ATSDR Releases Investigation of Airborne Exposures to Moisture Cure Urethane Report

Tuesday, May 31, 2005
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The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released its exposure investigation report about airborne exposure to moisture cure urethane (MCU), a finish applied to wood floors, in homes in the Williamsburg Hasidic community in Brooklyn, N.Y.

During the application and curing process, MCU releases several chemical vapors into the air. The main chemical vapors of concern are toluene diisocyanate (TDI) and the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) ethyl benzene and xylenes. Once MCU is fully cured, vapors are no longer released.

The report, Airborne Exposures to Moisture Cure Urethane in Multi-Family Residential Buildings, describes the investigation to determine if TDI and VOC vapors were entering neighboring apartments or shared hallways during or after MCU was applied; whether exposures to the vapors were occurring at levels that could be harmful to health and how long the vapors remained in the air or the treated apartment after the final coat of MCU was applied.

Based on sampling data, ATSDR general findings conclude that:

  • When MCU is used in an apartment, VOCs move through the air to other parts of the building. Neighbors may be involuntarily exposed to these VOCs.
  • VOCs likely reached and stayed at levels that can be harmful to health during and after the use of MCU products with a VOC content of 550 grams/liter.
  • Twenty four hours after the third coat of MCU was applied, VOC levels in a treated apartment were not likely to cause health effects. However, VOCs were released for more than 43 hours after the third MCU coat.

In addition to conclusions, the report includes the following recommendations:

  • MCU with a VOC content of 550 grams/liter should not be used in occupied, multi-family buildings.
  • Residents and neighbors should wait at least 24-48 hours after the final coating of MCU before returning home.
  • The VOC content of any product, if high enough, could pose a health hazard when used indoors. It is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for safe use.
  • Health education about MCU and other chemical exposures should be provided for community members and health care providers.

A condensed summary of the report and a fact sheet are available in Yiddish. To request a copy of either of these documents or the full report call 1-888-422-8737; or send a written request to:

Records Center
1600 Clifton Road, NE (MS E-60)
Atlanta, GA 30333

The English version of the full report is available for review at:

Brooklyn College Library
Government Documents
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn Public Library - Williamsburg Branch
240 Division Ave. at Marcy Ave.
Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn Public Library
Central Library
Grand Army Plaza
Brooklyn, NY

For more information, community members may contact Environmental Health Scientist Gail Scogin or Health Communication Specialist LaFreta Dalton, toll-free, at 1-888-422-8737. ATSDR Regional Representative Leah Escobar also may be contacted at 212-637-4306.

ATSDR, a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, evaluates the human health effects of exposure to hazardous substances. Established by Congress in 1980 under the Superfund law, ATSDR conducts public health assessments at each of the sites on the EPA National Priorities List, as well as other sites when petitioned.

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Page last reviewed: May 31, 2005