KITCHENER — Christine and George Rito have bought themselves peace of mind, but at great expense.

Concerned about the health of their children, the Kitchener couple is spending up to $20,000 to have all the RetroFoam insulation removed from their walls and replaced with an approved alternative.

Their baby Jackson is five months old. Their son Ben is three.

A giant pile of bricks sits in front of their modest home on Pattandon Avenue in Kitchener. It’s part of the expensive process of removing and replacing the insulation.

The Ritos are among more than 700 families in Ontario who were shocked in February when Health Canada banned the use of RetroFoam. The product contains urea formaldehyde resin, prohibited under the Hazardous Products Act.

Health Canada ordered Breslau-based Enerliv Inc. to stop installing the product. Enerliv and RetroFoam of Canada, owned by Paul Weigel, have since filed for bankruptcy.

The concern is that urea formaldehyde can give off a gas that can cause health problems, in large doses.

Like many families, the Ritos put the insulation into their house under a federal and provincial government rebate program for energy-efficiency. Their house was built in 1954 without any insulation.

They thought they were doing the right thing, encouraged by the program that covered the $3,500 cost.

“We figured you couldn’t go wrong, Christine says. “But it went wrong.”

The federal government contends it bears no responsibility for the legal and health mess. It says Natural Resources Canada does not recommend specific products in its Eco-Energy program, and that property owners are responsible for work performed and materials chosen.

A class-action suit is being launched by Sutts, Strosberg, a law firm with offices in Toronto and Windsor. It claims homes with RetroFoam have been stigmatized and property value has been substantially reduced.

The Ritos are part of that lawsuit but it could take years to settle. A judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has yet to determine if this case can proceed as a class action. The motion date has not yet been set.

Meanwhile, families are taking air quality readings. The Ritos have had a couple of test results higher than normal.

Levels of formaldehyde can go down with time but they figure it isn’t worth the risk.

“We just don’t want to take a chance,” Christine says. “If we didn’t have kids we would have waited but with having children this young, it’s not worth the risk of them developing asthma or other breathing related problems.”

The couple had just finished major renovations when news broke about the RetroFoam ban. “We were falling over with outrage,” George says.

Christine says a number of neighbours were planning to install RetroFoam. “Thank goodness they procrastinated,” she says.

Now, the Ritos are living in a construction zone again. There are two ways to remove the faulty insulation, which was injected into the walls: take out all plaster inside the house or remove all the bricks outside the house.

Removing the plaster would have forced them to vacate their home and would have ripped apart their new kitchen. By removing the bricks they can live in the house while the work is being done.

Enerliv’s president, Weigel, has said in interviews that he did not know the product contained urea formaldehyde resin. The product was in use in the U.S. and he obtained the rights to sell it in Canada from an American supplier in 2007.

He applied in April, 2007 to the National Research Council of Canada to have the insulation certified as meeting National Building Code standards. But the process is lengthy and certification is not required to sell building materials in the province.

With no red flags from the government, he went ahead and began installing RetroFoam.

The Ritos are upset that governments are not offering help or taking responsibility.

George Rito says he tried calling the office of Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy but “no one has even come to look or has said they will go to bat for us … they don’t care.”

For their children, the Ritos feel they are doing the right thing in pushing ahead and removing the insulation. “This gives us peace of mind that it’s done, and it’s done right,” George says.