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Related EPA Activities


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Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) contains methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (monomeric MDI) and MDI-based polyisocyanates called polymeric MDI (pMDI). EPA has a number of programs that address isocyanates, including MDI and pMDI:

Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Existing Chemicals Action Plan

On April 13, 2011, EPA released action plans to address the potential health risks of methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and related compounds, which are used in spray polyurethane foam (SPF). Read more about these and other action plans that are part of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson's commitment to enhance EPA's chemical management program. The plans identify a range of actions the agency is considering under the authority of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

ENERGY STAR® Program

EPA is currently revising requirements for insulation manufacturers to participate in ENERGY STAR®.

  • Spray foam manufacturers will need to provide:
    • Clear and specific safe installation practices and personal protective equipment listed on containers.
    • Specific information on chemical reactants.
    • Cure times and safe re-entry times after installation.
    • MSDS for chemical reactants with complete hazard information listed.
  • All products must be 3rd party certified for R-values and flame/smoke spread.

Read more information about ENERGY STAR® Program Enhancements for Insulation.

Read more information on the ENERGY STAR® Air Seal and Insulate website.

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TSCA Section 8(e)

Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 8(e) requires U.S. chemical manufacturers, importers, processors, and distributors to notify the EPA immediately after obtaining information on any of their chemical substances or mixtures that reasonably supports the conclusion that such substance or mixture presents a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment. Section 8(e) notices should be submitted within 30 calendar days after obtaining information that a substance or mixture presents a substantial risk.

EPA has received numerous 8(e) Notices and FYI Submissions from industry for isocyanates and other SPF compounds, though the chemical identities in many submissions are claimed as confidential business information. Some of the reported information includes:

TSCA New Chemicals Program

Under the TSCA New Chemicals program, the Agency developed an Isocyanate Chemical Category profile (PDF) (3 pp., 17 KB), which contains health and safety information and recommended engineering controls and personal protective equipment to reduce inhalation and dermal exposure to isocyanates.

TSCA Inventory Update Reporting (IUR) Rule

The aim of the Inventory Update Reporting (IUR) program is to collect the highest quality screening-level, exposure-related information and to make that information available to EPA and to the public to the extent possible, (depending on the company’s data confidentiality claims). The IUR data are used to support risk screening, assessment, priority setting and management activities.

Find out more information on the following isocyanates listed in the non-confidential 2006 IUR Records by entering the chemical name or CAS# and then hitting the “search” button. This will take you to a page where you can check one or both of the checkboxes to select the type of results you wish to see (e.g., by company and production site vs. all national data) and then hit “continue,” which will take you to the search results for that chemical. 

Chemical Name CAS
Benzene, 1,1'-methylenebis[4-isocyanato-    (MDI) 101-68-8
Isocyanic acid, polymethylenepolyphenylene ester  (pMDI) 9016-87-9
Benzene, 1,1'-methylenebis[isocyanato-    (MDI) 26447-40-5
Benzene, 1-isocyanato-2-[(4-isocyanatophenyl)methyl]-  (MDI) 5873-54-1

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Design for the Environment (DfE) Automotive Refinishing Partnership

The DfE Automotive Refinishing Partnership has worked closely with businesses and career/technical schools to increase awareness of the health impacts associated with isocyanates and promote safer and more efficient practices and technologies.  DfE developed a Self-Evaluation Checklist of Best Practices (PDF) (18 pp, 182 KB) and a companion Emissions Reduction Calculator.  Best practices protect workers, students, and surrounding communities from isocyanates and other toxic chemicals. The draft report, entitled "Isocyanates Profile: Auto Refinishing Industry” discusses the use of isocyanates in the automotive refinishing industry.

Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS)

IRIS is a compilation of electronic reports on specific substances found in the environment and their potential to cause human health effects, and is intended for use by those without extensive training in toxicology, but with some knowledge of health sciences. Methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (monomeric MDI) and polymeric MDI (pMDI) (CAS# 101-68-8, 9016-87-9) has a report in IRIS.

The EPA IRIS Reference Concentration for Chronic Inhalation Exposure (RfC) for MDI is 0.6 micrograms per cubic meter or 0.0006 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3). EPA defines the RfC as an estimate (with uncertainty spanning perhaps an order of magnitude) of a continuous inhalation exposure to the human population (including sensitive subgroups) that is likely to be without an appreciable risk of deleterious effects during a lifetime.

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Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)

TRI is a publicly available EPA database that contains information on toxic chemical releases and waste management activities reported annually by certain industries as well as federal facilities. EPA compiles the TRI data each year and makes it available through several data access tools, including the TRI Explorer and Envirofacts. TRI data on diisocyanates for 2007:

Chemical Total On-site Disposal or Other Releases Total Off-site Disposal or Other Releases Total On- and Off-site Disposal or Other Releases
DIISOCYANATES 675,956 796,496 1,472,453

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Risk Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI)

RSEI, a computer-based screening tool developed by EPA, informs communities about the potential chronic health risks from industrial releases in their area by prioritizing chemicals of concern based on how hazardous they are. Diisocyanates releases and emissions from industrial facilities are reportable under TRI.  Diisocyanates rank among the most toxic chemicals listed on the Toxic Release Inventory, according to RSEI analysis.

Clean Air Act (CAA) 

Four isocyanates are regulated as part of EPA’s list of 187 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) under the Clean Air Act (CAA), including 4,4'-methylenediphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) (CAS No. 101-68-8). Under the CAA, EPA has the authority to develop technology-based national emissions standards (NESHAPs) to limit the release of specified HAPs from specific industrial sectors. EPA’s Technology Transfer Network Air Toxics Web Site provides data on hazardous air pollutants that are known or suspected to cause serious health effects.

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