HEALTH & SAFETY
EUROPUR constantly researches and evaluates flexible polyurethane foams from the point of view of the health and safety of consumers and workers.
The protection of workers in foaming plant falls under the remit of EUROPUR’s Working Group on Environment, Health & Safety in very close cooperation with ISOPA, the association of diisocyanates and polyols producers.
One of the main potential risks for workers in a polyurethane foaming plant results from the risk of exposure to the diisocyanates used to produce foam, which are known to be sensitisers and may in extreme cases cause occupational asthma. This risk is well known, with ISOPA having published safety information sheets, risk assessments and exposure scenarios for diisocyanates used in the polyurethane foam production.
Diisocyanates – when not handled properly – can cause health issues, such as skin or eye irritation and occupational asthma. For that reason, under the European Union regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) a specific Restriction was adopted that states that all workers working with diisocyanates (e.g. foam line operators, laboratory staff or demould operators) have to be trained on safe use of diisocyanates by 24 August 2023.
In addition, ISOPA has set-up the “Walk the Talk” training programme aimed at improving safety, health and environment standards across the entire polyurethanes industry. This programme is available in almost all official languages of the EU.
Foam producers are encouraged to train their staff accordingly and should regularly carry out tank farm assessments with their suppliers of polyols or diisocyanates, to ensure that they have all procedures in place to properly minimise the risk of exposure to diisocyanates.
Finally, in case of incidents with deliveries of raw materials, foam producers should contact the relevant Emergency Response Centre in their country (open 24/7). Phone numbers are available HERE.
PHONE NUMBERS ARE AVAILABLE HERE
Polyurethane foam is an entirely safe product in the many diverse applications it is used for.
The diisocyanates it is produced from are consumed during the chemical reaction that creates polyurethane. They cannot be released into the air from polyurethane foam.
However, risk assessments have shown that other substances can be released from foam, as volatile organic compounds, depending on the composition and production method that is used.
The European polyurethanes industry has over the years invested heavily on research into such substance emanations from foams. This research uses advanced technologies to measure the substances that may potentially be emitted by polyurethane foams down to the limits of detection, in the part per million (ppm) range.
The results of this research have been used to create our standard for polyurethane foams, CertiPUR, which sets state of the art stringent limits for many substances – based on risk assessments.
Purchasing products with certified foam is the best guarantee to be 100% sure that no substances are being released from the foam at levels that may have consequences on anybody’s health.