Spray Foam Myths Debunked: Spray foam insulation is untested technology and should be avoided

July 21, 2017 Anthony Naimo

Noise and myths about building materials can often leave architects, builders, code officials and building owners confused about the truth of spray foam insulation. “Spray foam insulation has high VOCs and causes health problems” and “Spray foam insulation is dangerous” are some of the comments made about spray foam insulation. Is it true? Spray foam insulation is a chemical product and safety precautions, like many chemical products, must be taken. But what is myth and what is fact? It is important to be able to separate fact from fiction. Reliable information from reliable sources, such as testing evaluation reports and third party testing  or information from respected industry publications, allows the individuals to make informed decisions about the materials they use in their buildings with confidence.

Spray Foam Myth:  Spray foam insulation is an untested technology and should be avoided.

Did you know that polyurethane foam was discovered more than 70 years ago? It was in 1937 that German industrial chemist Dr. Otto von Bayer and his research group discovered polyurethane foam and since that time polyurethane has been used in a wide variety of products and applications. Polyurethane’s versatility and strengths have seen it used in everyday items including:

  • bedding
  • flooring
  • clothing
  • sports gear
  • footwear
  • household appliances such as refrigerators and freezers
  • automobiles
  • construction materials
  • furniture
  • electronic equipment
  • boating equipment
  • medical supplies and
  • packaging


In terms of spray foam insulation, specifically Icynene, extensive testing and evaluations are completed to ensure insulation performance and health and safety. Since its establishment in 1986, Icynene has more than 30 years of experience in the development, testing and manufacturing of spray foam systems. More than 425,000 buildings (and counting!) have Icynene spray foam insulation included.  It should be noted that every Icynene spray foam insulation product is third-party tested and shown to meet the requirements of the International Code Council-Evaluation Service (ICC-ES). Each evaluated product carries an ICC-ES evaluation report that is publicly available. In Canada, all Icynene products sold have been third-party tested and shown to meet the requirements of the Canadian Construction Materials Centre (CCMC). These products also carry the publicly-available, appropriate listing or evaluation report.

In terms of chemical exposure, off-gassing, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emissions, all Icynene products meet the very stringent requirements of the California Collaborative for High Performance Schools (acceptable for use in the construction of both schools and offices), as well as the requirements of the Canadian national standard for VOC emissions for spray foam insulation, CAN/ULC S774.

What about off gassing?

You may ask “Well, what about off gassing?” Icynene spray foam insulation has been extensively tested for off-gassing / chemical exposure throughout its 30+ year history. Third party laboratories have tested for the presence of a broad range of chemicals and found that exposure levels are well within established guidelines and standards well within the 24-hour period immediately following the spraying of the foam. As specific examples, the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories in California and the University of Saskatchewan in Canada have repeatedly confirmed that the levels of any Volatile Organic Compounds emitted during the spray process are well below generally accepted emission levels within the 24-hour period after spraying. These laboratories also confirmed that after 30 days, VOC emissions become so low that they are nearly undetectable with even sophisticated and sensitive laboratory equipment.

Furthermore, in recent years, Icynene has made significant endeavours to introduce low VOC spray foam insulation products. Icynene Classic Max, Icynene ProSeal and Icynene ProSeal LE are ultra-low VOC spray foam insulation products that allow for 1 hour re-entry by trades, and 2 hour re-occupancy by building occupants following proper, active ventilation after installation.

Icynene and other manufacturers now have a range of open-cell and closed-cell spray foam products that meet or exceed the most stringent GREENGUARD standards. This certification is the gold standard for low VOC/low emission products. Icynene’s ultra-low VOC foam insulation products hold GREENGUARD Gold certification.

Is spray foam insulation unproven? Does spray foam insulation have high VOCs? The commitment to health and safety and thorough testing helps to ease concerns or fear about using this high performance insulation material.

Icynene’s Building Science and Engineering experts can work with you to understand how spray foam insulation can be integrated into your current and upcoming residential and commercial projects, and help debunk the myth that spray foam insulation is an unproven technology. 


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