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Safe use of diisocyanates, used in Polyurethane (PU) adhesives, sealants and foams
On 4 August 2020, a European restriction on diisocyanates was published by the EU authorities under REACH, to avoid potential sensitisation by these substances, typically present in uncured PU products like PU adhesives, sealants and foams. This new restriction requires additional labelling and training prior to professional use of products containing > 0.1% monomeric diisocyanates.
PU adhesives and sealants are versatile and safe when used correctly. They are used for many applications in construction, transport, assembly and many more. PU products are made by reacting isocyanates and polyols so the restriction is specifically relevant for professional users of PU products.
PU training required by August 2023
As of 24 August 2023, training is required for professional and industrial users of products with a monomeric diisocyanate concentration of > 0.1%. Soudal has cooperated with FEICA, the European sealant & adhesive industry association together with ISOPA and ALIPA, the diisocyanate manufacturers’ industry associations, to prepare training material for use by its customers and all professional PU adhesive, sealant or foam users.
The training does not replace or amend other health and safety requirements but is additional to them. To inform users of products involved, the training requirement should be mentioned on packaging as of 24 February 2022. To ensure that professional users are informed even when buying retail products, we recommend to include the information on retail products as well.
Training Material available early 2022
The training material will be made available via an e-learning platform early 2022 in all official EU languages, early enough for all users of PU products to be trained and certified by 24 August 2023. Online training will be accessible via desktop, tablet as well as mobile devices. Trainees will receive a personal certificate after successful completion of the training.
Soudal is undertaking all necessary steps to ensure that this online training for use of sealants, adhesives and PU foams by Soudal customers will be made available free of charge. Please also check any national provisions in your country.
Some frequently asked questions are answered below
Are diisocyanates safe?
Like many substances, diisocyanates’ use is safe when they are handled according to relevant risk management and safety measures. It is also important to know that no diisocyanates can be found in finished articles. Diisocyanates are only used as reactive chemicals; they react with the polyol to form the PU product and are consumed during curing.
What is sensitization?
Sensitization means that after exposure, a person could become allergic to the substance. This also happens to many people in contact with pollen or mould. If sensitized, each time the person is in contact again with the substance (even at very low concentrations) the person could have a high allergic reaction with respiratory impacts (e.g. asthma). The majority of individuals with related asthma show improvement or total recovery after exposure stops.
What does a distributor or reseller need to do?
He should pass on the information from the product supplier on to his customers. The training requirement prior to professional use, will already be printed on the packaging. As a distributor does not use the product himself, no training of shop personnel is required.
How does the restriction influence consumer use?
This new regulation only applies to professionals and industry. A separate restriction for consumer use came into force several years ago, introducing the requirement to include gloves with the packaging of PU consumer products.
Should PU products in retail channels be labelled accordingly?
As it is possible for professional users to purchase PU products in retail channels, Soudal recommends to include the new labelling sentences on retail PU products as well. This will be prepared by Soudal for all PU products.
Will PU adhesives, sealants and foams remain available?
The restriction aims to avoid unsafe handling of diisocyanates, not to restrict product availability. Due to their unique properties in many applications PU adhesives, sealants and foams will remain widely available.
What timing is required?
The new regulation means that by 24 August 2023 all professional users of PU products should be trained and certified. The training requirements should be mentioned on the packaging placed on the market as of 24 February 2022. PU products that have been placed on the market before 24 February 2022, are not affected by this regulation with regard to this labelling requirement.
For more information, do not hesitate to contact your local Soudal office in case you have further questions.