A Healthier Alternative to Spray Foam Insulation

Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insu­la­tion is ener­gy effi­cient and air­tight. How­ev­er, con­cerns over tox­ic emis­sions from SPF insu­la­tion, along with its com­bustibil­i­ty, are grow­ing. The Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (E.P.A) found that some peo­ple expe­ri­ence neg­a­tive reac­tions to even a small expo­sure to SPF, includ­ing wheez­ing, cough­ing, short­ness of breath, irri­ta­tion of the eyes and lungs, fever, stuffy nose, sore throat, headaches, and joint pain.

Spray polyurethane foam is also prone to catch­ing fire both dur­ing and after instal­la­tion. Spray polyurethane foam is ener­gy-effi­cient; still, issues due to the release of tox­ins from SPF, and its sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to ignit­ing, sug­gest the need for a health­i­er and safer alter­na­tive to SPF.

Chem­i­cal expo­sures from SPF may occur dur­ing and after the instal­la­tion process. Spray polyurethane foam is made by com­bin­ing and react­ing two liq­uid chem­i­cals to cre­ate a foam. The mix­ing of mate­ri­als reacts quick­ly and expands to cre­ate a con­tin­u­ous bar­ri­er on walls, around cor­ners, and on all con­toured sur­faces. How­ev­er, the chem­i­cal reac­tion and cur­ing of SPF can pro­duce tox­ins: iso­cyanates, alde­hy­des, amine cat­a­lysts, and oth­er volatile organ­ic com­pounds (VOCs).

It is essen­tial to the safe­ty of the work­ers to lim­it expo­sure to the chem­i­cals and wear appro­pri­ate per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment. Future occu­pants of the build­ing should also stay away dur­ing the instal­la­tion, job com­ple­tion, and cleanup. Accord­ing to the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (E.P.A.), there are sev­er­al ways the work­ers, and the build­ing’s occu­pants are exposed to harm­ful chem­i­cals from SPF, for exam­ple:

  • Spray appli­ca­tion of SPF gen­er­ates tox­ic vapors, like iso­cyanate, which can migrate through the build­ing. Iso­cyanate is clas­si­fied as a poten­tial human car­cino­gen and can cause lung prob­lems, as well as nose, eyes, skin, and throat irri­ta­tions.
  • Trim­ming SPF as it hard­ens gen­er­ates dust that may con­tain iso­cyanates and oth­er chem­i­cals.
  • When exposed to heat (flam­ing and non-flam­ing), SPF can break down and pro­duce a range of tox­ic chem­i­cals: iso­cyanates, amines, car­bon diox­ide, car­bon monox­ide, hydro­gen cyanide, or nitro­gen oxides.

Spray foam insu­la­tion is not just unhealthy, it is also a fire haz­ard and can ignite a flash fire when exposed to flames from trash fires, cut­ting torch­es, etc. Con­se­quent­ly, Sec­tion R316.4 of the 2015 Inter­na­tion­al Res­i­den­tial Code (IRC) requires pro­tect­ing the spray foam insu­la­tion against catch­ing fire with a ther­mal or igni­tion bar­ri­er. A ther­mal bar­ri­er is 1/​2‑inch gyp­sum wall­board or a mate­r­i­al that is equal in fire resis­tance to 1/​2‑inch gyp­sum wall­board.

An igni­tion bar­ri­er is less pro­tec­tive than a ther­mal bar­ri­er. Sec­tions R316.5.3 and R316.5.4 of the 2015 IRC allows six per­mis­si­ble mate­ri­als for an igni­tion bar­ri­er: 1.5‑inch-thick min­er­al fiber insu­la­tion; 0.25-inch-thick wood struc­tur­al pan­els; 0.375-inch par­ti­cle board; 0.25-inch-thick hard­board; 0.375-inch-thick gyp­sum board; or cor­ro­sion-resis­tant steel hav­ing a base met­al thick­ness of 0.016 inch­es.

Fires also can also occur dur­ing the appli­ca­tion of spray foam insu­la­tion. Apply­ing the SPF too thick or improp­er mix­ing of the chem­i­cals at the appli­ca­tion noz­zle can cause fires. Fire haz­ards dur­ing and after the appli­ca­tion of SPF sug­gest the need for a safer alter­na­tive to SPF.

A Safer Alternative to Spray Foam Insulation

Spray polyurethane foam can cre­ate an ener­gy-effi­cient struc­ture; how­ev­er, because of SPF’s poten­tial to emit tox­ic chem­i­cals and its ease of flam­ma­bil­i­ty, an alter­na­tive insu­la­tion sys­tem is worth con­sid­er­a­tion. Bau­tex Insu­lat­ed Block Wall Sys­tem is a health­i­er and safer alter­na­tive to spray foam insu­la­tion. Bau­tex Blocks cre­ate a healthy, fire-resis­tant, ener­gy-effi­cient, and durable build­ings and homes.

  • Bau­tex Blocks have low volatile organ­ic com­pound (VOC) emit­tance. Emis­sions of VOCs impact the health of a building’s occu­pants. VOC’s can cause can­cer, nose, eye and throat irri­ta­tions, headaches, nau­sea and dam­age to the kid­ney, liv­er and cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem.
  • Bau­tex Blocks are fire-resis­tant. They have an ASTM E119 fire rat­ing of four hours (twice the two-hour require­ment) and an ASTM E84 report­ed val­ues for flame speed of zero and smoke devel­op­ment of twen­ty. Because the blocks meet the E84 and NFPA 286 they essen­tial­ly meet the NFPA 101 code.
  • Appli­ca­tion of the Bau­tex AMB 20 air and mois­ture bar­ri­er to the Bau­tex block wall pre­vents air and mois­ture infil­tra­tion to the inte­ri­or of a home. Mois­ture can lead to mold and rot which impacts the integri­ty, safe­ty, and health of a build­ing.
  • The Bau­tex Block Wall Assem­bly is also ener­gy-effi­cient with an R‑14 con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion and dis­as­ter resis­tant.

In recent decades, SPF has become increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar over fiber­glass insu­la­tion, which is not air­tight and may be sus­cep­ti­ble to mois­ture accu­mu­la­tion. But, tox­ic emis­sions from SPF, along with its com­bustibil­i­ty, bring its safe­ty to ques­tion. For more infor­ma­tion on health­i­er and safer alter­na­tives to spray foam insu­la­tion, vis­it Bau­tex Wall Sys­tem.