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Related Federal Activities

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH has been working to prevent exposure to isocyanates as a critical step in eliminating it as an occupational health hazard. In 1996, NIOSH issued an Alert, Preventing Asthma and Death from Diisocyanate Exposure, summarizing seven reports of disease and deaths of either single individuals or of several workers following occupational exposure to diisocyanates.

NIOSH considers SPF insulation application to have similar hazards to other spray polyurethane applications with it calling for the same safety procedures and personal protective equipment as detailed in their 2006 Alert Preventing Asthma and Death from MDI Exposure During Spray-on Truck Bed Liner and Related Applications. Issued in September 2006, the Alert summarizes four case reports: one death and several incidents of asthma or other respiratory disease following exposure to methylenebis(phenylisocyanate) (MDI) during spray-on truck bed liner operations. In a 2006-2007 report, NIOSH summarized how to prevent and reduce isocyanate-induced asthma and described the potential of respiratory disease due to exposure to diisocyanates, which are potent sensitizers, and have long been recognized as a cause of occupational asthma, rhinitis, and dermatitis.

Numerous studies have documented that on average 5 to 15 percent of those who work with diisocyanates develop occupational asthma. In January 2008, NIOSH followed up the 2006 Alert with a poster, called “Got Everything Covered?,” that provides helpful tips on protecting workers from the hazards of isocyanate exposure during spray-on truck bed liner and related applications, such as SPF operations.

The NIOSH recommended exposure limit (REL) for methylene bisphenyl isocyanate (MDI) [0.05 mg/m3 (0.005 parts per million) as an 8-10 hour time weighted average] is intended to prevent acute and chronic health effects including irritation and sensitization of workers. However, the NIOSH REL is not intended to prevent health effects in workers who are already sensitized. There is no recognized safe level of exposure for sensitized individuals, whether it is in the workplace or other settings where exposures may occur. This is of concern because of the increased use of diisocyanates in industrial as well as consumer products.

Read information from the April 2013 international conference, Isocyanates and Health: Past, Present and Future. The results from this conference were published as a free article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Exit EPA Disclaimer

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Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The OSHA hazard communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) requires employers to develop a written hazard communication program to inform workers about the hazards and identities of all chemicals used in the workplace. The program must also address the measures needed to protect workers against adverse effects from the use, handling, and potential exposure to chemicals in the workplace.

OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134) seeks to protect workers against insufficient oxygen, harmful dusts, mists, , vapors, sprays, among other hazards, which may cause cancer, lung impairment, other diseases, or death.

OSHA's Personal Protective Equipment standards (29 CFR Subpart I) requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective in reducing these exposures to acceptable levels and requires that, if PPE is to be used, a PPE program should be implemented.

OSHA requires engineering controls to be used whenever feasible to reduce exposures to isoycanates, which is the major component of SPF. To control chemical exposures, ventilation and containment practices should be considered. Work in "permit-required" confined spaces as defined by OSHA, which may include work in attics and crawl spaces, requires entry procedures, including an entry permit, and training for the workers.

OSHA's flammable and combustible liquids standard (29 CFR 1910.106) and OSHA’s spray finishing using flammable and combustible materials standard (29 CFR 1910.107) provide protective standards for prevention of fire-related injuries when working with flammable and combustible hazardous materials, including spray applications, in the workplace.

OSHA regulates workplace exposures of MDI. The enforceable permissible exposure limit for MDI is 0.2 mg/m3 as a ceiling limit (0.02 parts per million). The OSHA safety and health topics isocyanates page provides information on health effects and background to final rules and official letters of interpretation of the standards.

Visit the Occupational Safety and Health Green Jobs website for more information on green job hazards for weather insulating/sealing.

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

In 1992, CPSC issued the Chronic Hazard Guidelines intended to assist manufacturers in complying with the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

The Chronic Hazard Guidelines (PDF) (50pp, 32K, about PDF) provides guidance on:

  • Determining toxicity (e.g., carcinogenicity, neurotoxicity, bioavailability)
  • Acceptable Daily Intake (threshold for uptake into body)
  • Assessing exposure
  • Risk assessment approaches and acceptable risk

Read other regulations and general Commission information by statute.

If home or building occupants have concerns that they may be exposed to residual SPF chemicals, potential off-gassing, or continue to smell odors, they should contact their contractor to ensure proper procedures and clean-up were followed. If their concerns are not resolved, affected parties should contact their local or state consumer protection office or contractors' licensing board. Consumers can also file an online Consumer Product Incident Report with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on the SaferProducts.gov website.

Department of Energy (DOE)

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Guidelines for Home Energy Professionals project fosters the growth of a high-quality residential energy upgrade industry and a skilled and credentialed workforce. EPA has a related document titled Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Retrofits.

The Weatherization Assistance Program Technical Assistance Center (WAPTAC) website contains a 'virtual' library of all rules, regulations, policies and procedures required by DOE's weatherization program, including a WAPTAC health and safety information on spray polyurethane foam.

DOE's Energy Savers website has information on sprayed-foam and foamed-in-place insulation , polyurethane insulation materials , and other types of insulation.


Toxnet links to numerous databases of the National Library of Medicine on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health, toxic releases and chemical databases and other information resources, including:

  • Household Products Database contains health and safety information on a wide range of consumer products, including home maintenance and other household products, searchable by chemical category and product name
  • Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB), a toxicology data file that contains comprehensive, peer-reviewed toxicology data for about 5,000 chemicals, including methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (101-68-8).

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