Have you ever thought about the potential risks that may lay within the attic of your home? Usually this infrequently visited space in your home is typically avoided due to the unstable temperatures in this environment, along with other unfavorable conditions like animal invaders and other smelly encounters that you will come across when entering this overhead area of your home. An attic is usually utilized for all of your junk and miscellaneous items that need to be stored out of sight such as photo albums, decorations, and even safe keepings. However, among all your personal items being held up in this upstairs’ storage of your home, this space also harbors spray foam insulations that can be producing hazardous chemicals into the environment that can spread into the air space of your entire home overtime.

Spray foam is a commonly used form of insulation that can be found in most attics found in homes. Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is a specific type of spray-applied plastic that is widely utilized to function as insulation to buildings and seal cracks and gaps – this will ultimately help to create a more energy-efficient and comfortable building. Although spray foam used in a home can contain many benefits to both the home’s structure and the efficiency of the building, there have been recent studies and research published that has determined potentially dangerous impacts of spray foam insulation. This type of insulation can have a negative effect on both the indoor environment and public health, particularly to those that are exposed to this foam and the chemicals it releases into the indoor air space. Therefore, the questions of is spray foam insulation safe to use in a home has become an increasingly popular question among homeowners and home builders.

In this article we are going to learn more about spray foam attic insulation safety and discuss the impact that this foam and the chemicals that it contains can adversely impact the environment of your home and even human health.  

Spray foam insulation problems

When it comes to a builder’s choice for insulation in a home, the go-to option for many is the use of spray foam as the form of insulation indoors. Spray foam has been used for decades, however, there have been increasing spray foam insulation problems overtime with the use of this type of insulation. There are many different types of spray foam that can be used for installation, and many of these can be potentially hazardous when installed inside your home and around the environment in which you spend the majority of your time. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the spray foam using polyurethane can be fairly dangerous:

“When spray polyurethane foam is being used, the work site should be avoided for individuals unless they are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, as the spray polyurethane foam insulation typically exceeds the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) occupational exposure limits (OELs).”

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

What is foam made of – spray foam ingredients

The decision of selecting which type of insulation to use in your home can be a difficult one as there are many options available to be used in your indoor environment including fiberglass, cellulose, and the popular spray foam that is commonly used for insulation. Spray foam insulation is an insulating air barrier material that works by sealing the walls, floors, and ceiling cavities from airflow. This foam can be placed around light fixtures, electrical outlets, windows and doors, attics, and crawl spaces.

Spray foam is made of two liquids that combine to form a chemical reaction that creates the spray polyurethane foam. The first liquid mix used to make spray polyurethane foam includes methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and polymeric methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (pMDI). And the second liquid mix used to make the spray foam includes a blend of polyols, blowing agents, catalysts, flame retardants, and surfactants – according to Spray Polyurethane Foam Health & Safety.

spray foam ingredients

Types of spray foam insulation

The spray foam insulation or spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is a popular alternative to traditional building insulation such as fiberglass. This type of spray polyurethane foam can be classified into two different types: light-density open-cell spray foam insulation and medium-density closed-cell spray foam insulation. These two types of spray foam insulation both contain polyurethane that can be potentially dangerous to the environment and to health upon exposure. However, the two different types of this polyurethane spray foam can differ, and the characteristics of these two SPFs include the following;

  1. Medium-Density Closed-Cell Spray Foam (ccSPF): This form of insulation is commonly known as two-pound foam, as it is a rigid insulating material that requires a thickness of 50 mm when applied in the home. Typically, this foam’s natural color is yellow when applied in insulation.
  2. Light-Density Open-Cell Spray Foam (ocSPF): Light-density open-cell spray foam is commonly known as half-pound foam that is a semi-rigid material with a sponge-like appearance. This material will begin to expand after installation and it will form small openings, open cells that are filled with carbon dioxide. This insulation will fill all the cracks, crevices, and voids to help achieve an airtight seal.

Spray foam attic insulation pros and cons

Spray foam attic insulation as we discussed above, is a highly popular method used for insulation in homes but like anything else, even other alternatives to spray foam insulation,  there are both pros and cons to the use of this home insulation material. Spray foam attic insulation is used primarily to act as a barrier to limit air movement and reduce the amount of energy loss that homes experience during the season changes. With these benefits of spray foam, there are also cons that can be created in the environment as well. The pros and cons of spray foam insulation can include the following:

Pros of spray foam attic insulation

Lowers Utility Bills in Home

When you use spray foam insulation in your home or other indoor environments, it will help to significantly save you money on your utility bills. This savings happens because the insulation will seal the airflow within your home, without having gaps or cracks that will allow the air to seep out of which will leave your ac running longer to cool.

Creates a Strong Airtight Seal

Spray polyurethane foam is a strong, expansive product that quickly works to seal various cracks and holes in your crawl space, attic, and walls. This airtight seal helps to decrease homeowner costs including utility costs.

Spray Foam is Resistant to Water

Not only can spray foam work to protect attics and crawl spaces from moisture it will also aid in resisting water during a flood or moisture release in the indoor space. This will ultimately help your home to avoid significant damage over the lifetime of the structure.

Long-Lasting Building Product

Spray foam is a durable, long-lasting material that has an indefinite lifespan after installation if the home is taken care of during this duration.

Cons of spray foam attic insulation

Does Not Always Fill Every Cavity

The spray foam works by filling all the spaces when applied onto the surfaces, however, sometimes this will not fill all the cracks and cavities in the surfaces. This can lead to an increase in energy-usage in the home which will increase the bills of the home overtime.

Difficult to Install Properly

The installation process of this insulation can be difficult, especially when using open-cell forms of this spray foam. When the material cures, it will begin to fold over itself and create unfilled areas that are not visible to the human eye.

Costly to Install

Unlike other insulation materials, spray foam can be costly to install. The once popularly used fiberglass insulation costs about $0.40 a square foot, in comparison to the $1.50 per square foot that spray foam costs.

Health Risks and Chemical Exposure

There are many risks associated with the use of spray foam in a home environment. Some of the ingredients used in this insulation material are called isocyanates, a hazardous chemical compound that has the potential to irritate the lungs, eyes, and stomach when exposure occurs. Other health issues can also develop from spray foam exposure, depending on the level of exposure and the type of spray foam used such as spray polyurethane foam.

Spray foam insulation health issues

Exposure to spray foam in an indoor environment can not only be hazardous to human health but it can also be dangerous to the environment. This building material that is used as insulation in many areas of the home such as the attic, crawl space, etc. can release toxic chemicals from its construction into the air and will therefore impact those who are around or near this insulation foam. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, spray polyurethane foam can have significant health effects when installed into a personal indoor environment. These health issues can include lung damage, asthma, sensitization, respiratory and breathing problems, and even skin and eye irritation.

spray foam health issues

How to get polyurethane smell off your hands

When you are doing home improvement or if you are unknowingly exposed to polyurethane, this chemical can be difficult to remove if contact is made on the skin. Therefore, workers or those who are in the vicinity or that risk exposure to this chemical must wear gloves and other protective equipment to avoid skin contact with the polyurethane foam. However, accidents happen, and polyurethane foam can get onto human skin, and if this happens it is important to properly clean the chemicals off your hands or whatever part of your body that was exposed to the polyurethane. Learn more about how to get rid of polyurethane smell!

The removal of chemical odors from your hands and skin is not easy, especially with the use of regular hand soap that is used every day. And thus, EnviroKlenz has created a revolutionary hand soap that uses a patented odor-neutralizing earth mineral technology in combination with a Castile-based soap to physically break down the odors and prevent them from re-depositing back on hands and skin. The use of the EnviroKlenz Hand Soap & Deodorizer will aid in both the removal and deodorization of chemical odors completely.

Chemical spray foam removal in indoor air

The EnviroKlenz Air System is a one-of-a-kind air purifier that utilizes a patented earth mineral technology that is capable of capturing and neutralizing a broad spectrum of chemical pollutants and noxious odors from the air including VOCs released from polyurethane spray foam. Additionally, this system contains a second-stage filtration with the use of a hospital-grade HEPA filter for particulate removal larger than 0.3 microns in size. The EnviroKlenz proprietary technology will not release any chemicals back into the environment and is both safer and faster at removing VOCs that traditional carbon filters and other air purifier technologies.

enviroklenz logo blue

 Air System

$699.00

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Article Sources:

  1. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Potential Chemical Exposures From Spray Polyurethane Foam (link)
  2. SprayPolyurethane.org: Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) Basics (link)
  3. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Health Concerns About Spray Polyurethane Foam (link)
  4. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) Insulation and How to Use it More Safely (link)

EnviroKlenz® Medical Disclaimer:

“Any information that is provided on this website is not for the use by any commercial or personal entity without expressed written consent of the blog author. The material and statements illustrated within this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases or medical conditions. Nor does the author in any way guarantee or validate the validity, totality, or efficacy of any claims and will therefore not be held responsible for the content of any claims. Always consult your medical physician for any specific medical advice or recommendations.”