Commentary: Spray Foam Insulation Use Requires Health and Safety First

Ellie Goldberg is a GN Advisory Board Member and founded, a consulting service promoting health security and educational equity for students with asthma and other chronic health conditions. She comments on the post ‘A Newer Option for Attic Insulation and Ice Dam Prevention’ by Craig Forman. Craig’s post was previously published in the January/February 2017 edition of GN’s Green News.

We wish to add a note of caution about spray foam insulation: this material requires a high level of expertise to apply correctly and can otherwise endanger the home’s occupants.

Some advertising claims do not clearly state that spray foam contains hazardous chemicals and therefore mask the need for safe work practices. Contractors and homeowners need to manage many health and safety risks when planning any home construction, renovation, maintenance or weatherization project. Professionals know that there are hazards, especially in older homes, that may include lead paint, asbestos, mold, old electrical wiring, urea formaldehyde foam insulation, chemical residues from old pesticides such as chlordane and recent pesticide use, shoddy workmanship as well as conditions that are now considered code violations.

In choosing the most appropriate product for a project, professionals and occupants need to consider more than the material’s appropriateness and effectiveness for the site. They also need to protect workers during installation as well as avoid potential long term hazards as materials off-gas or degrade. Certain products pose a special risk if the home occupants include infants and young children, pregnant women or family members with asthma or other chronic conditions.

Proceed with caution. There are more than 80,000 chemicals in use today with no information on long term health effects. Hazardous products can be on the market and in use for many years with no regulatory protection of people or the environment.

Read more about SPF products, please visit the following LINK

US EPA Health Concerns about Spray Polyurethane Foam(

US EPA Guide to Professionally Installing High-Pressure, Two-Component Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation (PDF)(2 pp) (

Straight Talk Abou Urethane Foam and Casting Resins Two-Component Systems,  Monona Rossol, MONONA ROSSOL, M.S., M.F.A., Industrial Hygienist, Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety (

Flame Retardants  

The current building code that requires the use of certain “flame retardant” chemicals can also create an immediate and long term health hazard. Though flame retardant chemicals have been promoted as lifesavers, they provide no meaningful fire protection.

The film Toxic Hot Seat (, tells the story of deceptive campaigns by the tobacco and chemical industries (exposed by the Chicago Tribune in 2012) and about firefighters, mothers, journalists, scientists, politicians and activists working to change the codes that require their widespread use in furnishings, insulation, and other common products.

Learn more EHHI Flame Retardant Report, The Case for Policy Change 


By Ellie Goldberg