New study: health and environmental risk in building insulation – By Green Science Policy

New study: health and environmental risk in building insulation

Posted on November 26, 2012 by veena

Foam plastic insulation materials such as polystyrene, polyurethane, and polyisucyanurate are important to increase the energy efficiency of buildings and reduce carbon footprints. However, potentially harmful  flame retardants are used to help foam plastic insulations meet a flammability test.

Flame retardants are used in foam plastic building insulation

Unfortunately, these chemicals have spread around the globe and are now found in just about everything else too – dolphins, birds, our house dust, food, and families. This is a concern because they have been associated with neurological and developmental toxicity, endocrine disruption, and potential carcinogenicity.  With a team of leading fire scientists and code experts, we completed research exploring whether the use of these flame retardants provides a significant fire safety benefit. The results were released Nov. 26 as a peer reviewed article in Building Research & Information.

We found that addition of flame retardants offers no fire-safety benefit in cases when:

  1. Building codes require foam insulation to be installed behind a thermal barrier such as gypsum drywall.
  2. Foams are covered by soil or concrete below ground on the exterior of a building. In these cases the soil and concrete act as thermal barriers and the flame retardants offer no additional benefit.

Flame retardants are added to achieve a code-mandated flame spread rating, however we found that the insulation’s rating does not provide useful information about its behavior in more realistic fire situations. This paradox results from the use of an inappropriate test method called the Steiner Tunnel Test/ ASTM E 84 to rate these foam plastics. What surprised us is that the test is still required for insulation after having been shown to provide inaccurate results for these types of materials.

The Steiner Tunnel test does not give accurate ratings for foam plastics

After analyzing the fire science, building codes, statistics, and toxicology data, we concluded that removing the code requirement for the Steiner Tunnel testing of foam insulation in the cases above would reduce the health and environmental impact of buildings while maintaining fire safety. This would permit the use of foam insulation without flame retardants below grade and behind a thermal barrier, where is it protected from ignition by more effective code-mandated measures.

This code change effort is supported by the Safer Insulation Solution, a national coalition of architects, builders, scientists, fire safety experts, firefighters, health/ environmental advocates, and leading companies. To learn more or take action:

Download or read the article here.

A missing peice is that flame retardants are mixed into the foam and not just a top coat so any SPF foam has loads of Tris ready to become part of the house dust even if behind drywall – chemicals and dust are able to move between cracks.



Pharos Project States Hazards of SPF

To see the article at Pharos link here

WFTV Channel 9 News Exposes More Toxic Spray Foam Homes.

Todd Ulrich of WFTV aired another news story on toxic spray foam homes last night.

WFTV did not state the brand of SPF used last night, but most brands of SPF have had complaints with Demilec having the most complaints and legal suits filed thus far.

In response to WFTV’s story the American Chemistry Council issued a statement :

…“Spray foam can provide enormous benefits to homeowners, especially in places like Florida where climate control and moisture concerns are significant. Spray foam is a highly effective insulation material and has a unique ability to fill the gaps that can be difficult to seal and allow air to escape. Using spray foam to seal air leaks can help manage moisture and humidity in a building. By controlling moisture, spray foam can limit one of the key variables that can lead to mold and mildew growth.

Wow, that response sounds like it came right out of the sales manual for SPF marketing.

The truth about SPF is …the effectiveness of SPF is good, no one ever disputed that it is not a great insulator. Asbestos was good too.

As for reducing mold and mildew, it does not stop growth of mold – in fact a lot of issues are coming to the surface that homes are filled with mold under the SPF on roof decks due to leaks that go unnoticed.  Also, some homes become too tight from SPF (yes, because it is an effective insulator, but at what cost to your health???) and the HVAC may not have any fresh air intake or proper ventilation thereby adding to moisture problems in the home.

SPF  has flame retardants that become air borne and attach to dust in the home.

“Halogenated fire retardants are becoming widespread in the environment. Halogenated fire retardants (HFRs) can migrate out of furniture foam, electronics, fabric and other consumer products as well as foam insulation so humans are exposed to a “cocktail” of such toxins. Levels of HFRs are increasing in household dust, human blood and breast milk, and wild animals. The chemicals are widely distributed in the outdoor environment with the highest concentrations in the Arctic and marine mammals. Certain classes of brominated fire retardants, the polybrominated diphenyl ethers, have been banned for most applications, but other halogenated chemicals have replaces them.”


Chlorinated Tris is banned from kids sleepwear in 1979, but it is allowed in our couches and insulation – WTH!

SPF chemicals migrate into all building material during install, especially so if no ventilation of the home during install (did you installer have fans going and windows open?).

SPF contains chemicals that sensitize people/animals and can cause chronic sensitivity to all products containing like chemicals.  Think of living in a bubble because everything from your car AC to entering IKEA make you sick.  SPF is not worth that is it?

SPF produces lethal gases during a fire – the typical response time for fire fighters fighting a foam house is longer because of the protective gear needed.

SPF has so many variables that the ONLY way to get it 100% correct is in a controlled setting like a lab, not on your driveway.

If you SPF seems ok today and not presenting any symptoms or smells, wait for 6 – 7 years then check in again.  More and more homeowners are finding their SPF to start off gassing after 6-7 years.  Why is unknown but perhaps its breaking down due to conditions of being heated/cooled on the underside of the roof deck or wall cavities.

Homeowners that do not know if they have SPF, look in your attic or crawl space. Crawl spaces with SPF are common unfortunately  mold and off gassing also can happen in these homes – but it is hard to pin point because it is in the crawl space.

If you have any concerns about your spray foam insulation, please contact me at

Explain what your concern is, any symptoms you experience in the home/space, type of SPF, When installed and what the SPF looks like. can help you test your foam and air.

Your air and foam can be tested for elevated chemicals.


Are you worried about your spray foam insulation?

If you are concerned that your home spray foam insulation is making you feel sick or has an odor,  is crusty or too soft or irritates your eyes, throat, chest, head or gives you body aches, or are coughing while in your home, it is time to get an inspection.

Not all foam looks bad to be bad.

If you feel sick in your home and you have spray foam insulation, please contact us at foamproblem (at)

We can provide you with referrals in your area that understand SPF.

Bette to know if your home is a bath of SPF off gassing before more damage is done.



Do You Have Spray Foam?

Itchy, burning irritated eyes, headache, chest pain, sore throat, running nose, increased mucus in head/throat, breathing problems, cough, bronchitis, skin rash are some of the common complaints from families living in a home with spray foam insulation.

Does your home have a sweet almost chemical like smell that intensifies in the heat (attic on a hot day).  Some foams are fishy smelling.  Spray foam is NOT suppose to have an odor so if it does you may need to start asking questions.

Do your symptoms go away if you leave your home for awhile?  If so – you may have a problem with your foam.

Looking at your foam can sometimes help determine a problem because of physical characteristics, but lots of problem foam homes have ‘ok’ looking foam.  Well, ‘ok’ until tested in a chamber to see the gross amount of chemicals that ooze out at low temps of only 73 degrees.

Is your foam sticky, soft and wet or dry and flaky?  Is it a cream color or yellow/orange?  Is the color consistent or marbled?

Do you smell areas more than other areas?  try cutting a mason jar sized piece out and put it in a mason jar, close it up for a day then smell it.  Is it potent or no odor?  If the whiff test makes your nose cringe, you very well may have a problem.

Did the installer ventilate your home while installing?  Did the put a warning sign on your property to stay out for 24-48hr post spray (and during spray)?

If you think your foam is off gassing (yes, that means if it has a smell and sometimes the smell can minimal, but if you have symptoms as stated above with or without the smell) it is best to act sooner than later.  We do not know the long term affects from SPF that is not inert.  However it is well publicized that the chemical that make up SPF are all very dangerous and many are classified as carcinogens.  So its better safe than sorry to have your SPF looked at and you indoor air to be tested if you even suspect you may have something wrong with your spray foam.

Contact me at or leave a message on this blog.







Alters and Pravato stand up to Demilec.

2012-10-04 12:00:00 AM
Miami attorney Jeremy Alters said he is going to do to spray polyurethane foam insulation what plaintiffs lawyers did to Chinese drywall — make the manufacturers and installers pay for the homes and lives they ruined.
The Alters Law Firm filed five federal lawsuits in recent months over the summer against manufacturers and installers, starting with a complaint filed in Miami against Demilec USA LLC and Masco Services Group Corp. in May. Others are about to be filed across the nation in the next few weeks.
The lawsuits claim the insulation foam contains carcinogens, such as formaldehyde and isopropylene, that can cause respiratory illness and distress.
Alters said he expects the lawsuits, like with the numerous Chinese drywall cases, eventually will be consolidated for pretrial issues either in a multidistrict litigation action or mass tort action in front of one federal judge.
Tainted Chinese drywall led to homes stinking of sulphur and the corrosion of metal in air conditioners, appliances and other household items. Homes built during the housing boom had to be gutted to the studs. Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, the top supplier of the drywall, has settled numerous lawsuits around the country for at least $800 million.
“It is very unfortunate what has happened to many homeowners with the installation of defective Chinese drywall, and we believe that the installation of this specific spray foam insulation can even be as widespread, or even more widespread, than Chinese drywall,” Alters said.
Spray polyurethane foam insulation — known in the construction industry as SPF — came into vogue in the last decade, also during the housing boom. The insulation is a semi-rigid substance created by the chemical reaction of two sets of compounds combined at the worksite. It is sprayed into walls and attics by an installer wearing a breathing apparatus.
When applied, the foam is supposed to become inert and nontoxic, but the Miami lawsuit claimed that doesn’t occur “given the exacting set of installation requirements and inadequate training and installer certification methods.”
Installers mix the compound at construction sites.
“It’s supposed to be mixed at a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit in a sterile clean environment,” Alters said. “It doesn’t work. It becomes toxic.”
Green product
The Lydecker Diaz firm in Miami is representing Demilec. Attorneys at the firm had no comment or did not respond to emails on the pending lawsuits.
A call for comment to the Arlington, Texas-based company was not returned by deadline.

No End in Sight for Spray Foam Problems

Goodness.  Over the past two weeks I have been contacted by 5 families living in hotels or rentals because they feel sick inside their spray foamed homes.

As an update: Lawsuits are being filed from three (at least) different firms against manufactures such as Demilec, Icynene and Bayer (to name the top few).

Some families are being paid small amounts compared to what they have lost and have to sign all future rights away.

My roster of foam families keeps growing yet foam companies still have the nerve to deny any issues.

Here is the topper…Dave Lall told me during our phone conversation that it is the installers fault; he even used an analogy of installers cutting corners and hoping not to get caught in order to save money with a guy at a bar taking the last drink his friends bought him before driving drunk home and hoping not to get caught.

Classy Dave, nice work for a CEO.

Also, It is somewhat satisfying to hear that my little blog sends your lawyers to court looking to find ways to get my communications with others.  Perhaps you should spend the time and money on helping people forced out of their homes because they used your product instead of in court asking for my emails!





I suppose this is how it works.





Even Bayer talks about the dangers of SPF:Potential Health Effects of Overexposure


Taken from BayerCare

Inhalation of MDI vapor and/or aerosol,
at elevated levels (above OELs), has the potential to cause adverse health effects. Possible effects on the respiratory system can include the following: irritation of the nose, throat, and lungs, causing runny nose, sore throat, coughing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath. The development of other respiratory conditions, such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also are possible, but uncommon.
Respiratory tract sensitization (i.e., the development of asthma) is also possible
as a result of overexposure. Symptoms of sensitization include chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing, and/or wheezing. These symptoms can be delayed up to several hours after exposure. Sensitization can be permanent,
and extreme asthmatic episodes can be life threatening. Some MDI sensitized individuals can experience asthmatic episodes upon exposure to cold air, dust, or other airborne substances, a condition known as nonspecific bronchial hyperresponsiveness. There is
also evidence, though limited, that repeated overexposures to MDI can lead to reduced lung function.
MDI contact with skin can cause irritation and sensitization effects. The signs of both are similar and include reddening, itching, swelling, and rash. However, in the case of sensitization, these signs can be elicited from only a very
small exposure. Furthermore, animal tests and other research indicate that skin contact with isocyanates can play a role in causing isocyanate sensitization and respiratory reaction.

Eye contact with MDI vapor or liquid
can cause reddening, tearing, stinging, and/or swelling of the eyes. Conjunctivitis also
can occur.

The chemicals contained within the B-side typically do not have established OELs; however, contact with these components can potentially produce adverse health effects.
The majority of the B-side is comprised of polyols which, in most cases, present minimal hazard from inhalation or skin contact. Further, while some of the other components of the B-side have greater potential to cause adverse health effects, their ability to cause such effects is diminished, because they are typically present at low percentages in the B-side.
Exposure to elevated airborne levels of blowing agent can result in irritation causing coughing, sore throat, and runny nose. Overexposure can also result in cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Skin contact is only slightly irritating. Eye contact with liquid or mist may result in slight irritation. In addition, if sufficient blowing agent is released into a
reducing exposure
There are several protective measures that can be taken to effectively reduce exposure.
engineering Controls/Work practices
Spray foam contractors are encouraged
to ventilate the area during and following spraying. For example, windows on opposite sides of a room or structure could be opened to allow outdoor air to enter and inside air to escape. Of course, weather conditions and the circumstances of the job site (e.g., proximity
to bystanders/passersby, other buildings, vehicles, possible regulations, etc.) must be taken into consideration. Active ventilation (i.e., fan/blower exhausting to outside of building) may also be used. Access should be restricted near the exhaust point(s). Do not locate exhaust points near air intakes.
Air monitoring studies have shown that low levels of airborne A- and B-side chemicals can be present in the truck trailer. Accordingly, it is prudent to ensure that all drums of chemicals
given space, air can be displaced, and oxygen deficiency can result.
Exposure to elevated airborne levels of amine catalysts can also result in irritation
of the respiratory tract causing cough, sore throat, and runny nose. Some amine catalysts are also capable of causing respiratory tract sensitization. Skin contact can result in irritation, causing reddening, itching, swelling and/or burns. Some catalysts are also capable of causing skin sensitization. Eye contact can result in reddening, tearing, swelling, burns, and conjunctivitis. In some cases, vapor may temporarily cause vision to become foggy
or blurry, and halos may appear around
bright objects.
Exposure to elevated airborne levels of flame retardants can result in irritation of the respiratory tract causing cough, sore throat, and runny nose. Skin contact can result in slight irritation, while eye contact is generally non-irritating.
Additional information, including first aid procedures for A- and B-side chemicals, can be found in the MSDS.”
To read more from BayerCare BayerSPFExposure

EPA – full website of ‘warnings’ on spf

The EPA continues to tell me and other families with SPF problems that they continue to get more and more spf complaints. Many folks at the EPA that I have personally spoken with have mentioned the unknown safety of SPF. To cover their ass as they continue to allow SPF in homes, they now refer us to their ‘safety’ webpage, link here. It covers lots of ‘unknowns’

More research needed: SPF offgassing

Link to Spray Foam Safety here

“Potential Chemical Exposures
Chemical exposures from SPF may occur through a variety of ways. The work site should be restricted to persons wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.

Vapors and Aerosols
Spray application generates isocyanate vapors and aerosols.
Research data indicate that inhalation exposures during SPF insulation will typically exceed OSHA occupational exposure limits (OELs) and require skin, eye and respiratory protection.
Vapors and aerosols can migrate through the building if the area is not isolated and properly ventilated.
After application, vapors may linger in a building until properly ventilated and thoroughly cleaned.
Cutting or trimming the foam as it hardens (tack-free phase) may generate dust that may contain unreacted isocyanates and other chemicals.
After application, dust may linger in a building until properly ventilated and thoroughly cleaned.
Heat-generating processes
Any heat-generating processes such as drilling, welding, soldering, grinding, sawing, or sanding on or near the foam insulation may generate a range of airborne degradation (PDF) (3 pp, 109K, About PDF) chemicals, including, isocyanates, amines, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, or nitrogen oxides.
Fires involving SPF may release isocyanates, hydrogen cyanide, amines, and other toxic chemicals into the air. Read Isocyanates (Emissions from fires) (PDF) (130 pp, 10 MB, About PDF). Fire departments have issued advisories and require the use of full supplied air respirators when fighting polyurethane fires.
“Curing” of SPF means that the chemicals in the product are reacting to produce polyurethane foam. SPF material is highly adhesive and will stick to most surfaces. SPF may appear hardened or “tack-free” within a range of a few seconds to a few minutes after application. However, at this stage, the foam is still curing and still contains unreacted SPF chemicals.

Some manufacturers estimate that it can take approximately 23-72 hours after application for the foam to fully cure for the two-component high pressure “professional” SPF system, and approximately 8 to 24 hours to cure for one component foam, typically available in 12 oz. to 24 oz. cans, but more research is needed to account for the potential variability of curing rates.

Top of page

Curing Rates of SPF Affect Re-Entry Times
The curing time (complete reaction) varies depending on the type of SPF product, product formulation, applicator technique, foam thickness, temperature, humidity and other factors. Cutting or trimming foam before it is fully cured may cause exposure to unreacted SPF chemicals.

Homeowners, school administrators, and other decision-makers should get clear guidance from contractors, system houses, and product manufacturers on the appropriate time of year to install SPF in your area or weather conditions that may impact the installation of SPF. Temperature and humidity play a critical role in the curing of SPF ingredients. More product research is needed to understand the implications variability may play in future potential off-gassing. Ask to see any reports developed from product testing on re-entry times and the impact of the variability of factors that influence curing.

The polyol blend (B-side) contains a variety of proprietary chemicals and curing rates may vary for different SPF product formulations. Read the manufacturer’s recommendation in the material safety data sheet (MSDS) and other product information for all types of SPF products and applications.

Air sampling and testing the indoor air following SPF installation is one way to assure the foam is completely cured. Emissions testing of SPF foam applied in a laboratory and in the field (at the work site) may vary. Testing should be conducted by a certified laboratory using a validated method such as the Standard Method for the Testing and Evaluation of Volatile Organic Chemical Emissions from Indoor Sources Using Environmental Chambers, Version 1.1 (2010) (PDF) (52pp, 429KB, About PDF) under California Section 01350 .

Long-term Concerns for Exposure Potential
After spray foam is applied and cured, it is considered to be relatively inert; however, there are several situations where the cured foam may pose additional potential risks.

Maintenance workers, including plumbers and electricians, should not heat or grind spray foam. Spray foam can potentially generate toxic emissions under these circumstances.
Building renovations, demolition, or building disassembly done years later can disturb spray foam insulation. Performing hot work on or near polyurethane foam may lead to potential exposures to isocyanates and other toxic emissions.
Potential Off-Gassing
The potential for off-gassing of volatile chemicals from spray polyurethane foam is not fully understood and is an area where more research is needed.

One method for measuring volatile chemicals is the standard method under California Section 01350. In addition, ASTM International, an organization that sets standards for products and materials, has initiated development of a standard (D22.05) to determine volatile organic compounds, diisocyanates, oligomeric isocyanates, and amine catalysts emitted from SPF insulation products designed for on-site application in buildings (ASTM WK30960).”