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Is Tripolymer spray foam insulation a ‘healthy’ choice in insulating an older home?

GBA Editor | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

We are looking at insulating an older home that has poor insulation (original part of the house 1850, additions in 1970) and are tempted by this Tripolymer product. The owner of the company claims that it is a ‘green’ product with no health risks. I can’t find any information to the contrary as all the sites I’m coming up with are sponsored by foam companies. Do you have any information on the potential downside of this foam insulation? (PS: CL&P, our electric supplier is offering a $1 per foot cash back for insulating older homes, so there is a significant savings to us if we do it).

Thank you for any guidance you can provide.

Amanda Cordano

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Replies

  1. Riversong | | #1

    Don't accept any claims from manufacturers or installers about the "greenness" or "healthiness" of a petrochemical product.

    You're right that it's difficult to find any objective information on this relatively new phenolic foam, but there is a history of problems with the older phenolics, including shrinkage, water absorption and metal corrosion.

    The formula does seem to have fewer negative impacts than most sprayed foam insulations, but
    Caveat Emptor.

  2. Cassie | | #3

    Trpolmer is a masked urea formaldehyde insulation. it is plastic. will not burn, but it will melt and the fumes will kill you. Recently marketed in Canada under the name Retro foam. Once the canadian government found out, the company was shut down and is now in a 500 million dollar lawsuit. Marketed around the US by various names the producer is CP Chemical out of White Plains New York. Just try to get information out of what is in Trypolymer. they will not tell you.

  3. Riversong | | #4

    Tripolymer foam is a phenol-formaldehyde, not a urea-formaldehyde. Phenol-formaldehyde resins are used in plywood and OSB.

  4. Mike | | #5

    In response to cassie poster #3 all of your information that you have decided to make public is 100% incorrect on all of your claims and statement ! You should go see a doctor or please visit http://www.ijectionfoam.com and or www. tripolymer.com for correct and honest information. or feel free to call the phone # is on the web site.

  5. Riversong | | #6

    Anyone who would look to the manufacturers and installers for "correct and honest information" is the one who needs a doctor. Why don't you disclose your interest in Tripolymer, Mike?

    It's absolutely true that there's a class action suit against RetroFoam and the Canadian government for the installation of UFFI in 700 homes.

    But, it does appear that Tripolymer foam is a phenol-formaldehyde foam.

  6. Bill | | #7

    Tripolymer is a phenol-urea-formaldehyde resin. Goto freepatents.com punch in number 4345061 and you will see Walter Hasselman's patent filed in 1980. Walter is the owner of C.P. chemical in White Plains. This is for Mike so he has a clear understanding of what he represents.

  7. J99aAMQzYo | | #8

    Bill,

    Great find. I wasn't able to get the site to work which you mentioned, but I was able to find the patent info using Patent Genius .

    That link will take you directly to the product. Amazingly, not only doesn't it clearly state in the headline that it is a formaldehyde based product, but when you read down through the details, it goes on to state that in certain formulations it MAY BE UP TO 20% FORMALDEHYDE by volume of weight!!!

    I've been at Greenbuild in Chicago all this week, and the consistently building buzz throughout the show about the toxicity concerns regarding all brands of two-part foams has been very interesting to observe. Even from some of the energy stalwarts, they're having significant concerns about some of the fire retardants added to the B side of these foams which were revealed and discussed during one of the Master Series plenary sessions by Biophysical Chemist Arlene Blum.

    People really need to think long and hard before committing to living in an indoor environment filled with these things. One really interesting point she made was that the molecular structure of both the isocyanates and the fire retardants are heavier than air. As a result, when they are put into your attic and not sealed behind gyp board (or something similar) than the off-gassing that they do will drop those toxic molecules directly down into the ceiling plane. If you're ceiling plane isn't then completely air-sealed, you can expect to be breathing those molecules in the interior of your home as they leak in. Really scary stuff.

    She also pointed out that most of these brominated and chlorinated retardants are they same mutagen formulations banned from kids pajamas and other articles back in the 70's because of the bad stuff they learned about them. But since the EPA evidentially doesn't have the authority to permanently ban chemicals, they are still being freely made and inserted into our foams instead!

  8. Anonymous | | #9

    I just had Tripolymer installed in my home and it shrunk away from my studs (up to 5/8 of an inch on each side, within a week) and away from the drywall and exterior sheathing. After having the installer come back twice to fix the problem I was forced to remove the product and replace it with another product. This required removing the finished drywall! I called and emailed CP Chemical and they will not return my calls or emails. Everytime I call they tell me "our technicians are away?" Do yourself a favor and DO NOT use this product!!! I was having second thoughts about using it from the begining and wish I would have never used it, don't make the same mistake! I have plenty of pictures to prove my claims. This product is garbage!!!!!

  9. Riversong | | #10

    It's odd that, after a couple generations of experience with the toxic effects of petrochemical products and the deadly impacts of "Better Living Through Chemistry", the best and the brightest still rush in where angels fear to tread and adopt the latest petrochemical miracle cure.

    "I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Plastics."

    "Just how do you mean that, sir?"

  10. John | | #11

    There is no doubt that all the urea formaldehyde (UF) foams are problematic from both a health safety and performance standpoint as a result of potential degradation leading to shrinkage and release of free formaldehyde. Phenol formaldehyde (PF) binders have been used for decades to make wood based construction products such as plywood and OSB. Recent experience with those products in some portable housing units shows that these can be a problem also but they are much more stable. Some recent products based on polyurethane or polyurea are made from isocyanate raw materials and do contain fire retardants. They are much more stable and one would not expect to have "toxic molecules" in the air in building containing those products. In the first place isocyanates are quite reactive with water and would react with that long before any potential exposure occured, even if there was any decomposition which is unlikely. I dod not claim to know all the formulations used but do know that the typical FRs used (halogenated phosphate esters) have been used for over 50 years in all sorts of polyurethane products without risk to health. In term of products of combustion I would avoid breathing smoke from burning wood that is present in quantities thousands of times greater that insulating foams in typical buildings and building codes require that foams be covered with a "thermal barrier" to prevent ignition; smoke from burning furnishings are much more hazardous.
    In the interest of complete disclosure I have been working with polyurethane type products for over 40 years and have participated in research, production, and testing of insulating products, including health and safety issues. I have seen products disappear that I once considered "safe" and as a result have become much more skeptical of many claims. One has to balance the potential good (in the form of practical energy savings) with the potential risk (in the form of fire or other risk exposures). It is not correct to assume that all petrochemical based products are bad or that there is always a superior "natural" alternative and it is a good idea to crititcally examine the facts to be sure that preconceived notions do not govern.

  11. Riversong | | #12

    It is not correct to assume that all petrochemical based products are bad or that there is always a superior "natural" alternative and it is a good idea to crititcally examine the facts to be sure that preconceived notions do not govern.

    While it's quite true that assumptions are often incorrect and based on bias or prejudice, it's equally true that there is a very strong bias in our culture toward the production and use of artificial petrochemical products which often have long-term impacts that were not anticipated.

    Since the start of the petroleum age in 1859, we've been not only robbing billions of years of "ancient sunlight" and irrevocably changing the climate, but also producing 80,000 petrochemicals that never before existed on earth (250 million tons per year globally).

    There are 17,000 petrochemicals available for home use, only 30% of which have been tested for safety and 63 synthetic chemicals (10 gallons) in the average American home. The FDA requires only warning labels, even though most (if not all) are dangerous to human health and environment. There are 145 artificial chemicals in the bloodstream of the typical American, many of them passed to the next generation through mother's milk.

    The risks of petrochemicals are hardly "potential", but very real. Neither our bodies nor any other part of the biological environment evolved to deal with this chemical assault.

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