Possible Hazards by Type of Sealant

Two workers in hardhats

Below is a summary of potential hazards in each type of sealant. Remember that not all sealants have the specific chemical that causes these health impacts, but that these are what have been found to be commonly in use.

A longer list of potential health hazards does not automatically translate into the worst category of sealant. Each must be taken within the context of level of hazard (as indicated by color coding in the chart on harmful chemicals on the next page) and exposure risk and length.  

For example, a product that contains a higher percentage of toxic content but requires less mass to fill the same space than a product with lower toxic content may wind up contributing fewer toxic chemicals to that space.
Possible ill-health effects are just one of many important factors; finding the right type of sealant to do the job at hand with the least amount of toxins—and maybe one day, no toxins—is the goal.

The health hazards detailed below and in the harmful chemical chart on the next page are chronic effects. To learn more about acute symptoms, click on the chemical name in the chart.

TYPES OF SEALANTS AND THEIR POSSIBLE HAZARDS

Spray Polyurethane Foam
•    Bioaccumulation toxin and reproductive harm from fire retardant
•    Cancer and asthma from isocyanates, chemicals that function as a building block of polyurethane

Polyurethane Sealants
•    Reproductive harm and asthma from phthalates, a type of plasticizer
•    Cancer and asthma from isocyanates, chemicals that function as a building block of polyurethane
•    Cancer and gene damage from solvent
•    Reproductive harm and endocrine disruptor from solvent
•    Cancer from use of titanium dioxide, both a colorant and a filler material

MS Polyether Sealants
•    Bioaccumulation toxin from UV stabilizer and catalyst
•    Reproductive harm and asthma from phthalates, a type of plasticizer
•    Cancer from silica filler material
•    Cancer from use of titanium dioxide, both a colorant and a filler material

Butyl Caulks
•    Cancer from silica filler material
•    Cancer and gene damage from solvent
•    Cancer from use of titanium dioxide, both a colorant and a filler material

Silicone Sealants
•    Bioaccumulation toxin and endocrine disruptor from materials used to make silicone and a catalyst chemical
•    Reproductive and developmental harm as a by-product of curing (or drying process) and from solvent
•    Cancer from solvent
•    Cancer from use of titanium dioxide, both a colorant and a filler material
•    Developmental and endocrine disruptor from solvent

Acrylic Latex Sealant
•    Reproductive harm and asthma from phthalates, a type of plasticizer
•    Cancer from silica filler material
•    Cancer and gene damage from solvent
•    Cancer from use of titanium dioxide, both a colorant and a filler material
•    Asthma from pH adjuster