HC Deb 13 January 1978 vol 941 cc858-9W
Mr. Burden

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied that the use of glass fibre in its various forms for heat and sound insulation does not expose people installing it to any hazard to health.

Mr. John Grant

The Chairman of the Health and Safety Commission informs me that considerable national and international research is in hand in and effort to establish whether glass and other forms of man-made mineral fibre present any serious risk to health.

It is known that irritation of the skin, eyes and upper respiratory tract can occur through contact with or exposure to these materials, but these effects are normally transient, and adequate protection can be obtained by the application of normal occupational hygiene practices.

Although suspicions that more serious health risks could be associated with very fine fibres of glass and other man-made mineral fibres have been raised by animal experiments, these experiments consisted of the surgical implantation of specially prepared fine fibres into the pleural cavities of rats. These experimental conditions produced some tumours resembling those generated in rats by asbestos. However, no association has been demonstrated between exposure to man-made mineral fibres and incidence of cancer in man; nor have such tumours been found in animals subjected to inhalation experiments.

The Chairman of the Health and Safety Commission also informs me that a working party has been set up to consider the possible health risks arising from these materials and to make recommendations. The membership of the working party includes representatives of employers and employees. It will report to the Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances.