Canadian Prohibition of Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation

To: Manufacturers, Importers, Distributors and Installers of Foam Insulation

The Product

Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI) is a type of insulation that was widely used in the 1970's for insulating and retrofitting industrial, commercial and older residential buildings. UFFI is a low density foam that has the appearance and consistency of shaving cream, and becomes stiff and self supporting when it dries or cures (hardens).

The insulation is typically made on-site where the urea formaldehyde-based resin is mixed with a catalyst and water and foamed in place in walls or used for block fill. The foam can be forced through small openings and delivered to the entire area of any cavity before it cures.

The Law

UFFI has been prohibited from advertising, sale or importation into Canada under item 34, Part I of Schedule I to the Hazardous Products Act since December 1980. The prohibition includes all urea formaldehyde-based thermal insulation, foamed in place, used to insulate buildings. This includes melamine urea and other urea formaldehyde resins.

Despite this prohibition, Health Canada has learned of an incident in which UFFI was imported and installed in a limited number of homes. Health Canada took prompt corrective action, and is now taking this opportunity to remind manufacturers, importers, distributors and installers of the existing prohibition, and of the relevant responsibilities for industry.

The Issue

The use of a urea formaldehyde-based resin in the manufacture of UFFI can lead to the release of formaldehyde gas during the curing process and afterwards. Health Canada has concerns about the health of people exposed to formaldehyde. Formaldehyde emissions decrease over time.

UFFI may also deteriorate when wet, can release increased amounts of formaldehyde if installed incorrectly. As well, there is a related concern that the moist foam could support mould growth, which could in turn adversely affect the health of the occupants.

Health Canada is aware that UFFI is sold legally in other jurisdictions, including some states in the U.S. However, the Department's recent assessment of two American UFFI products has shown that the resin and technology are similar to those used decades ago; the newer products also release significant amounts of formaldehyde. Thus, Health Canada has determined that there is no evidence to support reconsidering the prohibition at this time.

Your Responsibility

It is your responsibility as a manufacturer, importer, seller or installer to ensure your products comply with Canadian legislation. You could be held responsible for non-compliant products.

If you are interested in a new insulation product to import, manufacture, sell or install in Canada, you may wish to contact Health Canada beforehand. Health Canada is available to provide clarification on products that are regulated or prohibited under the Hazardous Products Act.

If you become aware of a UFFI product on the market, you should report this to Health Canada via our web site, toll-free line or email.

We appreciate your attention to the health and safety issue associated with UFFI, and urge you to continue to take appropriate steps to help ensure the safety and safe use of consumer products by Canadians.

For Further Information

If you require further information, visit the Consumer Product Safety section of the Health Canada web site or contact your Consumer Product Safety regional office.

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