Phillip Guinness explores the future of polyurethanes
The EU has introduced new regulations around the use of diisocyanates, with the first effective from February 2022 and the later by August 2023. These regulations apply to all products containing free diisocyanates in concentration of 0.1% or above and will impact both professional and industrial users.
What Are Diisocyanates?
Diisocyanates are a family of versatile chemical building blocks that are reacted with polyols to form a polyurethane. They are used to make a wide range of polyurethane products such as rigid and flexible foams, coatings, adhesives, elastomers and sealants.
Polyurethanes are a highly versatile material that exist all around us in everyday products. The mechanical properties of polyurethanes can be isolated and manipulated through creative chemistry, allowing the material to be easily modified to suit specific requirements. They offer many advantages including high abrasion and impact resistance, good elongation, and strong adhesion. Used in sectors such as construction, automotive and textiles, they are a truly functional choice for a variety of applications.
Are They Safe?
Like any substance, the diisocyanates used to form polyurethanes are safe to use when they are handled according to the relevant chemical risk management and safety measures. Under the new REACH regulations, anyone handling diisocyanates will be required to complete mandatory training which outlines how to do so safely. It will also advise on how to minimise any adverse health effects caused by exposure. To allow adequate time for training to be completed, the restriction has a transition period of three years and applies from 24th August 2023.
Additionally, all products sold within the EU with a total monomeric diisocyanate concentration greater than 0.1% which is intended for industrial or professional use must now have the following statement present on the label: “As of 24th August 2023, adequate training is required before industrial or professional use of this product”. Manufacturers are required to advise customers of where to complete this mandatory training and the timeframe in which they must do so. This regulation was effective from 24th February 2022.
Alternatives To Polyurethane
Polyurethanes play an indispensable role in modern-day life and have been used safely for many years. The adaptable material will remain a staple choice for countless applications, however users must now update their processes to ensure they are following the guidance set by the new REACH regulations.
Nevertheless, customers may still be looking to switch to a viable alternative for polyurethanes. Robnor ResinLab, a leading manufacturer of polyurethanes, has recognised these requests and developed a range of safety-focused resins. Free from isocyanate and plasticiser, GR100 and GR200 are non-hazardous compounds that provide good electrical resistance and excellent water resistance. For more demanding applications, GR200FR is a flame-retardant isocyanate free resin system that cures at 0°C. Robnor’s expert product development chemists also have the capability to create custom formulations that are tailored specifically to each application.
With such a comprehensive range of products in the company’s portfolio, there is something to cater to all requirements.
Phillip Guiness is with Robnor ResinLab