Not-So-Friendly: Fact vs. Foam

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Rumors, opinions, and speculations circle around the insulation world. These often inaccurate bits of information cloud the actual facts and mislead you. A fact, defined “a thing that is indisputably the case,” should be what you follow when you’re insulating your home.

Dolphin mostly provides information about cellulose, since it’s the only type of insulation we use, but you may have heard some other opinions. If you do your research, you’ll run into foam. But how do you know what to believe? Here are some facts about foam for your consideration.

Foam insulation is made up of mostly isocyanate. Isocyanate is formed from methylene biphenyl diisocyanate (MDI). Get ready for more chemical names: MDI is made with benzene, chlorine compounds, and formaldehyde. This combination leads to a release of dioxins and furans in your home. More specifically, bioaccumulative toxicants, carcinogens, and endocrine disruptors – not quite as simple or clean as cellulose’s recycled paper and fire retardant. Also, MDI is an allergen and a sensitizing toxicant.

The chemicals in foam insulation can cause damage to your skin and even to your nervous system. Although foam insulation aims to be green in its ability to keep your home comfortable, the installation for closed-cell foam requires the emission of strong Greenhouse gasses, which greatly contribute to global warming. The chemicals also produce unhealthy off-gassing, which has led to many lawsuits thus far.

Foam insulation’s version of a flame retardant differs from cellulose’s use of borate. Foam insulation uses compounds that are known to be bioaccumulative toxins. These detrimental toxins can be found throughout the globe in humans, wildlife, and the environment.

Foam insulation’s claim to “greenness” is that it is composed of soy and other natural ingredients within the polyol. In this list of ingredients, the toxic and dominant MDI is usually not mentioned. Due to its petroleum base, most foam insulations are actually fire accelerants. They speed up the spread of fire, which reduces firefighters’ effectiveness, and causes more damage to the home.

Lastly, foam insulation does not get along well with your home’s structure. It does not handle moisture well, and does not manage moisture intrusion. Foam also shrinks and expands on its own, which puts pressure on your home’s framework. Once the foam is settled in place, it then becomes rigid and inflexible. This makes it prone to cracking, which allows air to leak into your home. With air leaking into your home, insulation is not doing its job right.

Thanks to the internet, we have a world of resources at our key-tapping fingertips. For better or for worse, this also means that we can fall victim to all sorts of conflicting information. Luckily, you can’t argue the facts. If you want more clarity in the ongoing blur of insulation facts and myths, contact Dolphin.