Negative health side effects of polyurethane spray foam insulation

Updated April 17, 2017

Polyurethane spray foam insulation is a popular choice for homeowners because of how easy it is to use. Traditional insulation is usually made of fibreglass particles which can be very difficult to apply because of the necessary safety precautions to make sure you don't inhale or touch the fibreglass particles. Polyurethane spray foam insulation goes on as a foam and dries as a solid insulation; however, this form of insulation can be hazardous to your health.

Breathing Difficulties

Polyurethane spray foam insulation is an extreme irritant when it is inhaled. It can cause inflammation, excess mucus production and irritation of the airways and lungs. People who already suffer from asthma and reactive airways may notice an increase in attacks, and people who did not previously have symptoms can develop them after being exposed to polyurethane spray foam insulation.

During the application process when the product is wet, you'll need to wear a special respiratory mask to prevent excess inhalation.

Allergic Reaction

There is a potential risk of developing an allergic reaction to polyurethane spray foam insulation when you inhale the insulation during application or encounter the odours. Symptoms can occur such as breathing difficulties, difficulty swallowing, hives, cough, runny nose and runny eyes. Chemical allergies such as this one are often difficult to treat because a reaction to polyurethane spray foam insulation does not produce a typical histamine response like a regular food or seasonal allergy does.

Skin Irritation

Physical contact with polyurethane spray foam insulation can cause skin irritation at the site where the product makes contact, and you can develop a rash that completely covers the body because of inhaling the product. When dealing with a reaction from a chemical, it can take the body longer to resolve the rash than normally you would find with a food allergy. The body can store chemicals in areas such as fat cells for weeks until the body is able to cleanse itself of the toxins.


When the body is exposed to polyurethane spray foam insulation the immune system works harder to try and eliminate the toxins it has been exposed to. This immune response can cause a noticeable increase in fatigue while the bodywork harder to cleanse itself and, if constant exposure of this urethane occurs, chronic fatigue syndrome can take place. The fatigue can abate over time once exposure has been limited and the body repairs itself.

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About the Author

Amy Rozanski-Harlach started freelance writing in 2001 and has been published in a variety of publications including "The Hamburg Sun," "The Bee News," "Lodging Magazine" and many others. Rozanski-Harlach has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Buffalo State College