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Class Action Hits Home SPF Insulation

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

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Two spray polyurethane foam insulation (SPF) companies are defendants in a putative class-action lawsuit by Pennsylvania homeowners, claiming that SPF causes property damage and health problems.

Daniel and Paula Slemmer, the named plaintiffs, allege that Sealite and InsulStar brands of SPF, manufactured by NCFI (North Carolina Foam Industries) Polyurethanes and installed by McGlaughlin Spray Foam Insulation Inc., are defective as applied or as designed.

NCFI Polyurethanes

The plaintiffs allege that SPF products installed in their homes emitted toxic chemicals that caused health issues.

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 20 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Named Defendants, Products

NCFI Polyurethanes, headquartered in Mount Airy, NC, has made foam products for a variety of industries since 1964. The company makes polyurethane foam chemical systems for spray foam-in-place insulation, roofing, marine, floatation, packaging and many other uses. The NCFI operates five manufacturing plants throughout the U.S.

Based in New Britain, PA, McGlaughlin Spray Foam Insulation has provided SPF insulation to contractors and homeowners for more than 17 years. A certified NCFI Polyurethanes Installer, the company serves customers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware.

McGlaughlin Spray Foam Insulation says it prides itself on the proficient application of spray foam and serves residential, commercial and industrial markets.

The products named in the lawsuit are Sealite, a two-part liquid open cell SPF, and InsulStar, a two-part liquid closed cell SPF. Both sprayed-in-place products save homeowners on heat and cooling costs and are to be installed by specially trained and experienced installers, according to NCFI.

Allegations against SPF Maker, Installer

The Slemmers allege that the SPF companies marketed, sold and installed toxic and defective spray foam insulation that emits toxic chemicals into the air, according to the complaint.

“When applied, the resulting polyurethane foam is supposed to become inert and non-toxic, but SPF remains toxic after installation because either, as designed, it is impossible to become inert and non-toxic even under optimal conditions; or proper installation (and thus non-toxicity) is nearly impossible given the exacting set of installation requirements and inadequate training and installer certification methods,” the plaintiffs allege.

SPF is product known in the industry as being unstable and prone to failure as installation is “complicated,” the plaintiffs note.

SPF applicator

The American Chemistry Council offers health and safety guidance for SPF contractors, building and construction professionals at www.spraypolyurethane.org.

Though marketed as “non-toxic and safe,” the NCFI products emit toxic chemicals after installation by “off-gassing,” the plaintiffs say.

The chemicals released by off-gassing are to blame for headaches, other neurological issues, and eye, nose and throat irritations, as well as respiratory issues, in the occupants of homes where the defective SPF has been applied, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs say the defendants’ misrepresentation of the safety of SPF constitutes fraudulent concealment. They are also claiming negligence, strict liability, breach of warranties, unjust enrichment and violations of consumer protection laws.

Moreover, the plaintiffs note that the only “remedy is complete removal of the SPF.”

Seeking to Certify Class

The plaintiffs initiated the lawsuit as a class action, but it has yet to be certified as such. They are seeking certification as a nationwide class of consumers as to the manufacturer and a statewide subclass as to the installer.

The class, represented by attorney Jonathan Shub of Seeger Weiss LLP, is seeking injunctive relief and medical monitoring, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

‘Tip of Iceberg’

Similar claims have been made by at least a dozen homeowners in the Orlando, FL area, according to local television news outlet. The homeowners allege that the SPF insulation installed in their homes has released toxic gases and made them sick.

“My heart started racing and racing, and I hyperventilated and fell to the floor,” homeowner Cynthia Gibson told WFTV.

An attorney, who represents five of the families who claim to be affected, said he planned to file lawsuits.

“I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Vincent Pravato told the news bureau. “I think you will end up with multiple communities and hundreds of hundreds of homes.”

In response to that report, the American Chemistry Council said that safety and health are top priorities of the SPF industry.


Tagged categories: Construction chemicals; Health and safety; Lawsuits; Residential Construction; Residential contractors; Spray foam; Spray polyurethane foam; Toxicity

Comment from Dennis Guy, (12/5/2012, 8:45 AM)

I suppose Spray Foam insulation will now become the modern-day equivalent of Asbestos.

Comment from Barry Lamm, (12/6/2012, 11:00 AM)

This was a problem with the early building spray foam insulation used in the 1970s. RAPCO was one of the companies that eventually declared bankrupsey due to lawsuits for out gassing of chemicals. The problem in that situation appeared to be how it was installed and the weather existing when it was intalled. I had it installed in my house in 1976 and, after a short time of some odor, it has performed well every since. /the house was built in 1920, so, the foam was pumped in from outside through the stucco. I recently had some stucco repair done where the backup wood sheathing had to be replaced in one area and the foam was still in place in full thickness. Spray foam insulation is an excellent product, but, it has to be installed correctly by well trained persons.

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