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.