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Community and Q&A

Concerned about Health and Dust from UFFI while Removing it

WilliamC | Posted in General Questions on

I am remodeling the exterior of my home. The Masonite siding was directly attached to the studs with no sheathing, and the insulation behind it I have come to learn is probably UFFI. It’s a 1978 house in Tennessee. 

I decided to take the siding down, remove the spray foam and re-insulate with Rockwool, sheath with Zip, install foam board insulation, then re-side with Vinyl (it’s very common here even on high end homes and it’s saved some cost). 

I didn’t realize the foam insulation was UFFI. I even asked an insulation contractor about what this odd foam that crumbles is before I started and he seemed unconcerned about it and called it “fill foam.” 

At this point I have 80% of the UFFI out of the house. I wore a respirator, removed it from the outside of the house and knocked it into a tarp. I Closed the tarp up, and am going to take it to the dump. At one point before I realized it was UFFI I used water to keep the dust down. 

Now realizing that this is UFFI I am looking for any help understanding if I have doomed my family to a lifetime of respiratory illness or cancer from the dust by taking it out in this manner without better controlling the dust. I know the formaldehyde is not an issue anymore. But I can’t seem to find any information on if the dust is highly dangerous. 

Full transparency I do have anxiety related to health concerns so I’m starting to freak out. I started this project to try and make a healthier home since water was getting in and now I’m concerned I’ve made it so much worse. We are living in the home while remodeling but since all the remodeling was outside I assumed this would be safe for them. 

any help figuring out if I have poisoned my family is very appreciated. 

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  1. onslow | | #1

    William C,

    Attached is a pdf from Connecticut. Sorry that it is not overwhelming helpful, but perhaps you can contact someone there for better advice about removal.

    My reading of the flyer is that the outgassing probably ended long ago. While they don't recommend removal for unstated reasons, it may be simply because it is not commonly an air quality issue this many years on, so why bother. They do note that many modern building materials still off gas formaldehyde. My wife was initially sensitive to some kitchen cabinets I installed years ago. They were pretty low end and primarily made of chipboard. The cabinets in our new home were full plywood and hardwood facing/doors, so there was no reaction to those. Carpeting can often be an irritant for a few weeks though I don't think it is formaldehyde that makes them smell so.

    It is a good choice no matter what you are demolishing to wear a mask and keep dust down. Doing the work outside and keeping the windows closed is also a good step as well as removing your clothes and shoes before trapsing all over the house if you are dusty. If you do vacuum up dust of any sort, I strongly recommend that you get drywall dust rated bags for your shop vac. They are 3x as much per bag, but well worth it. Some pleated filter cartridges for shop vacs may be able to filter down to 1 micron, but will clog very quickly with the dust that goes through the cheap bags. Bottom line is to not push through the finest of dust into the air you are breathing. The stuff you can see fall is largely harmless. The stuff you can't see is what causes lung problems.

    I will let others advise on your pending wall choices. I am not familiar with the climate in TN, but I sense that foam over Zip may not work out well long term. I would also be careful about how you hang the siding over foam. I did that once over 1" foam and the siding installer used nails that just barely penetrated the sheathing. Over a very short time the siding started sagging as the nails worked loose. The contractor was a real __hole about coming back and re-hung most of the pieces with 8d common nails driven directly through the face. Best to work out the details ahead of time.

  2. WilliamC | | #2

    Thank you for the reply. I reas through it and it is largely in line with everything else I have read. All the focus is on the formaldehyde which should not be present anymore. My concern is the dust and the health of my children.

    I have investigated more and found some dust from the UFFI inside the house, mostly in the basement, so I know some has gotten inside. I do have air purifiers running so I am hoping that helps.

    For installing the vinyl on the foam I was planning on using longer nails to go through the foam to the sheathing. I thought CI would be helpful in my climate but maybe not?

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