Urea-Formaldehyde Foam Insulation, or UFFI, is an insulation product that was widely used from the 1970’s until the government of Canada banned its use in 1980.
UFFI gained popularity as a method of insulating building cavities that were previously not insulated. This was due to the ease with which it can be used to fill hard-to-reach or tight cavities without having to remove walls and other coverings. The foam could be applied through small holes, where it would expand to fill the space it was being injected into.
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UFFI was banned due to potential health concerns associated with the off-gassing of formaldehyde to high concentrations in the homes. Many homeowners in poorly-ventilated homes began complaining of respiratory effects, and there were concerns over formaldehyde as a potential carcinogen.
Other building materials that may be in your home can also be significant sources of formaldehyde off-gassing. These include pressed wood building products and furniture made with them, including hardwood plywood wall panelling, particle board, and fibreboard; carpet backing; unvented fuel-burning appliances; and tobacco smoke.
Health & Structural Effects
Health effects associated with formaldehyde off-gassing from UFFI and other building materials include:
— Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, including watery eyes or burning sensations;
— Nausea and fatigue;
— Respiratory issues such as wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, or asthma;
— Allergic reactions & skin rashes
Apart from the potential health effects associated with formaldehyde exposure, UFFI insulation can present other issues. It can shrink considerably over time, causing gaps that significantly reduce its value as an insulating material. It also deteriorates when it comes into contact with moisture or water, necessitating its removal.