Non Toxic Polyurethane - Is It Possible?
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Non Toxic Polyurethane  -  Is It Possible?

Polyurethane appears to be one of the most durable materials made by man. It’s found in just about every crook and corner of the world and adorns its inhabitants as a hard protective coating for shoes and other items. Industrial floor coatings are made of polyurethane and coat just about every factory floor on the planet. Plumbing pipes are sprayed with polyurethane foam to insulate them from damage and weather. Children’s toys are lined with it for durability and longevity and even surfboards and boats are coated with it to keep water out and increase life span. As you can imagine, polyurethane is everywhere.

With such a ubiquitous material one must ask if there are any dangers inherent in the material and could this set up the human race for long-term toxicity problems. For instance, cigarette smoking was not considered a health problem for years and a large population of smokers became an even larger population of toxic bombs waiting to go off in the future. Of course once the surgeon general declared cigarettes “hazardous to your health,” many people quit, but it took a major upheaval of corporate profits for that to happen.

Now we face a global challenge with the overuse of polyurethane, which has increasingly come under scrutiny from agencies like the EPA and OSHA, who now have begun to tighten regulations do to the fact that it contains a highly toxic substance called isocyanates. Isocyanates are basically highly reactive chemicals that, when exposed to mostly during application, can cause chest, throat, nose and skin irritation as well as asthma, nausea and even death. Now if isocyanates can cause death from exposure during application one must surmise that even after application there must be some risk, even if minimal, if exposed to that minimal risk everyday, all day long for the rest of your life, then it becomes a serious risk to health for the majority of people on our planet.

Of course, where there are problems there are opportunities and the problem of toxicity in our products is no different. Several companies have now begun to create non-toxic polyurethane and products that do not contain isocyanates. Some of these companies use epoxy resins which have a high chemical resistance and protect against environmental elements like liquids and debris perhaps even better than conventional polyurethane. But even the epoxy doesn’t hold up to the lifespan of a high grade polyurethane.

For this reason other companies have created non-toxic polyurethane that combines the benefits and properties of both epoxy resins and conventional polyurethane. It’s recommended that prior to any application of industrial floor coating materials a business or individual should do some research on its contents, making sure there are no isocyanates.


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