What Are the Dangers of Polyurethane Foam?

Found in upholstery, mattresses and more, polyurethane foam is the primary material in furniture cushions in many American homes. A complex polymer with a wide range of load-bearing capacity, it has no easy replacement when it comes to its cushioning properties in furniture. Also widely used as housing insulation in the place of fibreglass, many buildings contain a hardened form of this foam. Polyurethane foam has many benefits, but its danger can run quite high, and may not be worth the risk.


Calling it similar to a solid form of gasoline, firefighters have remarked that polyurethane foam can make a house burn faster. Because of this foam's widespread use and flammability, firefighters now say you must escape a burning home within three minutes to save your life. Since this foam is commonly used as insulation material, it can fuel an already dangerous fire, such as what happened at the famous disaster at the nightclub The Station in Rhode Island, where pyrotechnics sparked an insulation fire during a band performance.


Workers must take care when installing polyurethane foam insulation, as the process releases harmful toxins and fumes. Also, whenever it is removed, it can pose a threat to the workers and people who live in the nearby areas because of toxic airborne particles stirred up during demolition, especially when destroying a building using explosives. Also, when burnt, polyurethane foam gives off dangerous gases that can poison a victim quickly.

Health Problems

Some people are allergic to polyurethane foam. It can cause severe skin irritation and temporary blindness if it comes into contact with the eyes. Typically, these allergic reactions occur with physical contact only. It poses danger whenever someone inhales it, whether it's burning or simply airborne. It can be so dangerous to tamper with that it's recommended that a builder should not break it or use heat in its removal, or it may cause serious illness.

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About the Author

Amanda Holden has more than 17 years of professional writing experience. She is trained in computer programming and computer repair, and currently holds a Bachelor of Science in physics and geology with a minor in computer science. She is pursuing her PhD at a major university. Holden writes for various websites on subjects such as computer science, technical specifications, education, science and math.