Non Toxic Polyurethane Alternative - What Is The Best
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Non Toxic Polyurethane Alternative  -  What Is The Best

Polyurethane is a $50 billion dollar a year business and is considered one of the most common man-made materials found on earth. As a polymer it’s a chain of smaller units called monomers which include diisocyanate and a diol. These components are joined through a chemical reaction, which gives polyurethane its durable characteristics that make it one of the most versatile materials available. It can be stretched, squashed and sprayed into various uses.

Some of these uses are found in our houses and workplaces, like floor coatings, material in your mattress, kids toys, mouth retainers, condoms, computer covers, coatings to insulate your plumbing pipes, etc. As you can imagine this material can be found just about anywhere.

Given its multiple uses and great durability, traditional polyurethane hides a toxic substance called isocyanates. Isocyanates are dangerous mostly during application of polyurethane and workers must wear protective gear like gloves, bodysuits and masks. If inhaled, isocyanates can cause asthma, irritation of eyes, ears nose and throat and even death in some circumstances.

Large disasters like the Bhopal India catastrophe have killed thousands of people from over exposure to toxic isocyanates. This disaster occurred from Union Carbide’s chemical plant, which leaked isocyanates out into the community and brought worldwide attention.

For these reason the EPA and OSHA, two government regulators have stepped in to make sure the workers and applicators are protected. But what about the non-toxic polyurethane alternatives? Currently both regulating agencies recommend companies begin to search out green polyurethane alternatives like epoxies and hybrid coatings that have no isocyanates.

Epoxies have been recommended as they function similar to polyurethane by creating a strong bond that covers other materials like surfboards, hard wood floors, appliances, walls and other every-day fixtures. The advantage of an epoxy is its chemical resistance, which enables it to withstand spillage from oil, water and other environmental elements. The disadvantage is that its lifespan is limited compared to that of conventional polyurethane.

Green polyurethanes are hybrid non-toxic polyurethane alternatives that work like a polyurethane but do not contain toxic isocyanates. The hybrid process of these solutions take both the benefits of polyurethane and epoxy resin with a much longer life than epoxies, but still maintaining the chemical resistance. This provides the best of both worlds and gives green polyurethane a standout advantage over both traditional polyurethane and epoxy coatings. There are currently several green polyurethane solutions recommended by the EPA and one should research all alternatives before making a decision.


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