The liquid plastic resin polyurethane is commonly used in the form of a foam on home furnishings such as furniture, bedding and carpets. According the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry, more than 1.1 billion lbs. of flexible polyurethane foam (FPF) is annually produced and used in the United States. This product's ubiquitousness means it's all the more important to make people aware of the potential dangers associated with it, so they can take the appropriate measures for using polyurethane safely.
Although FPF typically is resistant to smouldering ignition, it can start a fire if it comes into contact with a flame. Like other carbon-based materials, FPF burns vigorously and therefore a FPF fire can spread rapidly. Although fire-retardant additives are routinely applied to FPF to prevent the spread of any such fire, it is still wise to educate yourself on fire prevention if you intend to use the material in your home.
If you are exposed to polyurethane through contact or inhalation, you put yourself at risk of developing respiratory problems and chemically induced asthma. The chemicals within the material could also damage your nervous system. Avoid contact with the substance at home by keeping your house ventilated as much as possible and airing new bedding and furniture in an unused room for as long as you can. If you're having a new carpet installed, consider staying elsewhere until the process is finished.
Both the oil-based and waterborne forms of FPF can contribute to pollution. Polyurethane contains volatile organic compounds that can cause air pollution, therefore compromising the air quality of your home. As for water pollution, PAN Pesticides Database concludes that there is insufficient data to determine to what extent polyurethane can contaminate water.
The fluid nature of FPF means it's easy to spill. Oil-based FPF can leave an unsightly yellow-brown stain wherever it's spilt. The colour of the stain even deepens as it ages. Prevent stains on your floor and surfaces by spreading newspaper or old rags on any nearby surfaces before using FPF.
- Center for the Polyurethane Industry: Furnishings
- Polyurethane Foam Association: Facts on Flammability
- The Glendale Woodturners Guild: Using Polyurethane Finishes by Bill Nelson
- naturalparenting.com.au: Avoiding Household Dangers--Plastics in Your Home
- Clean & Healthy Floor Refinishing, LLC: Problems With Ordinary Floor Refinishing