Spray Foam Safety and Re-entry Times: What Has Changed and What Hasn’t

Over the past few months, Icynene has announced that it is offering new spray foam products with reduced re-occupancy and re-entry times for trades and homeowners. There is already uncertainty as to the “right” amount of time that is needed and these announcements about reductions only add to that uncertainty. It is important to understand how these new recommendations came about and what they mean for spray foam safety.

Two things have apparently changed: first, there are “protocols and procedures”, created by the American Chemistry Council –Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (ACC-CPI) that govern recommendations on re-entry/re-occupancy offered by manufacturers. Second, products with certain properties, applied under certain ventilation conditions, can use these protocols and procedures to claim less time is needed for re-occupancy/re-entry. The ventilation conditions are especially important to understand. The reduced time is predicated on achieving 40 Air Changes per Hour (ACH). In the field, it is very hard to know what the ACH is in a given space where application is taking place. However, we do know the likelihood of achieving that ACH level is greatly reduced when we consider retrofit or renovation applications. This fact is emphasized in OSHA’s recent final rule on confined spaces in which the administration noted that a spray foam installer was killed in an attic fire due, in part, to inadequate ventilation.

Also, these protocols and procedures were created by the industry itself; ACC-CPI is the industry. Today, no impartial third-party, not EPA, OSHA, NIOSH or others, has recommended reduced re-entry/re-occupancy times for these products. In this regard, little has changed; re-entry/re-occupancy guidance comes only from the spray foam industry and it varies widely.

Health and safety guidelines that do not carry the sanction of a third-party, such as a government entity, and are based on field conditions that are hard to determine or achieve, should be examined carefully before they are applied.

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