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Polyurethane Foam Health Risks: The Full Story

Polyurethane Foam Health Risks The Full Story

In this article we hope to run through the questions we recently get asked. "Polyurethane Foam Health Risks". Let's get right into it... 

If you’re wondering what the polyurethane foam health risks are, then you’ve definitely come to the right place; we’re here to help answer this pertinent question.

For those who are looking for ways to insulate their home during extremely cold Winters, or unbearably hot Summers, there are a few options to consider. Spray foam insulation has been used to insulate buildings for decades, and is often considered a sound investment for homes.

Knowing the types of foam insulation available, and the risks they possess, will help you determine which variety is most suitable for your home...

What is Polyurethane Foam?

Before we set about answering the question of what the polyurethane foam health risks are, it would be a good place to begin by answering what polyurethane foam is.

Put simply, it is made by mixing an isocyanate with a polyol blend. Sprayable polyurethane foam is made with reactive chemicals, several of them in fact, and it is made in your home, rather than a factory.

They are generally divided into two groups of chemicals known colloquially as Part A, and Part B. Part A containing isocyanates and part B containing polyol, flame retardants and amine catalysts.

Exposure and Your Health

They are combined in a precise mixture and environment and are mixed on site during the installation process. During the spraying and application of these chemicals, hazardous fumes are released into the surrounding air.

If they are not properly mixed there is a chance that the chemicals can remain toxic after the foam application process is completed. After installation, hardened foam may generate dust when disturbed which can contain untreated chemicals.

These dangerous chemicals can potentially remain toxic in the form of dust and are harmful to your health.

Isocyanates, the chemical component in part A are known irritants to the skin, respiratory tract, eyes and mucous membrane. Direct contact to isocyanates will cause marked inflammation, and rashes on your skin may occur if you are exposed. Exposure can cause intense Asthma attacks.

Even if you have never had asthma before you may even begin to develop Asthma if you are exposed to isocyanates for long enough. This means that you can develop ongoing problems with breathing, and thus have asthmatic attacks that are triggered in varying environments, when there is no isocyanate present.

Exposure to amine catalysts may result in severe irritation to the eyes, and if ingested, can cause burns on the mouth, throat, oesophagus and gastrointestinal tract.

Polyurethane Foam Health Risks The Full Story

The Environmental Protection Agency has also produced a booklet which outlines safe installation practices, including providing adequate fresh air, and protective clothing

Chemical Mixtures

The constituents of part B are polyols. A chemical used to produce polyol known as ethylene glycol can affect the central nervous system in some cases of acute exposure. Inhaling the substance might result in irritation in the upper respiratory system.

Flame retardants are added because by itself, Polyurethane is flammable. So, in addition they are added to part B of the chemical spray foam, and are known as hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD or HBCDD) and tris(1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TCPP).

There is a possibility of severe poisoning even from low levels of exposure. That is because these halogenated compounds are persistent to bioaccumulation. This translates to the body taking a longer amount of time to expel them, than accumulate them from exposure.

Some studies show that these chemicals are potentially carcinogenic, and may disrupt the endocrine system as well.

If you’re experiencing ill health after living in a home with spray foam installation, and you’re wanting to learn about the potential polyurethane health risks, then you might need to consider whether you have become sensitised to the chemical constituents of polyurethane foam.

For individuals who become sensitised, even small exposure can trigger worrying symptoms of irritation, including: watering eyes, itching, rashes, breathing difficulties and so forth. There have been reports of fatal asthma attacks from exposure, so it is important to remain vigilant.

Making Yourself Informed

It is also important to remain aware that the industry is prone to potentially misleading marketing claims and may try to make claims that are unsubstantiated, and prey on consumer ignorance. Research is the answer to this practice.

You might also need to consider whether degradation of polyurethane foam can occur during its long lifetime. During this process gases which are held within the closed-cell format of the foam can be released.

Depending on the installer and chemical composition these can include chemicals which damage the ozone layer, such as HCFC and CFC.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also produced a booklet which outlines safe installation practices, including providing adequate fresh air, and protective clothing.

There have been anecdotal reports of sickness caused by improperly mixed chemicals during the installation process, which continue to emit toxic fumes after installation; this outlines the importance of using suitably experienced and qualified professionals during the installation process.

We hope to have answered the any queries you have involving the statement, "Polyurethane Foam Health Risks". If you do have any further questions please get in touch today by calling 0800 1700 636, or by clicking the button below!