Back in the energy crisis of the 1970’s, the government sponsored insulation programs using a new expanding foam product called urea formaldehyde (UFFI). The product worked great at insulating walls and stopping drafts but as it was installed and curing, it released formaldehyde gas. This prompted another government program that subsidized the removal of UFFI at a cost of millions to both government and taxpayers.
Formaldehyde is a product of combustion found in cigarette smoke and is also a common ingredient in many building products, such as adhesives, particleboard, countertops and carpeting. Formaldehyde gas is an irritant and can cause itching and irritation of the eyes, throat and nose and may prompt allergic reactions. Very high concentrations may be carcinogenic.
UFFI has been banned by the government since the 1980’s. It was banned in the US and Europe for a time but is currently legal and enjoying success as a useful home insulation material.
In 1993, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) removed the need for a UFFI Declaration on the National Housing Act for home insurance, however the Declaration still sometimes shows on up real estate documentation, as some Canadian courts have deemed UFFI a “hidden defect”.
Today, 30-year-old urea formaldehyde insulation is no longer capable of off-gassing formaldehyde into a home. It is simply too old to be actively involved in this chemical reaction. There is more formaldehyde off-gassing from new carpeting, cigarette smoke and new countertops in new home construction or renovations than was ever present in UFFI. So you can breathe easy. If clean indoor air is a concern for you, research your products carefully before installing them in your home.
To learn more about UFFI, you can check out these valuable sources:
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca or www.grassroots.ca.