spray polyurethane foam, health and safety

Understanding Marketing Claims

Is spray polyurethane foam (SPF) "green" or "bio-based"?

Many products have specific "green" attributes. All SPF has one very important such attribute - energy savings. SPF insulation can reduce the energy required to heat or cool buildings significantly. And use of SPF insulation reduces electricity demand, conserving valuable fossil fuels and reducing the associated greenhouse gas emissions emitted during electricity production.

Some SPF products are formulated with renewable resources such as natural oil polyols based on soybean or castor oil. These natural polyols are chemicals that are mixed and reacted with other chemicals to create polyurethane foam. The finished and reacted polyurethane foam will typically have only a portion of its content as "bio-based."

How to interpret "green" SPF insulation marketing claims?

When comparing insulation products, one of the first things you will look for is the R-value of the product. The R-value means resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides helpful guidance on understanding R-value in its Consumer Alert - Home Insulation Basics: Higher R-Values = Higher Insulating Values. Federal regulations require your insulation installer to give you a contract or receipt for the insulation installed that shows the coverage area, thickness, and R-value of the insulation.

Once you understand the R-value of the product, you can compare its insulating power to other insulation products.

The FTC issued its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, commonly known as the "Green Guides" to help marketers avoid making environmental claims that are unfair or deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Also relevant are sections 6 and 9. For consumers, the FTC has issued two brochures, "Sorting out 'Green' Advertising Claims" and "Eco-Speak: A User's Guide to the Language of Recycling." For businesses, the FTC has issued a brochure, "Complying With the Environmental Marketing Guides."

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