Found in a wide array of building materials, including rigid foam (board and sprayed insulation,flexible foam (padding for furniture and bedding), coatings and paints, adhesives, sealants and elastomers (such as wood sealers and caulks), window treatments, resin flooring, gaskets and other thermoplastics, and fabrics.
Polyurethane foam, which is essentially petroleum, is the predominant filling for baby mattresses and often contains dangerous chemical ingredients made of formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and other toxins. Because young children are very vulnerable and may spend over 50 percent of their early life on a baby mattress, there is a concern about the health effects of this product, according to HealthyChild.com. Some crib mattresses emit mixtures of chemicals capable of causing cardiac arrhythmias, difficulty breathing, chest discomfort, irritation of mucous membranes, headache, coughing, asthma and allergic reaction, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, nausea, blurred vision, and reduced pulmonary function, as listed on EPA manufacturer material safety data sheets for polyurethane foam.
Isocyanates are the raw materials that make up all polyurethane products.
Isocyanates are compounds containing the isocyanate group (-NCO). They react with compounds containing alcohol (hydroxyl) groups to produce polyurethane polymers, which are components of polyurethane foams, thermoplastic elastomers, spandex fibers, and polyurethane paints.
Jobs that may involve exposure to isocyanates include painting, foam-blowing, and the manufacture of many Polyurethane products, such as chemicals, polyurethane foam, insulation materials, surface coatings, car seats, furniture, foam mattresses, under-carpet padding, packaging materials, shoes, laminated fabrics, polyurethane rubber, and adhesives, and during the thermal degradation of polyurethane products.
Health effects of isocyanate exposure include irritation of skin and mucous membranes, chest tightness, and difficult breathing. Isocyanates include compounds classified as potential human carcinogens and known to cause cancer in animals. The main effects of hazardous exposures are occupational asthma and other lung problems, as well as irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin.