality monitor. A few years ago I trialed one called the Atmo Tube, although there are many others like it. And, as I entered a house, it would alert an app on my phone if the air quality was bad -- such as from particles in the air. I am not sure as to the cost, though, as the one I trialed was given to me for free. Anyway, I hope all is going well for you. John. community moderator.

    3. Thanks John for your continued research. I will look into such a device.
      The other theory of indoor dust that I have speculated is the efficiency of my washing machine to thoroughly clean my clothes and linen. I believe in the environmentally friendly act of air drying my clothes, so do not have a dryer.
      If the washing machine is not rinsing all dust/dirt out of clothes, or the load is too full, then there are still dust particles in those clothes. These particles are then released into the air when you shake/ unravel them, ie socks, before you go to put them on. You can see the particles explode into the air when in a beam of sunlight.
      Hence, perhaps I do need to get a dryer to put the clothes through a cool cycle to get the fluff and dust out of them as well.
      All too much to contemplate, so I will start with my curtains and updating the insulation/dust in my roof space.
      Cheers
      Shelley
      Bleu

      1. Hi there, thanks for following up and providing further information. It sounds like between your curtains and the insulation, you have a solid first step in place. Please check back in and let us know how you make out. All the best, Lauren (team member)

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