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A common myth dispelled: All PUs are dangerous

There is a common misconception that all polyurethanes are dangerous or harmful substances.

In this blog post, we aim to dispel this myth and provide a more accurate understanding of polyurethane, a versatile and widely used material.

What is Polyurethane (PU)?

Polyurethane, commonly abbreviated as PU, are plastic polymers made by combining diisocyanates and polyols. It is a highly versatile material known for its durability, flexibility and works well across a wide range of industries and applications, especially as a wood coating.

While it’s true that some types of polyurethane-based products can pose health or environmental risks, it is crucial to recognise that not all PUs are dangerous, and the safety of polyurethane largely depends on its specific composition and application.

Dispelling the myth

 1) Versatile and safe

Polyurethane is a material of choice in industries such as construction, automotive, furniture, and many more due to its excellent properties. It is used to make foam cushions, coatings, adhesives, sealants and even medical devices. The safety of polyurethane products depends on the formulation and adherence to safety regulations. Many polyurethane products are designed with consumer safety in mind.

2) Regulated for safety

Polyurethane products are subject to strict regulations and standards that govern their composition and use. Regulatory bodies ensure that products containing polyurethane meet safety requirements, especially when used in applications that come into contact with food, water, or sensitive environments.

3) Environmental considerations

While polyurethane can be found in a variety of consumer and industrial applications, there are concerns about its environmental impact. Some chemicals used in polyurethane can be challenging to use and recycle. However, there are ongoing efforts to develop more sustainable forms of polyurethane, including biodegradable options and improved recycling methods.

4) Proper handling is key

Like many materials, proper handling and disposal of polyurethane products are essential to minimise potential risks. It is crucial to follow the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) often referred to as the SDS (Safety Data Sheet) for safe usage, storage and disposal, and to be aware of any specific safety precautions associated with the type of polyurethane being used.

5) Safe alternatives available

Not all PU wood coatings are dangerous. PU coatings made from aliphatic isocyanates offer a safe alternative. It is exposure to aromatic compounds, toluene and xylene in particular that can be harmful and even fatal.

Instead, aliphatic isocyanates have a larger particle size, which is designed to drop to the floor within seconds, minimising workplace exposure, especially if spraying. They cannot be absorbed through the skin’s dermal and hypo-dermal layers, or enter the respiratory system. Aliphatic isocyanates also have very low solubility in water, so have a lower environmental impact than aromatic alternatives.

Using PU safely

PU is not inherently dangerous, but the safety of polyurethane products depends on their specific composition and adherence to safety regulations.

While there are concerns about its environmental impact and some forms of polyurethane may pose risks, it’s important to differentiate between responsible and irresponsible usage. When used and handled properly, polyurethane contributes to countless innovations and products without causing harm.

It is essential to stay informed about the safety aspects of specific polyurethane products and to promote responsible usage and disposal practices to mitigate any potential risks.

At Redwood, we recommend the Hesse PU range, as a safe alternative to some other PUs on the market. It is formaldehyde free and environmentally friendly. It uses N-Butyl Acetate, which unlike the toxicity of toluene and xylene, is actually used as a synthetic fruit flavouring in some sweets, baked goods and ice-cream!

For a safe solution that meets your project’s requirements. Contact our expert team on 023 9223 3310 or email