Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI)
What is UFFI?
Urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) was
a low-density foam prepared at the installation site from a mixture of urea
formaldehyde resin, an acidic foaming agent solution, and a propellant,
usually compressed air. The mixture was pumped through a tube into cavities
of a wall. Until it hardened, it looked and felt like shaving cream. It was
usually white or cream coloured, although it may have been coloured blue.
Formaldehyde may be released from UFFI. At high concentrations it has a
pungent odour; at lower concentrations it may have no detectable odour.
Dosimeter testing is recommended as the best way for homeowners to measure
the level of formaldehyde in their living areas. Homeowners carry out this
testing by hanging two dosimeter test tubes in their home for a week. The
tubes are sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Medical and Technical Problems Associated with UFFI
The majority of people living in UFFI homes
report no ill effects from their insulation. But for some people, exposure
to formaldehyde can result in irritation to the eyes, nose and throat; and
in extreme cases nausea, vomiting and nose bleeds.
Formaldehyde is released from the foam in early stages as it cures or sets.
UFFI changes over time giving off more or less of the gas. The amount of gas
given off depends on the original composition, temperature and the amount of
moisture available to the foam.
Formaldehyde, minor quantities of other
gases, or particles from the foam may enter the living spaces of the home,
if inside walls are not well sealed.
High moisture content in the cavity may cause fungus to grow on the foam or
other materials in the insulated area. This is not a situation common to
UFFI homes, but where it occurs, reactions similar to those triggered by the
gas may result. However, the most common symptoms of reaction to the fungus
are asthmatic in nature (intermittent breathing difficulties, wheezing,
coughing, and a sense of constriction in the chest).
The major technical or operational problem with UFFI was that the installed
product could not effectively be standardized because it was prepared on
site. Even though the foam's ingredients may have been of the highest
quality, the quality of the installed material was largely dependent upon
the skill of the installer. Many of the problems eventually caused by UFFI
were due to faulty installation.
Additional problems were created when the foam was installed in ceilings and
attics and in brick and masonry structures. UFFI had only been accepted for
the use in wall cavities in wood-frame structures.
Recognizable signs of material damage are blistered and peeling paint, the
appearance of fungus on the paint, discolouration of finishes and corrosion
of electrical boxes.
Consumer and Corporate Affairs Canada
Private Laboratories which provide UFI testing
|Guelph Chemical Laboratories Ltd.
246 Silvercreek Parkway N.
Guelph, ON N1H 1E7