PU foam and health
PU foam is a technical-chemical product that offers a number of benefits. It stands out thanks to its good insulating properties and easy handling. As with any other chemical products, to use the product safely, you should always comply with all general health & safety regulations. This includes: ensuring that the area is well ventilated, and wearing goggles and gloves.
Respiratory organs and skin contact
The constituent isocyanate (MDI) in the construction foam has the most impact on health. Respiratory organs may be irritated, if free isocyanate is inhaled in concentrations above the workplace tolerance levels. If PU foam cans are used normally, the workplace tolerance is not usually exceeded. Nevertheless, we recommend ensuring that the areas in which the PU foam is used are well aired because sensitive persons can suffer hypersensitive reactions to even the smallest of amounts of MDI.
If fluid polyurethane comes into contact with the eyes, this may cause light or moderate irritation and injuries to the cornea, however these are reversible. It is always best to wear goggles.
The same applies for contact with skin. Before it has hardened, polyurethane can irritate the skin. Also, the foam adheres strongly and cannot be removed easily from the skin. To protect yourself when working with PU foam, it is recommended that you wear clothes and clothing that covers all skin.
The competition-neutral EMICODE classification system is used to assess to what extent vapours are created when using parquet flooring, paints, varnishes, protective treatments for upholstery or even insulating materials, such as PU foam. The system defines three quality levels: EC1plus (= very low-emission), EC1 (= very low-emission) and EC2 (= low-emission). Originally the EMICODE was developed for adhesives and sealing agents used on large surfaces, such as parquet flooring adhesives. For the past couple of years it has also been possible to test sealing agents based on the strict EMICODE guidelines which are used in much smaller quantities compared to e.g. PU foam. PU foams that were tested were classified as very low-emission with the label EC1plus (= very low emission).
Classification as H351 acc. to GHS
According to the globally harmonised system for the classification and labelling of chemicals (GHS) used within the European Union, PU foam must bear the H351 statement. H351 states that products may have a carcinogenic effect. This suspicion was based on animal trials that were conducted at the beginning of the millennium. In these tests, animals were exposed to a lung-like aerosol polymer MDI for two years. When setting up the test, the MDI was changed so that it was inhaled for a longer period. However, this inhalative mixture of substances is not created when PU foam is used normally.
There is a brief summary of the study results on the safety data sheet issued by ISOPA.