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Spray Foam Industry
EPA Hosts Webinar on Spray Foam Insulation Safety Issues
EPA, OSHA, NIOSH, CPSC and Spray Foam Industry Trade Associations reach capacity crowd in Online Webinar
By Staff

Washington, DC - December 2, 2009 - Over 300 spray foam industry professionals and concerned viewers joined government agencies and industry trade groups in an online seminar, or webinar, today presented to a capacity crowd. According to the hosts, many folks were turned away due to the overwhelming interest. The agencies indicated that another one will be held again soon and that all materials will made available online.

The webinar's objective was to introduce the agencies' collective concerns and involvement with the safety practices and health risks associated with the handling, application, and life cycle usage of spray polyurethane foam.

Presentations were made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on the government agency side. The Center for Polyurethanes Industry and the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance trade associations were also involved.

In response to global energy efficiency needs, the growth and demand for spray polyurethane foam insulation is rapidly on the rise. SPFA reports market growth of up to 40% since 2004. In 2009 Reuters reported SPF to be the fastest growing products in the building and construction segments. EPA sited a report indicating that over 400 million pounds of polyurethane foam were consumed in North America during 2008. Because of this market growth and rapid acceptance of spray foam insulation as one of the most energy efficient roofing and insulation materials available, the product has been under watch by many government agencies to assure the suppliers, the trades and general public use the spray foam product safely.

The presentation was introduced by Carol Hetfield of the EPA. She identified several goals of their initiative:

  • Improve Availability of Safety Information
  • Communicate Best Safety Practices
  • Address Inaccurate and False Marketing Claims
  • Exposure Assessment

Mary Cushmac, from the EPA opened up the meeting with comments about the current situation in the industry as it relates to the government agency's perspective. She indicated that both the A-side product and B-side products contain both primary and intermediate chemicals of concern, especially if they are mis-handled, or applied incorrectly.

EPA mentioned that the "applicators themselves" of the foam insulation are often in a work-hazard situation that exceeds the current OSHA / NIOSH exposure limits to isocyanate. Therefore it is imperative that the applicators, helpers, and nearby trades be properly educated and protected. Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is used, including but not limited to, full skin coverage, and full face respirators. Helpers should also be wearing full face respirators.

It was also emphasized that the building having foam applied, be vacated by the occupants (homeowners, school children, other workers), during the application of spray foam. This procedure is just as for the foam insulation contractor to know and abide by as it is to the consumer/homeowner having the work done.

The big concern and open ended question now revolves around just exactly how long should the building or space remain unoccupied after application. The general, very conservative, "best practices" rule of thumb has been discussed to be 24 hours. However, current research indicates that some tests have shown that no levels of isocyanate were detectable after just a few hours. It was agreed that more research is necessary and that many other variables also come into play in this decision.

Post application procedures should also be scrutinized as there is some concern that the dust created by the shaved foam may contain uncured chemicals that can lead to iso inhalation and skin irritation exposure.

Several other presentations were made by Janet Carter (OSHA), Daniel Almaguer (NIOSH), Treye Thomas (CPSC), Jim Chapman (Bayer MaterialScience), and the industry trade associations. Presentations covered more on the need for better safety practices, and the areas in most need. A major goal of this government and trade based coalition will be to communicate and educate all of current and future users of the product (trade and consumer side) all of these highlighted safety and health advisory precautions.

Most all agencies are in agreement that spray polyurethane is a remarkable product leading the war on energy consumption and green, sustainable building products. Foam insulation is still a very safe insulation product to use, but as with most construction related products, it takes skill and understanding of all the associated hazards, health and safety risks during handling, application, and finish.

Much more on this story to come. We plan to have many of the resources pulled together in one area on the website for everyone's ease and future use. Staff

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