The way polyurethane is made and its reaction to intense heat requires careful thought and management. However, this guide shows that the answer to the question ‘Are polyurethane products toxic?’ is a highly reassuring, no!
There is a natural tendency to be cautious of manmade materials, particularly ones created using a chemical reaction. Also, there is heightened awareness of the toxicity – or flammable nature – of some substances traditionally used to make household products before safety standards expanded. Which all adds to levels of concern.
This leads to a frequently asked question; do polyurethane products that come into contact with humans present any kind of health risk?
The short answer is that no, polyurethane is not toxic. It is actually a safe and sustainable option when compared to many alternative materials.
The guide will explain in more detail why this important material is safe to use in a multitude of applications. Including parts used every day in homes and cars, that frequently come into contact with humans.
To investigate some of the myths about polyurethane and its toxicity, it’s important to look at what it is actually made of.
The various forms that it takes depends on the balance of base materials, but generally involves a chain reaction between a polyol and a diisocyanate. These two compounds combine to create an inert and totally harmless material – polyurethane.
Polyurethane products and fires
This leads to possibly the source of myths about polyurethane. What happens if this material is superheated, such as by fire?
As you would imagine, this topic has been the subject of intensive experimentation. The toxicity of smoke from a burning room depends on multiple factors, including what else is present and how much ventilation there is. Even when polyurethane is used as a building material, its presence is no more dangerous in terms of gases and emissions than other commonly found materials in homes. In fact, the contents of a room are often a more harmful source of toxic fumes in a fire, than the materials used in constructing that room.
Does polyurethane put toxins in the air?
There is a lingering misconception about polyurethane, particularly in home construction, suggesting it can negatively affect air quality, or can even create a form of pollution. Neither of these has any scientific basis.
There are no emissions from parts made from PE, even large insulation sheets or foam, so it cannot affect the health of occupants of a building.
The presence of polyurethane in homes is actually a plus point in relation to environmental issues. It is a wonderful insulator and manages energy and sound transmission. It is also resistant to moulds, fungi, damp and other harmful substances in living and workspaces.
So safe, it’s used in baby equipment!
Designers and manufacturers have come to rely on polyurethane as the best materials to create durable and strong parts and components, including foams, insulators, linings, discs, wheels, stops, rollers and extrusions.
The fact that it’s so prolific and diverse in its uses is evidence of how safe it is. Companies simply would not rely on PE for parts if there was a risk involved. Particularly as they are heavily regulated and compelled to meet stringent Europe-wide safety standards.
So, you can even find polyurethane in toys, pushchairs, mattresses and other items used by infants.
Safer than alternatives
In fact, the rigidity and structural integrity that can be achieved with the right blend of PE can make products made of polyurethane doubly safe.
Unlike many alternative materials, products moulded from polyurethane do not shred, flake, crack or splinter. Even under intense use or pressure. So, nothing will fly off, even microscopic fragments. Polyurethane parts cope brilliantly with abrasion, weight, moisture, heat, cold and everything else that gets thrown at them.
Care in the manufacturing process
It’s important to note though, that Custom Moulded Polyurethane and its quality supply chain are not complacent about the dangers of handling any form of material made from a blend of chemicals. Particularly when a chain reaction is involved.
To keep staff safe during the production of polyurethane, industrial-strength protective gear is standard. We also have stringent safety protocols in place regarding the handling of polyurethane during the moulding process.
Safety clothing and equipment is always wise when handling chemicals in their raw or transitory states.
Polyurethane Products – reassuring and harmless
So are Polyurethane products toxic to humans?
Clearly then, the forms of polyurethane that commonly come into contact with humans in homes, cars, factories and various other places, have been manufactured with care.
The finished items created by custom moulding polyurethane are completely safe to touch and to live with. They also have a structural integrity that makes them non-toxic, and safer than alternative materials.