Comfortable with a Carcinogen? The Problems with Polyurethane Foam and How Regulations May Be Blocking the Performance Fiber Alternative
21 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2014
Date Written: January 1, 2006
Polyurethane foam is the world’s most popular cushioning product for a wide variety of applications. Although it has many properties that are desirable, there are also serious problems associated with foam’s ubiquity. Polyurethane foam is highly flammable, and therefore flame retardants must be added to the material to lessen its potential danger. While these additives do slightly reduce the fire hazard that foam presents, they pose a number of health and environmental problems. Also, polyurethane foam is greatly limited in its potential recyclability.
Since polyurethane foam is subject to a great deal of regulation, the very same regulations that are intended to limit foam’s negative consequences actually may work to block entrance into the market by competitive healthier and more sustainable products. In effect these regulations may exacerbate the negative consequences they are formed to protect.
In this paper we address the drawbacks of polyurethane and briefly analyze an alternative polyester-based material known as “Performance Fiber.” Performance Fiber meets many of the cushioning standards that could formerly only be met by foam, while also being fire resistant, hypo-allergenic, and highly recyclable. Performance Fiber faces regulation-related challenges outside the normal scope of entrepreneurial competition in coming to market.
Keywords: polyurethane foam, alternatives, sustainability, recycling, business, foam industry
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