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CPSC Bans Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI)

Release Date: March 01, 1982

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, by a 4 to 1 vote, has banned the sale of urea formaldehyde foam insulation for use in residences and schools. The Commission noted that the product ban was based upon unreasonable risks to consumers from the irritation, sensitization and possible carcinogenic effects of formaldehyde emitted by UFFI.

The ban is expected to become effective within 130 days after publication in the FEDERAL REGISTER (4/82) of the Commission decision. The ban will not apply to UFFI installed prior to the effective date. The ban provides for exemptions to any company which can demonstrate that it can consistently manufacture a UFFI product which does not pose an unreasonable risk to consumers.

The CPSC reported that although all current UFFI installations do not pose the same degree of risk, it has received more than 2200 complaints involving more than 5700 persons who complained of symptoms such as eye irritation, respiratory problems, headaches, nausea and dizziness after UFFI installation.

Commission Chairman Nancy Harvey Steorts was joined by Commissioners Sam Zagoria, Edith Barksdale Sloan and R. David Pittle in voting to approve a ban. Commissioner Stuart M. Statler voted against imposing a ban, proposing instead a three-point regulatory alternative.

The Commission concluded that no standard, voluntary or mandatory, to reduce risk to consumers was feasible at this time. CPSC noted that its decision to ban was based upon exhaustive research by its staff and a number of independent scientific sources.

The Commission advises consumers that if they have experienced no adverse health effects from this product, they should take no corrective action. If serious or persistent health effects have resulted from the installation of urea formaldehyde foam insulation, consumers should consult a physician, nearest medical clinic or contact the municipal, county or state board of health. Air quality measurements can be made by many state and local health departments as well as private testing companies.

The Commission is offering a fact sheet to consumers who call the Commission's toll-free hotline at 800-638-2772.

Final/SMS Press Release Re UFFI

Commissioner Stuart M. Statler dissented from the agency decision to ban UFFI, proposing instead a comprehensive regulatory approach designed to address the most serious health problems associated with formaldehyde off-gassing from U.F. foam. This three-prong action program called for the agency:

(1) to develop a mandatory product safety standard to set limits defining tolerable levels of formaldehyde off-gassing from UFFI;

(2) to mandate that industry members include in all sales literature and sales contracts a detailed disclosure statement, specifying potential adverse health effects, both acute and chronic, associated with U.F. foam; and

(3) to require manufacturers, installers and other members of the industry promptly to institute, through a binding consent agreement, a broad consumer redress program which would provide adequate means for purchasers of U.F. foam to be made whole in the event that problems develop after installation.

Commissioner Statler stated that this regulatory scheme offered major advantages for consumers including avoiding the substantial lowering of resale values of some 500,000 homes already insulated with U.F. foam which could result from a ban.

The approach would allow an industry with a sizeable number of small businesses to continue doing business. Moreover, consumers would be able to make an informed choice, aware of the potential risks, whether they still wanted to insulate their homes with U.F. foam or some other, less risky, substitute insulation.

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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