Polyurethane & skin rash

Updated June 13, 2017

Polyurethane is a material known for its elasticity and toughness. It is available in a broad range of hardness---making it useful for many different purposes, from manufacturing mattress padding to making sprockets. Because of the growing ubiquity of polyurethane, it is important to know if you are allergic to the synthetic material. Side effects to polyurethane exposure can include skin rash.


According to, polyurethane is made by reacting a polymeric alcohol with diisocyanates. Diisocyanates have a known list of potential health effects such as irritation of the eyes, skin and throat as well as allergic reactions like skin rash. Therefore it is possible to develop a rash around polyurethane manufacturing plants or areas where polyurethane is processed.

Common Goods

Polyurethane is most commonly found in cushions like mattress pads and upholstery. However it is also found in certain varieties of condoms, some industrial cleaners and certain hardware. If you experience skin irritation or develop a rash after having contact with one of these items, you may be allergic to polyurethane or the diisocyanate that is produced when polyurethane breaks down.

Other Side Effects

Although a rash is unpleasant, it is usually not life-threatening. However, according to the Ecology Center website, polyurethane foam can release toluene diisocyanate, possibly causing severe lung problems. Asthmatics should be especially careful when handling polyurethane products.

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About the Author

Evelyn Broderick has been a writer since 2004. Her work has been published by the Jewish Alliance for Women in Science. She holds a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and biology from Macaulay Honors College and is pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. in immunology at Sloan Kettering. She is also a member of the New York Academy of Sciences.