I apologize for this somewhat lengthy post, and have made an effort to keep it as short as possible. The controversy regarding UFFI has been so confusing for the public and has added a “stigma” for many home owners.
As a century home owner or possible buyer, you most likely will come across the term “UFFI”, (commonly pronounced “you-fee”). In Ontario, when a home has been insulated with Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation, the existence must be disclosed to all potential buyers and must be included in all real estate sale agreements. UFFI is, and has been an ongoing controversial subject.
This type of insulation was used in the 1970′s, most extensively from 1975 to 1978, during the period of the Canadian Home Insulation Program (CHIP), when financial incentives were offered by the government to upgrade home insulation levels. However, the insulation was banned in December 1980 in Canada. It is estimated that over 100,000 homes in Canada were insulated with UFFI.
The insulation was also used extensively in the United States during the 1970′s, and has been used in Europe over the last thirty years.
UFFI is still used in Europe, where it was never banned and is considered one of the better “retrofit” insulations.
In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the sale of UFFI in the United States in 1982, and shortly thereafter a law prohibiting the sale of urea formaldehyde was enacted. In April 1983, the U.S. Court of Appeal struck down the law. However, because of this controversy, UFFI is not widely used in the USA today.
So what is it?? ….Urea formaldehyde foam insulation is injected as a mixture of urea formaldehyde resin. It was commonly used in existing houses by injecting the foam into areas, such as behind walls, where it was impractical to provide conventional insulation. The insulation was approved in Canada for use in exterior wood-frame walls only. It has a reasonably good R value (thermal resistance). Some formaldehyde gas is released during the on-site mixing and curing. Formaldehyde is colourless, but has a very strong odour, which can generally be detected at concentrations above one part per million. It is this by-product of the curing of the foam that became a controversial issue.
Formaldehyde is both a naturally occurring chemical, and an industrial chemical. It is found in dry cleaning chemicals, paper products, no-iron fabrics, diapers, pillow cases, the glue in particle board and plywood, cosmetics, paints, cigarette smoke, and the exhaust from automobiles, gas appliances, fireplaces, wood stoves. It occurs naturally in forests and is a necessary metabolite in our body cells.
Formaldehyde levels in houses are typically .03 to .04 parts per million. By comparison, houses with new carpeting can easily reach these levels.
Many ongoing court cases have surfaced regarding UFFI. The real message from the case is that UFFI is not nearly the problem that real estate agents seem to think it is. One of many detailed studies are available for viewing. One in particular is a detailed study published on the website http://www.carsondunlop.com , veteran home inspector Alan Carson of Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., and John Caverly, of Building Inspection Consultants & Associates, conclude that urea formaldehyde foam insulation has not been shown to be a health concern. “We believe that those who have urea formaldehyde foam insulation in their homes should enjoy their houses, and sleep well at night,” the report says. “UFFI is simply not the problem it was once feared to be.”
Another interesting quote…. “We would further urge real estate associations and boards across Canada to consider dropping the UFFI clause from purchase contracts. Similarly, we would ask mortgage lenders not to penalize those who have UFFI in their homes. UFFI is simply not the problem it was once feared to be.”
Hopefully the debate of UFFI will finally come to a conclusion, in the meantime… do your research and due diligence.