Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is a widely used insulation and air sealant. However, exposures to isocyanates, SPF’s key ingredient, can cause a number of serious health problems for folks working with or around SPF. Spray application of SPF insulation generates isocyanate vapors and aerosols that can migrate throughout a building if it is not isolated and properly ventilated. Both inhalation and skin exposures can lead to the worker suffering serious health effects.
Adverse health effects caused by isocyanate exposure include asthma, chemical sensitization, liver damage, other respiratory and breathing problems, serious allergic reactions, and severe skin and eye irritation. If workers experience breathing problems or other adverse health effects following exposure to SPF, they should seek immediate medical attention.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has found that isocyanates are a leading chemical cause of work-related asthma. According to NIOSH reports, some workers who become sensitized to isocyanates are subject to severe asthma attacks if they are exposed again. Death from severe asthma in some sensitized persons has been reported. Sensitization may result from either a single exposure to a relatively high concentration or repeated exposures to lower concentrations over time. If a worker is allergic or becomes sensitized to isocyanates, even exposure to low concentrations can trigger a severe asthma attack or other lung effects, or cause a potentially fatal reaction. There is no recognized safe level of exposure to isocyanates for sensitized individuals.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), research data indicate that inhalation exposures during SPF application will typically exceed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) occupational exposure limits and require skin, eye, and respiratory protection. Because of this, the EPA suggests the work site be restricted to persons wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. Moreover, OSHA requires all workers be trained so that they are aware of the potential hazards and follow safe work practices.
Even after application and curing, people working around existing SPF may be at risk from isocyanates and other toxic exposures. Cutting or trimming the foam as or after it hardens may generate dust containing unreacted isocyanates and other dangerous chemicals. Workers who could experience toxic exposure to existing SFP include plumbers, electricians, building renovators, demolition workers, and even firefighters. To reduce the risk of exposure workers should always were personal protective equipment and not heat or grind SPF insulation.
Despite the known dangers, some advertising claims made by SPF manufacturers and sellers do not warn of potential health hazards or that these products contain hazardous chemicals. These reckless and intentionally misleading marketing claims are dangerous because they result in workers not understanding the need for adequate personal protective equipment and other personal safety precautions. This can lead to workers needlessly being exposed and suffering severe health effects.
Lawyers in our firm’s Toxic Torts Section are currently investigating potential claims on behalf of workers exposed to isocyanates and other dangerous chemicals during or after the application of SPF insulation and who now suffer from occupation asthma or other related illnesses. If you would like more information or have questions you can contact Chris Boutwell, a lawyer in our firm’s Toxic Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Chris.Boutwell@beasleyallen.com.
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