New Generation Spray Foam insulation is a popular option for home renovations, and for new construction, because of its ability to seal the building envelope with a custom airtight barrier. This can help reduce energy costs and improve comfort. But spray foam insulation can also contain toxic chemicals and isn’t as eco-friendly as some other options. This article takes a closer look at what makes up spray foam insulation and how it may affect the health of homeowners and builders who use it.
The most common type of spray foam is closed-cell. It is more expensive than open-cell but is a better insulator per inch of thickness. It also creates an effective vapor barrier and eliminates the need for a separate vapor barrier in most cases. However, it has a higher chemical burden than other types of insulation and the blowing agents used to expand spray foam have a high global warming potential (GWP).
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Unlike wood studs, plywood or rigid foam insulation boards that can be recycled and reused, most spray foam will end up in a landfill at the end of its life. It is likely to become contaminated with other waste materials and can’t be easily scraped off of a wall or roof.
It can be difficult to find non-toxic spray foam because it’s typically marketed as “green” but contains many of the same chemicals found in other commercial products. It is also known to emit a dangerous gas while curing, and its 84-page safety manual and multiple hazard data sheets make it a hazardous product for anyone who isn’t wearing full face and respiratory protection.