RCFs are amorphous synthetic fibers produced by the melting and blowing or spinning of calcined kaolin clay or a combination of alumina, silica, and other oxides. RCFs belong to the class of synthetic vitreous fibers (SVFs) - materials that also include fibers of glass wool, rock wool, slag wool, and specialty glass. RCFs are used in commercial applications requiring lightweight, high-heat insulation (e.g., furnace and kiln insulation).
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has reviewed data characterizing occupational exposure to airborne refractory ceramic fibers (RCFs) and information about potential health effects obtained from experimental and epidemiologic studies. From this review, NIOSH determined that occupational exposure to RCFs is associated with adverse respiratory effects as well as skin and eye irritation and may pose a carcinogenic risk based on the results of chronic animal inhalation studies.