Airborne methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) concentrations associated with the application of polyurethane spray foam in residential construction.

Research paper by Jacques J Lesage, Jennifer J Stanley, William J WJ Karoly, Fran W FW Lichtenberg

Indexed on: 26 Jan '07Published on: 26 Jan '07Published in: Journal of occupational and environmental hygiene


The primary objectives of this study were (a) to measure potential exposures of applicators and assistants to airborne methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), (b) to measure airborne concentrations of MDI at various distances from the spray foam application, and (c) to measure airborne MDI concentrations as a function of time elapsed since application. Other study objectives were, (a) to compare the results from filter and impinger samples; (b) to determine the particle size distribution in the spray foam aerosol; (c) to determine potential exposures to dichlorofluoroethane; and (d) to measure any off-gassing of MDI after the foam had fully cured. This study was conducted during application of spray polyurethane foam inside five single-family homes under construction in the United States and Canada. Spray foam applicators and assistants may be exposed to airborne MDI concentrations above the OSHA permissible exposure limit. At these concentrations, OSHA recommends appropriate respiratory protection during spray foam application to prevent airborne MDI exposures above established limits and to protect against exposure to dichlorofluoroethane (HCFC-141b). Airborne MDI concentrations decrease rapidly after foam application ceases. The highest airborne concentrations measured after 15 min and 45 min were 0.019 mg/m3 and 0.003 mg/m3, respectively. After 45 min, airborne concentrations were below the limit of quantitation (LOQ) of 0.036-microg per sample. For samples taken 24 hours after completion of foaming, results were also below the LOQ. Approximately two-thirds of the total mass of the airborne particles in the spray foam aerosol was greater than 3.5 microns in diameter. Airborne MDI concentrations determined by filter sampling methods were 6% to 40% lower than those determined by impinger methods.