Volatile organic chemical emissions from structural insulated panel (SIP) materials and implications for indoor air quality

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The emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from structural insulated panel (SIP) materials were investigated. Specimens of newly produced SIPs and associated panel adhesives were obtained from two relatively large manufacturers. Additionally, specimens of the oriented strand board (OSB) used as the inner and outer sheathing and the extruded polystyrene ore for the SIP were obtained from one manufacturer. Using small-scale chambers, emissions of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetic acid and other VOCs from SIPs, OSB and polystyrene were measured over a period of four months and from the adhesives over two months. SIP specimens overlaid by gypsum board panels were also tested over four months. The predominant VOCs emitted by the SIPs included acetic acid, pentanal, hexanal and styrene. The emissions of formaldehyde and acetaldehyde were relatively low. Acetic acid and the aldehydes derived from the OSB, while styrene derived from the polystyrene. One of the SIPs emitted toluene and methyl acetate. The adhesives primarily emitted a mixture of hydrocarbons. The emission rates of most VOCs from the SIP/gypsum board assemblies were approximately the same or higher than their respective emission rates from the unfinished SIPs. Modeling using VOC emission factors obtained for the SIP/gypsum board assemblies demonstrated the potential for SIP materials to degrade indoor air quality in houses. A field study to investigate VOC concentrations and emission rates in SIP houses relative to closely matched conventionally constructed houses is necessary to determine the actual impacts of SIPs. If significant impacts are observed, to it may be desirable to develop control measures to reduce the emissions of VOCs from SIPs, such as the substitution of lower emitting materials or the use of vapor diffusion barriers.

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