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Update: We have learned that SafeTouch was discontinued by Dow in spring 2011 due to poor sales. More detail in the comments below. We have confirmed that EnGuard polyester insulation, from Vita Nonwovens, remains available. – The Editors I gotta say, I was pretty surprised to come across this product recently. I make it a habit of keeping up with new products as they come out--especially insulation materials. I had somehow missed this.

Dow Chemical launched SafeTouch in a few select markets in 2007, but expanded availability late last year to 53 market areas, mostly in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and exclusively through Lowes stores. You can find stores carrying the product using this locator. SafeTouch is a batt insulation material made from 100% polyester fiber. The material contains no fiberglass, so there are no respirable glass or mineral fibers to cause itchy skin, red eyes or respiratory problems--so there's no need for a dust mask, gloves, or goggles. It has no formaldehyde binder to hold the fibers together; there's not even an acrylic binder. And the product apparently requires no flame retardant, which is added to cotton insulation and virtually all other plastic insulation materials (see more below on fire-resistance properties).

Currently, SafeTouch is made from virgin polyester fiber, the same type of fiber used in clothing and bedding. According to Amy Millslagle of Dow, however, recycled content "will be included in the near future."

Batts are available in R-13 and R-19 thicknesses for standard-width stud walls. The retail cost is $0.72/square foot for the R-11 batt and $1.02/square foot for the R-19 batt, according to Millsagle; this is somewhat higher than fiberglass. The product is available unfaced and with a plastic facing.

A thicker, R-30 product will be offered in the future, according to Brent Salamon, a senior research specialist at Dow.

Dow says that the batts can be cut with a knife or torn after cutting the facing. Working with a sample I received from the company, I found cutting with a knife extremely difficult, but scissors worked relatively well. The material can be torn fairly easily, but the fit will then not be as snug.

I was surprised about the lack of flame retardant in SafeTouch, especially since polyester is a thermoplastic (a type of plastic that melts), but Salamon assured me that the company purchases standard polyester fiber--not polyester that has been treated with flame retardant. "Through selection of the fibers, we're able to pass the test," he told me, referring to the flame spread number of less than 25 and smoke-developed number of less that 450. "It meets the requirements of the building code," said Salamon.

Salamon explained that in a fire, the fibers melt and "tend to pull away from the fire." I confirmed this with some very anecdotal testing I conducted (outside!). Exposed to a match, the fibers quickly melted and pulled away from the flame, but did not burst into flame. I still wonder about the fire-safety of the product, however.

I like the fact that SafeTouch is free of respirable fiberglass particles, formaldehyde, and halogenated flame retardants. Except for cutting it, the insulation would be great to work with--no itchy skin and red eyes after a day of insulating! (And if you feel a nap coming on, you've got a pillow right there!)

I'll feel even better about SafeTouch once it's made using recycled content, and I'd like to see some more exhaustive fire test results. (I'm not a big fan of the ASTM E-84 Tunnel Test, which I suspect was used in testing SafeTouch.) But, I've got to hand it to Dow for broadening its insulation offerings with an emphasis on green.

For more information:

Dow Building Solutions
Midland, Michigan
866-583-2583
www.dow.com
www.dowsafetouch.com

I invite you to share your comments on this blog. Have you used SafeTouch? Any thoughts on its fire safety?

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Comments

1 I just want to let everyone k posted by Kat on 12/18/2010 at 04:51 pm

I just want to let everyone know that there is another polyester insulation called "EnGuard" (by Vita Nonwovens) that is a "green" building material. It is eligible for LEED Credits too. According to information at their website; "EnGuard insulation is manufactured using recycled plastic bottles and other pre-consumer recycled content; 50% of EnGuard insulation material is sourced within 500 miles of select Vita operational sites; it contains no VOC's, formaldehyde, or any harmful chemicals; requires low embodied energy to produce-from supply chain through consumer; and EnGuard waste materials can easily be recycled from the job site".

I am in the process of converting my Sprinter cargo van into an RV and I was looking for a safe/healthy alternative to fiberglass insulation that would not settle due to vibration or degrade over time and also have good sound deadening qualities. At first I considered using the Safe Touch insulation, but it is only available on the west coast by special order from a home store and there is an 18 bag minimum! I also considered wool and cotton insulation, but I was worried about moisture condensation in those materials and on the metal van body. Luckily I found out about EnGuard insulation and I was able to order the quantity I needed from the manufacturer. I am especially happy that the EnGuard insulation has recycled content whereas the Safe Touch does not.

I am very impressed by the quality of the EnGuard insulation. It is very soft, dense, easy to work with and I am able to make any cuts with scissors. There is no need for a mask, goggles or gloves. After the van conversion is completed and I'm driving down the road, I will not have to worry about the polyester insulation settling, degrading due to heat or unhealthy dust particles floating around in the air.

You can read about EnGuard insulation at the website:http://enguardinsulation.com/

You can contact them at: Vita Nonwovens 2215 Shore St. High Point, NC 27263 336-431-7187

You can find information about LEED Credits for EnGuard insulation here:http://www.vitausa.com/downloads/EnGuard%20LEED.pdf

2 I'd love to use this product, posted by Hijacker on 12/17/2010 at 05:25 am

I'd love to use this product, but cannot find anyone who sells it. I called Dow and they say they cannot tell me who specifically carries it.

3 We picked ours up at Lowes Ho posted by Weirdling on 12/17/2010 at 08:37 am

We picked ours up at Lowes Home Improvement. Home Depot didn't carry it in their stock, and we never asked if they could order it.

As for fire, we had one wall catch fire this past October. We extinguished quickly but lost the paneling. The insulation behind it wasn't even warm, much less melty. I'm sure if the fire had blazed longer, we would have had more damage but as it is, we didn't have to replace any of the Saf-touch.

I agree that I wish it was made of recycled materials, but considering we were insulating the ceiling above a sleeping loft, I really preferred not to deal with glass insulation or the possible off-gassing from such.

4 My husband and I are using Sa posted by Weirdling on 07/13/2010 at 02:14 pm

My husband and I are using Safe Touch to insulate a storage building/cabin. Since it doesn't have the fiberglass issues, its much easier to work with in small, cramped spaces (sleeping loft) as well as lugging it up and down steps. Aside from the slight difficulty in cutting (we cut the backing and then just tear the batting) the only other issue we have is that it catches on everything. There is a fine bluish/white layer of puff over the woodwork. We hope to use a roller tape to clean that up. Otherwise, it works well. The heat this summer has been a challenge and I believe the Safe Touch has risen to meet it.

5 I'm not sure how coming out w posted by dB333 on 12/09/2010 at 05:29 am

I'm not sure how coming out with yet another product made of plastic is "green" exactly, but if they change the entire line to 100% recycled plastic PET bottles or such a waste product as this, then I suppose it is better than the alternative.

The fire retardant properties sound pretty sketchy... get a real fire going and we'll see how well this stuff burns.

6 Does anyone know when the pla posted by Hoosier on 10/11/2010 at 05:58 am

Does anyone know when the plans to incorporate recycled content will take place? Thanks.

7 I was looking for information posted by Tristan Roberts on 06/02/2011 at 04:47 pm

I was looking for information on Safetouch and it seemed to have disappeared from the Web. I talked with a Dow representative just now and he confirmed that is no longer available, as of three months ago. He attributed this to the high cost compared with fiberglass, and difficulty and cost in obtaining it -- something referenced by one of the earlier commenters here. Looks like the only current polyester insulation is EnGuard:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/live/index.cfm/2010/11/22/EnGuard-GlassFree...


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