Ill because of PUR insulation, experts argue for curtailment of use

Pur (polyurethane) can be found everywhere in our daily lives. For example, think of furniture, toys, mattresses, pillows. PU foam insulation is also used to insulate a roof, a cavity wall or a floor. More and more Dutch people are now insulating their homes to make them more energy efficient. The draft report raises the alarm about the use of PUR as floor insulation.

Paul Scheepers, toxicologist at Radboud University, explains that the PUR in furniture and mattresses, for example, is used under controlled conditions in factories. It is different when it is sprayed under a floor for insulation. The foam is then made and applied on site.

Harmful substances are released

When applying polyurethane foam insulation, hazardous substances are used and/or formed during the process, which can cause serious health damage in the short and long term, according to the research. Scheepers, who has had access to the draft report: “In a factory you can check the chemical process. In people’s homes it becomes a lot more difficult.”

You can see how this works and what you can do yourself in this video:

Not only does the chemical process itself involve risks, the circumstances can also play an important role. Is there moisture in the room, is the processing temperature correct, is the ratio of the mixture still in order and is there sufficient ventilation?

If it does not go according to the regulations or if something goes wrong, you run the risk that the PUR, for example, does not harden properly or is processed too hot. In that case, harmful substances will continue to be released over a longer period of time.

Increased risk

In 2020, the Health Council already published an advisory report on the health risks of the use of sprayed PUR insulation. There it was concluded that the risks to public health would be minimal if insulators adhered properly to all regulations.

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Research agency RoyalHaskoningDHV was then asked by the ministry to conduct follow-up research into work practice. Do insulators also comply with the regulations? The answer turns out to be not always, which means that there is an increased risk of health problems for residents and insulators.

Number of victims

About 15,000 to 20,000 houses are insulated with polyurethane foam every year. In total there are an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 houses where polyurethane foam has been used.

About 400 victims are now known to the Stichting Meldpunt Purslachtoffers. Health complaints vary from irritated eyes or hay fever complaints to (severe) shortness of breath. The draft report states that the actual number of complaints from both residents and insulators is probably much higher.

RoyalhaskoningDHV observes ‘several deviations in the working method’. Both certified companies and companies that are not certified would not always adhere to the regulations.

One of the most important findings is that the residents are sometimes present when the polyurethane foam insulation is sprayed. In practice it is often seen as ‘advice’, while it is a legal obligation not to be present in the home during application and the two hours after.

Some insulation companies have residents who do not want to leave their home sign a statement in which the resident indicates that they have been informed about the obligation to leave the home and that they are aware of the risks.

Serious health problems

“If you are in the house while the polyurethane foam insulation is being applied, you can get a very high exposure to toxic substances,” explains Atie Verschoor. The now emeritus chemist and her husband, internist Louis Verschoor, have been working on pur for years.

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“Such a high concentration of substances at once can cause you to become hypersensitive to those substances, as it were. Once you have become sensitive to them, you often see that people react more and more violently to them when they use them again. come into contact with that substance.”

The Verschoor couple have seen dozens of victims pass by in the past ten years. “There were really very harrowing cases among them.”

This family was also completely wrong. Watch the video:

According to the guidelines, a so-called ‘inspection’ should take place before the work is carried out. In addition, the resident should not only be informed about the products and their dangers, technical checks should also be carried out to see whether the home is suitable for the application of polyurethane foam insulation.

No technical checks, incorrect information

The draft report shows that such a meeting is sometimes more focused on the commercial aspect and not on assessing whether the house is suitable for this form of insulation. According to the researchers, the necessary checks are not always done, such as looking at the presence of moisture in the crawl space and ventilation.

The research bureau also notes that the provision of information to residents is not always optimal. For example, advertisements are made for ‘green’ polyurethane foam. Because water is used as a blowing agent, this incorrectly suggests that no harmful substances would be released. Residents are also not always well informed about the products used and their dangers.

The use of polyurethane foam insulation is widely promoted. Also by the government, because you can get a subsidy for it, for example.

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Experts argue in favor of removing all polyurethane foam insulating materials from the subsidy list. “As a government, you should not want to encourage this. Apart from the possible risks to public health, its use is bad for the environment. It is difficult or impossible to recycle. That is no longer appropriate in this day and age,” says toxicologist Scheepers.

Ban polyurethane foam

Chemist Atie Verschoor goes even further. “I actually think that all use of polyurethane foam should be banned. I would never want to run the risk of any health problems myself. It is also not necessary because there are enough sustainable alternative resources that do not pose a risk of harm to public health.”

The Ministry of the Interior says it cannot yet anticipate the contents of the report. “At the end of the summer, the minister will present a proposal for policy measures to the House of Representatives, partly on the basis of the investigation and in coordination with interested parties,” a spokesperson said.

On behalf of the sector, the Knowledge Platform Sprayed PUR Foam has also announced that it looks forward to the results of the evaluation with confidence. Based on the advice of the Health Council, they assume that with the correct application of home insulation, it is unlikely that residents will experience adverse health effects.

Do you also have experience with polyurethane foam insulation in your house or as an insulator, please share it with us. You can send us an email at [email protected]



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