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EPA concerned about DIY use of spray foam insulation

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans to address the potential health risks to consumers of certain chemicals contained in spray foam insulation, sealing concrete and finishing floors. These chemicals, methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), toluene diisocyanate (TDI) and other related compounds, are known to cause severe skin and breathing responses in workers who have been repeatedly exposed to them, according to the EPA. The chemicals have been documented as a leading cause of work-related asthma, and in severe cases, fatal reactions have occurred.

“There has been an increase in recent years in promoting the use of foams and sealants by do-it-yourself energy-conscious homeowners, and many people may now be unknowingly exposed to risks from these chemicals,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. 

Contractors and other professional workers who use these chemicals are regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets permissible workplace exposure limits. But there is very limited information available about the use and exposure patterns of consumers, who may be exposed to products containing uncured MDI and TDI. The EPA plans to carefully consider the potential risks from consumer exposure to these chemicals under the authority of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Actions to address concerns associated with TDI, MDI and related compounds include issuing rules to call in data on any past allegations of significant adverse effects, obtain unpublished health and safety data from industry sources, require exposure monitoring studies for consumer products, and possibly ban or restrict consumer products containing uncured MDI or TDI. The EPA said it will continue to work with other federal agencies, the polyurethanes industry and others to ensure improved labeling and provide comprehensive product safety information for polyurethane products containing uncured compounds, especially in consumer products.

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