Bernard Bloom, MS, CIAQP, CIEC – Spray Foam – Assessment and Remediation

Air Date: 5-31-2013| Episode: 286


How do you handle a spray foam job gone bad? This week on IAQ Radio Bernard Bloom, MS, CIAQP, CIEC joins us to discuss spray foam applications, assessment and remediation issues…

Full Description:

How do you handle a spray foam job gone bad? This week on IAQ Radio Bernard Bloom, MS, CIAQP, CIEC joins us to discuss spray foam applications, assessment and remediation issues. Bernard Bloom has four decades of environmental experience with a balanced government/private sector work history. He is currently president of BSEA, an indoor air quality consulting firm in Silver Spring, MD. Bernie has conducted numerous investigations into conventional and unusual indoor air quality problems in commercial, residential, and institutional buildings in the metropolitan Washington area. He has become a sought out consultant and speaker with respect to unusual IAQ problems including those related to improper ventilation, out-of-control indoor sources, unusual pathways and emerging contaminants such as newly applied spray foam.

Mr. Bloom is an engineering graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and Carnegie Mellon University. He also is active in his community as a member of the Montgomery County Energy and Air Quality Advisory Committee. In 2009 Bernie Bloom was named as one of 40 “Environmental Heroes” by the Pittsburgh-based Group Against Smog and Pollution.

Z-Man’s Blog:

Spray foam insulation

Named as one of “40 Environmental Heroes” by GASP (Group Against Smog and Pollution), Bernie Bloom has 40 years of environmental experience and is a go-to-guy when property owners encounter an environmental problem related to SPF (Spray Polyurethane Foam) insulation. According to Bernie, alleged problems with SPF (Spray Polyurethane Foam) applications are being investigated by both government and industry with EPA, OSHA, interagency working groups, etc. involved.

Nuggets mined from today’s episode:

•Not all SPF products are created equal. Contractors may choose from multiple suppliers.

•Problems with SPF occur in both new construction and retrofit.

•The Styrofoam insulation foam boards we buy at building centers are made in a factory to close tolerance and QC (Quality Control), with SPF (Spray Polyurethane Foam) applications the work site is the factory; and the work site lacks the QC.

•Application equipment used by professional SPF applicators is versatile and can apply the products of multiple manufacturers.

•The chemical manufacturers specific recipe rules the application process.

•SPF insulation falls into 2 main categories, open cell and closed cell. Closed cell is denser.

•Many problems traceable back to applicators. Some applications require two coats and not allowing adequate time between applications.

•Legacy problem, until manufacturers become more serious about enforcing training and exhaust air ventilation.

•There are more problems with open cell SPF because there are many more open cell projects.

•Open cell SPF both emits chemicals and also adsorbs aldehyde and VOCs from emissions of other building products.

•A problem SPF jobs normally manifest as an odor problem and then exacerbate with other alleged health effects such as: headache, blurred vision, chemical sensitization or hyper reactivity, psychogenic symptoms.

•Former occupants of problem SPF projects are often unable to reoccupy their property post remediation.

•Investigation guidance for IEPs: to understand what happened you will need to: gather the history, what happened?, where were the people when product was applied (days, weeks)? Are any unusual odors such as “charred” or “amine (fishy)” present? When cutting into foam are any color changes visible. Some manufacturers add indicator compounds which change color as a visual aid to applicators. (ie. green turns yellow). Who did what? Remove an SPF insulation sample, place in gas jar, place in sun, sniff test for irritants, head space of jar can be analyzed for chemicals?

•Common questions a property owner wants answered by the IEP on a problem SPF project are: Who is responsible? Is it fixable? Who will pay? What to tell the treating physician?

•Fire retardant compounds used in SPF are mobile within the matrix. In attics, fire retardant compounds may emit when in contact with hot roof deck.

•High RH may cause degradation of some open cell SPF?

•When SPF must be removed the SPF dust generated is problematic because the foam dust is larger in aggregate than the sprayed on application and is still off gassing.

•When a SPF project goes bad, property owners lose the security and safety of their home, lose money and must live with uncertainties.

•By advocating energy savings and reduction of carbon footprint, the unintended consequence of government having responsibility for making houses too tight resulting in IAQ problems.

•Opined, SPF is being overused in single family houses as an infiltration reducer, sometimes resulting in making a house too tight and then needed addition of ventilation.

•Opined, more truth is needed in advertising.

•Suggested qualifying question to ask SPF contractors: How will you control exhaust ventilation during and after spray foam application?

•Recommended that the key to reducing problems is to prevent them from occurring. The SPF industry should learn from mistakes and make the necessary adjustments to prevent them.

•On remediation: Cleaning doesn’t do any good. No magic coating exists. Some remediators advocate covering SPF with metal foils.
Today’s music: Foam On Foam On Foam by Corey Cash

Z-man signing off

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