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CPSC Issues Warning About Flammability Of Insulation Paper Vapor Barriers

Release Date: June 22, 1978

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today cautioned consumers to heed manufacturers' warnings on fiberglass and rock wool home insulation that paper vapor barriers are flammable and should not be left exposed when installed.

According to CPSC staff, the paper vapor barriers, if installed incorrectly and accidentally ignited, could cause a fire.

Paper barriers, which cover one side of some fiberglass and mineral wool insulation, prevent the product from soaking up moisture and retarding its effectiveness.

Consumers insulating or reinsulating their homes can increase their safety by not leaving the paper vapor barrier exposed. On walls, insulation should be installed so the paper vapor barrier faces the interior of the home and then covered with wall board. If insulating an attic floor, place the vapor barrier down so it faces the living space beneath. When adding new insulation to old, buy a product without a vapor barrier, or remove or slash the barrier at frequent intervals to allow moisture to escape. Be sure to place the slashed vapor barrier down to face the living space below.

According to trade association representatives, all fiberglass and rock wool insulation now carry cautions about the flammability hazard of paper vapor barriers, as well as proper installation instructions. This industry-wide use of hazard warnings resulted from a meeting held late last year among CPSC staff, 11 major mineral wool insulation manufacturers and the industry's trade association.

A recent Congressional inquiry revealed that at least one large retailer was promoting the installation of a manufacturer's fiberglass product in a manner that left the paper vapor barrier exposed to the living areas. The retailer has agreed to discontinue such advertising.

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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