January 24, 2011
Nation's Building News

The Official Online Newspaper of NAHB

Multifamily Builders Should Be Aware of Health Hazards of Foam Spray Insulation

Multifamily builders should be aware of safety issues presented by the installation of spray polyurethane insulating foam (SPF) , which is installed as a liquid and then expands to many times its original size.

SPF is a widely used and highly effective insulator and sealant. However, exposure to its key ingredient, isocyanates — along with other chemicals in SPF products — can cause the following adverse health effects:

  • Asthma, a potentially life-threatening disease
  • Lung damage
  • Respiratory problems and other breathing difficulties
  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Other potential adverse health effects

It is important to review the manufacturer’s recommendations for handling the chemicals that make up SPF. A few safety best practices to avoid injury or illness when handling SPF include:

  • Review product ingredients and use information, such as material safety data sheets (MSDSs).
  • Vacate building occupants and other trade workers who are unprotected.
  • Isolate the work site.
  • Wear prescribed personal protective equipment — such as chemical-resistant (nitrile) gloves and clothing and an appropriate respirator.
  • Ventilate the work site.
  • Clean the area thoroughly before unprotected workers or occupants re-enter it.

In order to ensure safe re-entry into a building after the SPF has been installed, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper foam curing time.

For more information on spray polyurethane foam insulation and isocyanates, visit the Occupational and Safety Administration's safety and health topics section on its website.

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