In past issues of the Report, we have discussed the dangers associated with workplace exposure to isocyanate chemicals in spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation. Spray application of SPF insulation generates isocyanate vapors and aerosols that can migrate throughout the building if it is not isolated and properly ventilated. Both inhalation and skin exposures can lead to the worker suffering serious health effects.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), research data indicate that inhalation exposures during SPF application will typically exceed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) occupational exposure limits and require skin, eye, and respiratory protection. Adverse health effects caused by isocyanate exposure include asthma, chemical sensitization, liver damage, other respiratory and breathing problems, serious allergic reactions, and severe skin and eye irritation.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has found that isocyanates are a leading chemical cause of work-related asthma. According to NIOSH, some workers who become sensitized to isocyanates are subject to severe asthma attacks if they are exposed again. Death from severe asthma in some sensitized persons has been reported. Sensitization may result from either a single exposure to a relatively high concentration or repeated exposures to lower concentrations over time. If a worker is allergic or becomes sensitized to isocyanates, even exposure to low concentrations can trigger a severe asthma attack or other lung effects or cause a potentially fatal reaction. There is no recognized safe level of exposure to isocyanates for sensitized individuals.
Lawyers in the Section currently represent clients who suffer from occupational asthma, chemical sensitization, or other illnesses resulting from on-the-job exposure to isocyanates during the spray application of SPF. In one case, pending in Rhode Island, our client developed occupational asthma and can no longer be exposed to the chemicals in SPF. As a result, the client has been injured and incurred medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.
In another case, pending in Delaware, our firm represents a man, the former owner of a company that installed spray foam insulation, who became chemically sensitized to isocyanate and developed occupational asthma due to his workplace exposure to SPF chemicals. Because of his injuries, our client lost his business and income potential because he could no longer be near SPF or any of its chemical components without risk of catastrophic injury or death. Our co-counsel in these cases is Dawn Smith of the Smith Clinesmith law firm in Dallas, Texas. Both cases are scheduled for trial in the first half of 2018.
Our lawyers are currently investigating other cases where workers have been exposed to isocyanates during or after the application of SPF insulation and who now suffer from occupation asthma or other related illnesses. If you would like more information or have questions, you can contact us via the form below or call us at 800-898-2034.