Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI)
Urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) is a mixture of urea formaldehyde resin, foaming agent and propellant, which was used to insulate hard to access areas in buildings.
How common is UFFI?
UFFI was used in 50,000-70,000 Australian homes, although it is no longer used in this way. The extent of use in commercial buildings is unknown.
What is the hazard?
Following installation of the insulation, indoor formaldehyde air levels were raised temporarily, causing irritation to some residents. Formaldehyde is irritating to the eyes, nose, throat and skin and is a skin sensitiser. Formaldehyde concentrations generally returned to background levels within a few days to a few months of UFFI installation. Touching or inhaling breakdown particles of UFFI may cause skin or respiratory irritation, however this does not normally occur except during work that disturbs the insulation.
Whilst formaldehyde is classified as carcinogenic, very low levels of formaldehyde are common in indoor and outdoor air and such levels are not associated with increased cancer risks. More information on cancer risks at different air levels is available from NICNAS.
Should UFFI be removed?
In-situ UFFI does not generally present a health risk, and does not need to be removed unless it is in poor condition (e.g. breaking down and releasing dust into occupied areas).
How do I safely remove UFFI insulation?
- Prevent eye/skin contact and dust inhalation by wearing coveralls (or work clothing with long sleeves and long pants), gloves, safety glasses and a Class P1 disposable respirator.
- Place waste in plastic bags or drums and seal them.
- Wash hands and face after finishing the job, and wash hair after work.
- Use wet wiping (where there is no electrical hazard) or high-efficiency particular air (HEPA) vacuum to remove UFFI dust residue. Avoid dry sweeping, which may spread dust.
- Ensure there are controls in place to reduce risks from site specific hazards (eg electrical hazards, risk of falls).
- NICNAS Priority Existing Chemical Assessment Report PEC No. 28 Formaldehyde, 2006
- Department of the Environment, Air Toxics and Indoor Air Quality in Australia, State of Knowledge Report, 2001
- Carson Dunlop Consulting Engineers (USA), Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation