EPA Releases MDI, TDI Action Plans to Protect Consumers

“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.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released action plans to address the potential health risks of methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), toluene diisocyanate (TDI), and related compounds. Americans may be exposed to these chemicals when they are used in certain applications such as spray foam insulation, sealing concrete or finishing floors.

The action plans are part of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s commitment to enhance EPA’s chemical management program. The plans identify a range of actions the agency is considering under the authority of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

“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. “EPA is working to protect the health of the American people and the environment.”

Diisocyanates are used to make polyurethane polymers. Most polyurethane products, such as foam mattresses or bowling balls, are fully reacted or "cured," and are not of concern. Some products, however, such as adhesives, coatings, and spray foam, continue to react while in use, and may contain "uncured" diisocyanates to which people may be exposed.

Diisocyanates are known to cause 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. To protect worker health, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates workplace exposures through permissible exposure limits. In contrast to the availability of exposure data for professionals who work with diisocyanates there is very limited information available about the use and exposure patterns of consumers who may be exposed to products containing uncured MDI and TDI. EPA plans to carefully consider the potential risks from consumer exposure to these chemicals.

Actions to address concerns associated with TDI, MDI, and related compounds include issuing rules to call in data on any past allegations of significant adverse effects, obtain unpublished health and safety data from industry sources, require exposure monitoring studies for consumer products, and possibly ban or restrict consumer products containing uncured MDI or TDI. EPA will continue to work with other federal agencies, the polyurethanes industry, and others to ensure improved labeling and provide comprehensive product safety information for polyurethane products containing uncured compounds, especially in consumer products.

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