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New Green Chemistry Finds Safe Replacement for Polyurethane

Almost everyone has used polyurethane for a home project. I have used it as a finish on wood. Polyurethane is a plastic that has been in all of our lives, in one form or another.

Safer Polyurethane Soon
Lou Roberts Collection

It’s used as a finish on wood floors, in foam insulation and many other products or places including hospitals.

It contains a toxic chemical called isocyanates, which releases a gas which lead to a number of deaths. According to, it was largely responsible for the thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries in Bhopal, India, in 1984. It was even very dangerous for the scientists who have been trying to make polyurethane without the chemical.

Several people who use it for different applications, have had respiratory problems, also eye and skin problems. One of the major problems is with the spray foam, used for insulation.

Scientists believe they have finally made safe materials to create the final plastic, by using a key starting material with from glycerol. In some cases it’s even biodegradable, making it even safe for the environment, too. Scientists are still working and experimenting, but they are getting closer for a real solution for a safer product.

If you’ve ever used it on a wood project, you know that polyurethane does make a great looking finish. If something safer goes into the making of polyurethane, do you think something could replace it that works just as good?

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