Spray foam insulation has become increasingly popular as an energy-efficient and cost-effective method for sealing homes against drafts and lowering energy bills. However, as with any building material, concerns have arisen about its potential health impacts. Can spray foam insulation make you sick? In this article, we will explore the various aspects of spray foam insulation, its composition, installation process, and potential health risks associated with it.

Understanding Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation is a versatile and highly effective insulation material used in residential and commercial construction. It is often chosen for its exceptional thermal insulation properties and air-sealing capabilities. There are two main types of spray foam insulation: open-cell and closed-cell.

Open-Cell Spray Foam: This type of insulation is lighter and less dense than closed-cell foam. It expands to fill voids, cracks, and crevices in the building envelope, effectively sealing them and providing good thermal insulation. Open-cell foam is known for its sound-dampening properties and flexibility.

Closed-Cell Spray Foam: Closed-cell foam is denser and more rigid than open-cell foam. It provides a higher R-value, making it a superior thermal insulator. Closed-cell foam is impermeable to moisture, making it an excellent choice for areas prone to water intrusion.

The Installation Process

Spray foam insulation is applied by professionals using specialized equipment. The process involves spraying a mixture of two liquid components, typically an isocyanate and a polyol resin, which react and expand to form a solid foam. During installation, proper protective gear, including respirators, gloves, and eye protection, is worn by installers due to the potentially harmful chemicals involved.

Potential Health Concerns

While spray foam insulation is highly effective at improving energy efficiency and reducing utility bills, there are several health concerns associated with its installation and usage:

Off-Gassing: One of the primary concerns with spray foam insulation is the potential for off-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during and after installation. VOCs are chemicals that can vaporize into the air and have been linked to various health issues, including respiratory problems, headaches, and eye irritation.

Isocyanates: Isocyanates are a key component of the polyurethane foam used in spray foam insulation. Exposure to isocyanates can cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritation. Prolonged or repeated exposure may lead to more severe health effects, such as asthma or other respiratory conditions.

Proper Installation: The correct installation of spray foam insulation is crucial in minimizing potential health risks. If not mixed and applied correctly, the foam may not cure properly, leading to off-gassing issues. Therefore, it is essential to hire experienced professionals who follow safety protocols.

Ventilation: Adequate ventilation during and after the installation of spray foam insulation is critical to reduce the concentration of VOCs in indoor air. Properly ventilating the area helps ensure that any off-gassing is minimized.

Curing Time: It’s important to allow spray foam insulation to cure completely before reoccupying the space. This curing period can vary depending on environmental conditions but typically ranges from 24 to 72 hours.

Pre-existing Health Conditions: Individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions or chemical sensitivities may be more susceptible to the effects of spray foam insulation. It is advisable for such individuals to consult with a healthcare professional before installation.

Safety Precautions

To minimize potential health risks associated with spray foam insulation, consider the following safety precautions:

Hire a Professional: Always hire trained and experienced professionals to install spray foam insulation. They should use the appropriate safety equipment and follow industry best practices.

Ventilation: Ensure adequate ventilation during and after installation. This helps in dissipating any VOCs that may be released.

Stay Away During Installation: It’s best to avoid the area where spray foam is being installed. If you must be present, use proper protective gear, including a respirator.

Curing Time: Allow sufficient time for the foam to cure before reoccupying the space. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for curing time.

Monitor Indoor Air Quality: Consider monitoring indoor air quality after installation, especially if you have concerns about off-gassing.


While spray foam insulation offers numerous benefits in terms of energy efficiency and comfort, it is essential to be aware of potential health risks associated with its installation and usage. The key to a safe and effective installation is hiring experienced professionals who follow proper safety protocols and ensuring adequate ventilation during and after the process. By taking these precautions, you can enjoy the benefits of spray foam insulation without compromising your health. If you have specific health concerns or conditions, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before proceeding with the installation. Ultimately, with the right precautions in place, spray foam insulation can be a valuable addition to your home.