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Sleeping in a Room With Exposed Insulation | Is It Dangerous?

Sometimes it’s impossible to finish a project in one day, so you might find yourself spending the night in an incomplete house. Now, you’re not likely to do this with no roof, but you might with half-finished drywalling.

Short-term, there is unlikely to be a problem with this. However, when it comes to exposed insulation, the decision to sleep in the same room as it needs to be undertaken knowing all the facts and potential risks.

It can be dangerous to sleep in a room with exposed insulation. Old insulation can result in asbestos exposure. Many insulation materials release particles that can irritate the skin, digestive tract, and respiratory tract. Exposed insulation is a safety risk when the material is flammable.

Old Insulation Can Be/Contain Asbestos

The greatest concern with uncovered insulation is asbestos exposure.

Old insulation is the issue here, so if you have just installed new material, then you will not have to worry about asbestos exposure.

Asbestos insulation was used throughout the 1900s, although the use tapered off from about 1989 when the harmful effects were discovered. From the early 2000s, new use ceased entirely.

Another possible risk is vermiculite insulation, which can be contaminated with asbestos. The use of vermiculite insulation in North America ceased around 1984.


Even though asbestos and vermiculite insulations are no longer used in North America, they are still a relevant problem because the policy for these materials is to leave them alone and not to remove them.

If the insulation is disturbed, such as removing the drywalling, gusts of wind, and bumping the insulation, asbestos particles can become airborne and enter your lungs.

Once asbestos fibers enter your lungs, they can scar the lung tissue and limit the ability to absorb oxygen through your alveoli. 

Long-term exposure to asbestos can cause a chronic lung disease called asbestosis. This disease is characterized by symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and fatigue.

Exposure also increases the risk of lung cancer. The scarring and inflammation caused by asbestos promote DNA mutations and abnormal cell growth.

Even a brief exposure to asbestos can be harmful to your health—there is officially no safe level of exposure.

If you are sleeping in a room with open asbestos or vermiculite insulation, the chance of exposure is very high. You will likely only be aware of the health effects of this exposure year to a decade or so later.

However, continual exposure, like sleeping in a room with exposed insulation, will expedite the onset and severity of these health concerns.

Non-Asbestos Insulation Can Irritate

You aren’t in the clear just because your insulation doesn’t contain asbestos; other insulation materials can cause irritation as well through direct contact, particles settling on the skin, inhalation, or ingestion.

As with asbestos and vermiculite, there are many things that can disturb these other insulation materials causing them to become airborne. From there, they can settle onto surfaces, clothing, and skin, as well as enter the lungs and digestive tract.

Fiberglass insulation is the most common type of insulation used in walls and can lead to adverse health effects due to prolonged exposure.

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Fiberglass fibers may become embedded in various areas of the body and cause the following symptoms:

The International Agency for Research on Cancer named fiberglass as a possible carcinogen after conducting animal tests. Rats that had fiberglass particles implanted into lung tissue were at a higher risk of lung cancer. 

It is advised to wear PPE (full coverage clothes, gloves, goggles, and a mask) when in contact with insulation. These precautions shouldn’t be forgotten even when you aren’t directly handling the insulation since particles can become airborne.

You could try to sleep with a mask and goggles on, but I doubt you’d get a very good night’s rest!

Super Cheap and Safe Ways to Cover Exposed Insulation

Harmful Fumes May Be Released by Insulation

Airborne particles aren’t the only concern related to prolonged exposure to insulation as you sleep. Insulation can release harmful fumes as well.

Some types of insulation are treated with flame-retardant chemicals. Most rigid foam insulation boards (EPS and XPS types) are treated with the toxic flame retardant Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), which was banned by the European Union in 2015.

The EPA reported potential reproductive, developmental, and neurological effects caused by exposure to HBCD.  

Formaldehyde is another fume that can be released by insulation. It is a known carcinogen, and exposure to formaldehyde causes symptoms such as burning eyes, upper respiratory issues, rashes, and headaches.

Fiberglass insulation used to contain formaldehyde binding agents, although this has recently become less common in favor of formaldehyde-free versions.

Urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) also contains possibly dangerous levels of formaldehyde, according to the CPSC.

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Both types of insulation go through a process called off-gassing. They release formaldehyde fumes, and over time the amount of fumes released decreases to less harmful levels. How long this process takes, whether days or years, is still up for debate. 

Insulation Facing Can Catch Fire

Insulation is a highly flammable material; hence the flame retardant made of possibly harmful chemicals mentioned above. Without walls or ceilings to provide a barrier between the insulation and the fire source, flames will spread very quickly.

Bedrooms are places where possible fire-causing objects are used all the time. Think of items such as heaters, candles, hair tools, etc. Any objects that are still plugged in or even just warm while you are asleep become serious fire hazards.

These fire hazards near insulation are concerning during the day but even more so at night. The rapid spread of flames would make it very hard for you to wake up in time and safely exit the building if a fire were to start.

Foam insulation is of particular concern when it comes to the question of fires. It should never be left exposed.

Insulation Attracts Insects and Rodents

Insects and rodents love to make a home out of insulation. When insulation is left exposed for too long, the chances of an infestation increase.

Additionally, the lack of a wall between you and the insulation allows these pests to more easily come into contact with you and cause negative health effects. The animals have free rein to exit the insulation and spread around your home.

Insects like cockroaches release feces and saliva into the home, which aggravate asthma and allergies. They may also carry food contamination illnesses.

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Larger animals such as raccoons, squirrels, birds, and bats may carry diseases, such as rabies, Lyme disease, and ringworm. They can spread these diseases through urine, feces, and saliva. 

Not having a barrier between you and the insulation increases the likelihood of these substances becoming airborne or traveling further into your home.

The animals previously mentioned are often infected with ticks, fleas, and bedbugs. Once brought into the home, these parasites may look for new hosts such as pets and people. The lack of a wall allows for a quicker transfer to these new hosts.


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