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Spray Foam Insulation and Your Health

Posted November 12, 2015

Having insulation in the greater Seattle area is essential if you want your home to be comfortable and energy efficient. With that said, some forms of insulation are cleaner, safer, and more effective than others. Spray-polyurethane foam, for example, is growing in popularity but is under investigation by the EPA for its environmental effects. If you are building a home or shopping for home insulation, read this article to learn more about how spray-foam insulation interacts with health.

Chemical Composition

Isocyanates are chemicals found in spray-foam insulation. Methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) is one type of isocyanate found in spray-foam insulation that is particularly concerning. These chemicals react with polyols to form polyurethane, which is a substance found in many products—including foam mattresses, chairs, footwear, and even bowling balls. In order for polyurethane to be safe, it must be fully reacted, or “cured.” This indicates that it has stable chemistry and is not a concern to health. But many products—such as coatings, adhesives, and spray-foam—react as they are being applied, and continue to react hours afterward. It is common for these products to contain uncured isocyanates that are unsafe for human exposure.

The Risk of DIY Spray Foam Insulation

Did you know that worker protection and quality assurance protocols for spray-foam installation have been in place for decades? It is only recently that the EPA has begun to look more closely at the detrimental health effects of exposure to spray-foam insulation. The reason is that there has been an increase recently in the number of homeowners buying do-it-yourself foam insulation. Additionally, there has been a recent increase in the number of complaints of adverse health effects in homes and office buildings where spray-foam insulation has been installed. This is why if you need insulation, it’s very important to have it professionally installed.

The Potential Health Effects of Spray Foam Insulation

Symptoms of exposure to uncured spray-foam insulation include skin, eye, and lung irritation. It can also irritate those with asthma and can cause chemical sensitization when it is inhaled or absorbed in the skin.