Pur (Polyurethane) can be found everywhere in our daily life. For example, think of furniture, toys, mattresses, and pillows. Polyurethane foam insulation is also used to insulate a ceiling, a cavity wall or a floor. More and more Dutch people are now insulating their homes to make them more energy efficient. The draft report raises the alarm about the use of polyurethane as floor insulation.
Paul Scheepers, a toxicologist at Radboud University, explains that PUR in furniture and mattresses, for example, is used under controlled conditions in factories. It differs when it is sprayed under the floor for insulation. The foam is then made and applied on site.
Harmful substances are released
When polyurethane foam insulation is applied, hazardous materials are used and/or formed during the process, which can cause serious health damage in the short and long term, according to research. Schippers, who has seen a draft of the report: “In the factory you can check the chemical process. In people’s homes it becomes much more difficult.”
You can see how this works and what you can do yourself in this video:
Not only does the chemical process itself have risks, but conditions can also play an important role. Is there humidity in the room, is the processing temperature correct, is the proportion of the mixture still tidy and is there sufficient ventilation?
If the work is not done according to the regulations or if something goes wrong, you risk that the PUR, for example, does not harden properly or is processed too hot. In this case, the release of harmful substances will continue over a longer period of time.
In 2020, the Board of Health has already published an advisory report on the health risks of using sprayed polyurethane insulation. There it was concluded that the risks to public health would be minimal if the insulators properly followed all regulations.
The ministry then asked the RoyalHaskoningDHV research agency to conduct a follow-up research into business practice. Do insulators also comply with regulations? It turns out that the answer is not always, which means that there is an increased risk of health problems for residents and insulators.
About 15,000 to 20,000 homes are insulated with polyurethane foam each year. In total, there are an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 homes in which polyurethane foam has been used.
About 400 victims are now known to Stichting Meldpunt Purslachtoffers. Health complaints vary from eye irritation or hay fever complaints to (severe) shortness of breath. The draft report states that the actual number of complaints from both residents and insulators may be much higher.
RoyalhaskoningDHV notes “many deviations in the way it works”. Both certified and non-accredited companies will not always comply with the regulations.
One of the most important findings is that residents are sometimes present when spraying polyurethane foam insulation. In practice, it is often seen as “advice”, when in fact it is a legal obligation not to be at home while the application is being submitted and two hours later.
Some insulation companies have residents who do not want to leave their homes who sign a statement in which the resident indicates that they have been advised of the duty to leave the home and that they are aware of the risks.
Serious health problems
“If you’re at home while using polyurethane insulating foam, you can get a very high degree of exposure to toxic substances,” explains Atie Verschoor. Now emeritus chemist and her husband, internist Louis Verchore, have been working on Burr for years.
“Such a high concentration of substances at one time can make you become hypersensitive to those substances, as it were. Once you become allergic to them, you will often see people react to them more and more violently when they are used again. They are in contact with this substance” .
The Verchoss have seen dozens of victims in the past 10 years. “There have already been very horrific cases among them.”
This family was also completely wrong. Watch the video:
According to the guidelines, the so-called “inspection” must be carried out before the work is carried out. In addition, the resident should not only be informed of the products and their risks, but also technical examinations should be carried out to see if the house is suitable for the application of polyurethane foam insulation.
No technical checks, incorrect information
The draft report makes it clear that such a meeting is sometimes more focused on the commercial aspect and not on assessing whether the house is suitable for this type of insulation. According to the researchers, the necessary checks are not always carried out, such as checking the presence of moisture in the crawl space and ventilation.
The Office of Research also points out that providing information to residents is not always optimal. For example, advertisements are made for “green” polyurethane foam. Since water is used as a blowing agent, this incorrectly indicates that no harmful substances will be released. Also, residents are not always well informed about the products used and their risks.
The use of insulating polyurethane foam is widely promoted. Also by the government, because you can get support for it eg.
Experts argue in favor of removing all polyurethane foam insulation from the support list. “As a government, you should not want to encourage this. Aside from the potential public health risks, its use is harmful to the environment. It is difficult or impossible to recycle. It is no longer appropriate in this day and age,” says toxicologist Schippers.
Chemist Ati Vershor goes further. “I actually believe that all uses of polyurethane foam should be banned. I would never want to risk any health problems myself. Nor is it necessary because there are enough sustainable alternative resources that do not pose a risk to public health.”
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning announced that it could not yet anticipate the contents of the report. “At the end of the summer, the minister will submit a proposal for political measures to the House of Representatives, partly on the basis of investigation and in coordination with the parties involved,” a ministry spokesman said.
On behalf of the sector, the Polyurethane Foam Spray Knowledge Platform also announced that it is looking forward to the evaluation results with confidence. They assume that with the correct application of home insulation, residents are unlikely to experience adverse health effects.
Do you also have experience with polyurethane foam insulation in your home or as an insulating agent, please share it with us. You can send us an email at [email protected]
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