By David Reed
Washington DC -- The US Environmental Protection Agency has issued an Action Plan relating to health effects caused by exposures to isocyanates during the use of aerosol spray systems.
The action plans are part of Administrator Lisa Jackson's commitment to enhance EPA's chemical management programme. The plans identify a range of actions the agency is considering under the authority of the Toxic Substances Control Act.
The products referred to include systems used in applications such as spray foam insulation and sealing concrete or finishing floors, according to a 13 April statement. The EPA points out that these systems, unlike most other polyurethane products, still contain unreacted isocyanates, which are known to cause health problems such as severe skin and breathing responses in workers who have been repeatedly exposed to them. The chemicals have been documented as a leading cause of work-related asthma, and in severe cases, fatal reactions have occurred, the EPA says.
"There has been an increase in recent years in promoting the use of foams and sealants by do-it-yourself energy-conscious homeowners, and many people may now be unknowingly exposed to risks from these chemicals," said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in the prepared statement.
To find out the possible scale of the problem, the agency is calling for details of any past allegations of significant adverse health effects from using these products, as well as unpublished health and safety data from industry sources. This may lead to a requirement to carry out exposure-monitoring studies for the products, possibly followed by a ban or restriction on the use of consumer products containing uncured MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate) or TDI (toluene diisocyanate), the EPA statement adds.
The EPA says it will continue to work with other federal agencies, the polyurethanes industry, and others to ensure improved labelling and provide comprehensive product safety information for polyurethane products containing uncured compounds, especially in consumer products.