For truck and Jeep owners, lining the floor has many notable advantages. It makes your floor more durable and helps resist wear. A lined floor is also easier to clean, allowing for a quick sweeping or rinsing out when it’s full of dirt and mud.
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One common way to line the floor of a truck is to use the same products as you might for a truck bed. Bed liner provides a durable coating that resists wear and impact when carrying tools, equipment or loose loads of dirt, gravel and other materials. Since bed liner works well in a pickup bed, many truck and Jeep owners use bed liner in the cab hoping for the same results.
Unfortunately, bed liner is not a good choice for enclosed spaces. The health risks associated with bed liner and the toxic nature of some of its chemical components mean you’re exposed to unhealthy fumes every time you drive your vehicle. However, there are other options for the same durable, wear-resistant finish without the health risks.
Bed Liner Health Risks
As with many toxic products, the risks associated with bed liner were not understood at first. For years, automakers have been applying bed liner to create attractive and durable finishes for the beds of their trucks. Recent studies have shown that auto workers who spend time spraying bed liner have an increased risk of developing certain cancers.
While automakers now take greater precautions in their bed liner application lines, for many auto workers, the damage was already done. With the right combination of air filters, masks and protective equipment, though, it is possible for trained professionals to apply bed liner in the back of a pickup truck with minimal risk.
Truck owners applying bed liner can take similar precautions when spraying on the material, including wearing masks, gloves, pants, and long sleeves. The fumes released during the mixing and application of bed liner in an open space can be toxic, but the risks can be reduced with the right precautions; however, trying to apply the same toxic products in an enclosed cab is even more dangerous because of the long-term health risks.
The Problems with Bed Liner in an Enclosed Space
As with any spray-on coating such as paint, lacquer, or clear coat, bed liner creates fumes when it is applied.
Adequate face masks with the proper filters as well as eye and skin protection reduce the user’s contact with the fumes when spraying bed liner. It’s impossible to avoid contact completely, however, when you spray bed liner at home in your own garage. And even if you could, the health risks don’t stop after it’s dry when used in an enclosed vehicle.
The toxic nature of bed liner comes from one of its major ingredients, polyurethane. Polyurethane contains methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (or MDI), a chemical that is a known allergen and sensitizer. It has been linked to an increase in cancerous lung tumors.
It’s easy to assume that once the coating hardens, it becomes inert, but that’s not the case. For as long as your bed liner is present, it will release toxic fumes. In the case of an open truck bed, the health effects are minimized since the fumes don’t accumulate and you most likely don’t ride in the bed of your truck for long periods of time.
Compare this to an enclosed truck interior. Bed liner gives off fumes constantly. You’re inhaling them while you’re driving, and they accumulate when the vehicle sits as well. As soon as you and your family step into your truck, you’re inhaling all of the fumes that have built up.
To make matters worse, increased temperatures increase the fumes released. In the hot summer sun or when you are using your vehicle’s heating system in the winter the problem worsens.
The heart of the problem is the methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI). This compound is necessary for the production of polyurethane products but, like other isocyanate chemicals, it’s an aggressive allergen and sensitizer. Even limited contact to MDI can cause respiratory discomfort, while certain individuals can experience extremely violent reactions, and prolonged exposure can cause long-term health problems.
Methylene Diphenyl Diisocynate (MDI)
Because of its use in many products containing polyurethane, the effects of MDI are present in many industries. The medical community has put a lot of research into this compound since it is used in the production of many types and grades of polyurethane.
Polyurethanes made with MDI are particularly good thermal insulators, which is why it’s a popular choice for coating the open bed of a pickup truck. You will also find MDI-based polyurethane in products used for:
- Fridge and freezer insulation
- Building wall, floor and ceiling insulation
- Automotive and transport insulation
- Industrial-strength glues and adhesives
- Automotive paints and coatings
The suitability of polyurethane for these and other applications means that it’s not going anywhere soon. When they are applied in controlled atmospheres by professionals, the risk to the end user is minimal.
Health Problems Caused by MDI
As with many toxic chemicals, the danger with MDI is that even small exposure levels can cause health problems in sensitive individuals. The major risks with MDI are:
- Inhalation: When MDI is inhaled, it can quickly cause irritation to the nose and lungs. Many people exposed to MDI fumes have difficulty breathing and experience discomfort in the throat and chest, not unlike a chest cold or bronchitis. While single attacks can be troubling, continued exposure can make an individual more sensitized and at risk of more violent reactions when exposed again.A build-up of MDI in your body can lead to long-term health issues such as recurrent asthma attacks or cancerous lung tumors, though these may not show up for many years after your initial contact.
- Contact with skin and eyes: Any direct contact of the skin or eyes with MDI needs to be avoided. Contact with even a small amount can lead to swelling, blistering or redness of the skin. Some people who come in contact with MDI fumes mistake their symptoms for an allergic reaction.Washing the affected area with soap or rinsing your eyes with water or a saline solution can help reduce the effect, but the itching and discoloration may last for a few hours. Once you’ve been in contact once with MDI, your skin will be more sensitive the next time.
- Ingesting: While ingesting may be possible MDI — when spraying a bed liner, for example — it is highly unlikely. If you do accidentally swallow MDI, however, you need to avoid vomiting. The chemicals will irritate the tissue in your mouth and throat when you swallow them, you risk suffering a second time if you vomit.Instead, rinse out your mouth with water several times, spitting it out each time. Seek medical attention immediately and tell your doctor or health care professional what you ingested. A small amount of MDI when swallowed, while irritating, isn’t immediately toxic, though larger amounts can be a genuine health concern.
The most serious risk with MDI is respiratory failure. This can occur after prolonged exposure or in sensitive individuals with pre-existing lung and respiratory conditions. This is where continued exposure with a floor that has been coated in bed liner is a big concern. You inhale these toxic fumes over extended periods of time without realizing it. The MDI fumes given off by hardened bed liner do not have a strong odor, so you may not notice them the way you might other fumes.
As with all chemical products, if you do handle or apply products with MDI, such as bed liner, it’s important to read the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) supplied by the manufacturer to learn any safety risks. If you are generally sensitive to chemicals and suffer eye, nose, throat or lung irritations on a regular basis, you may want to have a friend or professional handle the application.
Alternatives to Bed Liner Products for Your Truck Cab
It’s clear that using bed liner as a coating for the floor of your cab is not a good idea. The health risks make it not worth the risk. Fortunately, there are other options available that offer the same robust, wear-proof finish, attractive appearance and ease of application of bed liner without the same risks.
One option that has been popular in the past and gives good results is mat-type cut-and-paste insulation. The issue with mat insulation is that while it provides sound deadening, it does not offer significant thermal insulation or wear resistance. Measuring, cutting and gluing mat insulation is also extremely time-consuming, with some projects taking 35 hours or more.
Your best alternative for insulation properties in a fast and easy to apply coating that doesn’t carry the health risks of bed liner is LizardSkin. The water-based coating is designed to be used in automotive interiors and can be safely applied by DIY enthusiasts.
What Is LizardSkin?
LizardSkin is an advanced family of automotive floor coating products designed to offer sound control, a durable and easy to clean floor, and a cleaner finish depending on the LizardSkin you choose. Thanks to its water-based nature, there are also no hazardous fumes to worry about.
Since there are no dangerous compounds, such as MDI, in LizardSkin you’re safe during the application process and for the life of your vehicle; which is a plus when you consider how much time you will likely spend in it.
Choosing Your LizardSkin
To cover the needs of all customers, there are three different types of LizardSkin, each with its own set of properties and advantages. Choose from:
- Ceramic Thermal Insulation Coating: This popular product gives excellent thermal insulation. Many customers choose it for their custom car and street rod repairs and restorations to keep the heat from a powerful engine from making the cab uncomfortable. It’s ideal for 4x4s that spend a lot of time in the desert or in other hot climates where thermal insulation is highly beneficial. It is also durable and easy to clean.
- Sound Control Insulation Coating: If keeping the inside of your vehicle quiet is important, the Sound Control Insulation Coating is your best choice. While it provides the same wear and protection properties as our other LizardSkin coatings, it has the added benefit of excellent sound-deadening. Equally adapted to rumbling sports cars and classic hot rods as it is trucks and Jeeps.
- Automotive Top Coat: For the best finish and appearance, the LizardSkin Automotive Top Coat is the way to go. Designed for a glossy and professional finish, it is simple to apply. It is also extremely wear-resistant — a big plus when you enjoy driving your restored car or truck as much as you enjoy showing it off. You can apply this attractive finish over our Thermal or Sound Control products for a glossy, finished look.
LizardSkin Floor Coating Products: A Better Interior Alternative
Many people look to use bed liner as an interior solution for their trucks because it works so well in the beds without being aware of the health risks. With LizardSkin, your coated floor will be more resistant to wear and easier to wash out when it gets dirty. On top of these great practical benefits, you’ll also avoid the nasty health risks associated with traditional bed liner products that contain MDI.
If you’re not sure which LizardSkin you’d like or if you’re considering combining them for thermal, sound or other benefits, Raybuck’s knowledgeable reps are here to help. We can help you choose the right product and answer any other questions you may have.
We’re proud to offer a high-quality alternative to bed liner for vehicle interiors. Don’t fill your enclosed cab with toxic fumes that are harmful to anyone who rides in your vehicle. Instead, choose the product that was designed for safe interior use. Browse our LizardSkin products and place your order today.