Urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) is again in the news. An Ontario Company has been ordered by the Federal Government to stop selling a formaldehyde based insulation that has already been installed in about 700 homes.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced a "cease and desist "order against the company RetroFoam. Canada Border Services has also been alerted to stop further importation of the product.
The Company claims that its formulation is safe and is not the same as the Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI) banned in 1980 due to potential health concerns related to elevated levels of formaldehyde following installation.
UFFI was extensively used in Canada between 1975 and 1978 and it is estimated that over 100,000 homes were insulated with UFFI during that time. Its use was eventually banned in December 1980.
The fear of health problems caused the federal government to set guidelines for reducing formaldehyde levels in houses. The initial threshold level set for formaldehyde gas was 1.0 part per million (ppm). As testing methods improved the level was reduced to 0.1 ppm. Interestingly subsequent testing found that formaldehyde gas levels in houses insulated with UFFI were well below the 0.1 ppm level and it became apparent that levels of formaldehyde decrease rapidly after the foam has been installed, typically returning to ambient house levels within several days.
Statistics showed in fact that of the homes tested, on average formaldehyde levels were slightly below that of homes of similar age without UFFI. The problems with UFFI were not substantiated and extensive testing has shown that health concerns appear to have been overstated. In my opinion home owners with UFFI insulation that was installed in the 70's need not be concerned and should continue to enjoy their homes.
It should be noted that formaldehyde is found in other building materials such as particle board, plywood, carpets and many other common items. If you have a concern about your indoor air quality, consult with a qualified Environmental Consultant or Air Quality Specialist.