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Climate-friendly foam building insulation can be harmful to human health: research

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Researchers in a recent study have discovered that the use of the polymer flame retardant PolyFR can be harmful to human health and the environment in “environmentally friendly” foamed plastic building insulation.

According to a new study published in the Environmental Science and Technology, the author’s analysis shows the life cycle of foam insulation that can expose workers, communities, and ecosystems to PolyFR and its potentially toxic degradation products. Identify some points inside.

PolyFR production is growing rapidly as the climate crisis increases the demand for energy efficient insulation. This is the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane, which has been added to all foamed plastic building insulation in North America, complies with flammable codes, and is phased out worldwide for toxicity and durability. To replace it. PolyFR is generally considered safe. However, the author casts doubt on that assumption.

The estimated safety of PolyFR depends on the claim that because it is a large molecule called a polymer, it has little chance of being released from foam insulation. However, according to the author’s analysis, in fact, PolyFR in building insulation has great opportunities to be released to the environment during the manufacture, installation and disposal of foam insulation. Once released, PolyFR can break down into harmful chemicals that can end up in humans and ecosystems.

“Since so many PolyFRs are used and little is known about their release into the environment, it is necessary to realistically assess the potential for PolyFRs to harm human and environmental health throughout the life cycle. Yes, “says Professor Miriam Diamond. Author of the University of Toronto and corresponding studies.

PolyFR is a polymer made from the carcinogens butadiene and styrene. Bromine is added to make it a brominated flame retardant. Previously studied flame retardants have been found to be toxic and many are no longer used.

To protect workers, the fenceline community near waste disposal sites, and others exposed to the entire life cycle of this flame retardant, the potential health hazards associated with increased PolyFR production, and We need to better understand its final failure and disposal.

Importantly, there are already alternative insulations that do not require the use of potentially dangerous flame retardants. Alternatively, you can use essentially flame-retardant mineral fibers such as glass wool or stone wool. Also, the fire safety benefits of adding flame retardants should be established before using such chemicals.

“Energizing buildings is an important part of tackling the climate crisis,” said Arlene Bloom, co-author of the Green Science Policy Institute. “But you have to be careful not to cause new health or environmental problems along the way. A” green building “with potentially dangerous insulation is not a green building. ”

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