Hazardous Materials to Be Aware of During a Home Construction or Renovation

Hazardous Materials to Be Aware of During a Home Construction or Renovation

Home Security
By Dikran Seferian November 04, 2021

Carrying out a home construction or renovation can be quite an exciting project. As you’re involved in the process, however, you are bound to come across a few hazardous materials. Such materials are known to cause serious health issues if not handled appropriately. Due to the high fatality rates of certain dangerous goods, their use has been long banned in many countries. Lead and asbestos, for instance, are no longer common in many areas. Others, on the other hand, are still widely used in a variety of home improvement projects such as plumbing insulation. Nevertheless, taking the necessary precautions will allow you to finalize the project as smoothly as possible — and without jeopardizing your health.

Lead in Older Types of Paint 

If you’re dealing with an older type of paint, lead is definitely something to watch out for. This highly toxic metal was a common ingredient in paints produced before 1978 — that’s when it was banned. Homes that are built before that year may very well contain lead in the paint job as well as the roofing. Coming in contact with this material — especially over an extended period of time — may result in lead poisoning. This can not only be fatal but also cause mental and physical damage. Children and the elderly in particular are prone to the effects of lead poisoning.

Precautions to Take When Dealing With Lead Paint

Precautions to Take When Dealing With Lead Paint

How to Avoid Lead Poisoning

Always make sure to wear gloves and a facemask when you’re working with products that may contain lead, and don’t forget to wash your hands immediately afterward. It’s also best to keep children away from the renovation site if there’s lead involved. 

Dust from PVC in Your Plumbing

Polyvinyl Chloride, PVC for short, is a common material found in construction. You’ll typically find this inexpensive and widely available type of plastic in plumbing, electrical cable insulation, and other pipework throughout the house. Although PVC itself is safe to use, the dust that is released by sawing it poses a health hazard. This is because of the dioxins and phthalates it contains which, when inhaled, can harm your body’s endocrine system — the thyroid, pituitary, and reproductive glands in particular. Moreover, the chemicals in PVC are known to be directly associated with cancer. 

Getting Familiar With the Dangers of PVC

Getting Familiar With the Dangers of PVC

How to Protect Yourself from PVC

Whether you’re cutting smaller PVC pipes with a pipe cutter or sawing a larger one, you’ll need to wear a face mask to prevent yourself from inhaling any dust. Further safety measures should involve wearing safety goggles and if you’re using a saw, protective gloves to prevent injury.

Fiberglass Used in Insulation

Fiberglass is a widely used insulation material that is basically composed of very tiny fibers of glass. Coming into contact with these tiny fibers can be quite irritative to the eyes and skin, even causing inflammation; and inhaling them can irritate the throat as well. As tiny as they are, the glass fibers can still be quite sharp. Homeowners with asthma or bronchitis can have their conditions worsened due to exposure to fiberglass.

The Disadvantages of Fiberglass Insulation

The Disadvantages of Fiberglass Insulation

How to Avoid Fiberglass Irritation

When you’re working with fiberglass, consider wearing gloves, a respirator mask, and protective goggles. It’s also a good idea to cover any exposed skin; wearing an overall will provide you with full protection.

Tip: A safer alternative to fiberglass is blow-in insulation. Typically made of cellulose, not only is blow-in safer, but it is also more cost-effective, eco-friendly, and fireproof. However, you may still need to wear protective gear when handling blow-in insulation. Although the material itself is safer than fiberglass, you wouldn’t want to inhale any of the mist either way.

Silica in Stones 

Silica is the most dangerous material in construction after asbestos. It is found in most types of rocks including granite and sandstone. Bricks, concrete, and tiles all contain silica. Hammering, crushing, and drilling the stones release silica dust, which can then be inhaled. According to the CDC, exposure to silica dust can lead to silicosis — a potentially lethal disease that affects the respiratory system. The substance is also known to cause other respiratory diseases including lung cancer and emphysema.

Preventive Measures to Take During Construction

Preventive Measures to Take During Construction

How to Prevent Inhalation of Silica Dust

To protect yourself from the dangers of inhaling silica dust, always wear a respirator mask when working with the aforementioned stones. Further precautionary measures include wet drilling and wet-sawing to contain the dust. It is also recommended to change into clean clothes when leaving the worksite to avoid contaminating other places.

Formaldehyde After a Renovation

First and foremost, formaldehyde doesn’t imply the existence of casualdehyde. Ever wondered what that new house smell is? It’s most likely formaldehyde, a carcinogenic chemical used in the manufacturing of plywood, particleboard, medium-density fiberboard as well as adhesives and resin. The chemical is released in the form of gas during projects that involve materials such as the ones listed above. Known as a volatile organic compound (VOC for short), formaldehyde remains in the atmosphere long after it is released. Basically, you’re under the threat of cancer in your own house.

Post-Renovation Safety Measures You Need to Consider

Post-Renovation Safety Measures You Need to Consider

How to Get Rid of Formaldehyde

While you certainly can’t keep a mask on in your home at all times, you’ll need to eliminate the lingering formaldehyde somehow. An effective way to get rid of the “new house smell” — which isn’t as sweet now that you know what it is — involves investing in an air purifier; make sure the one you’re buying removes VOCs. It also helps to keep windows open as much as possible. Another way to rid your home of formaldehyde is by bringing in a few houseplants.

Creosotes in Wood Materials

When you’re working with decking, fencing, or other backyard wooden structures, you may be exposed to creosotes. Creosote is a type of carbonaceous chemical that is produced by distilling tar and plant-based materials like fossil fuel and wood. It is commonly used as a preservative treatment for wooden materials.  A widely used type of creosote — and the most toxic — is that of coal tar. Coal-tar creosotes are directly associated with cancer.

Carcinogenic Substances to Be Aware of During Renovations

Carcinogenic Substances to Be Aware of During Renovations

How to Protect Yourself from Creosotes

Make sure to wear protective gloves and appropriate facial protection when working with any wood materials that are treated with creosote. You may also want to remove and wash clothing that has come into contact with the chemical. Don’t forget to wash your hands as well.

Halogenated Flame Retardants in Homeware

Halogenated flame retardants are commonly applied to household items such as textiles, foams, and insulation as a method of limiting the spread of flames in the case of a fire. However, when exposed to heat, flame retardants can become dangerously toxic. Contamination from HFRs can lead to anything from endocrine disruption, immunotoxicity, to even cancer.

Insulation Materials That Contain Fire Retardants: Polyurethane Foam

Insulation Materials That Contain Fire Retardants: Polyurethane Foam

How to Prevent HFR Contamination

To avoid getting contaminated, properly dispose of burned materials that would contain halogenated flame retardants. Moreover, make sure to keep foaming and insulation away from sources of heat during renovation or other projects.

Asbestos in Roofing and Insulation

A notoriously dangerous material that can be found in roofing and insulation is none other than the dreaded asbestos. Known to be fire-resistant, asbestos refers to the natural materials that contain fibers used for fire-proofing older homes. However, studies have proven that exposure to asbestos causes mesothelioma — among other harmful diseases. Those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are now entitled to financial compensation from their former employers who exposed them to the material. Fortunately, it is now banned in several countries and protective guidelines are set out for people to have the material removed from their houses. 

What to Do If Your House Contains Asbestos

What to Do If Your House Contains Asbestos

How to Deal With Asbestos

If you live in a relatively old house that uses asbestos for roofing or insulation, removing it strictly warrants a professional. It is best that you do not, under any circumstances, try to remove it yourself. Licensed experts are often equipped with hazmat suits and the necessary tools to handle asbestos.

Mercury 

Mercury is a common component in everything from HVAC systems, lighting, to ventilation. It is classified as hazardous waste and highly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. A single spill of a little more than an ounce may require federal reporting. Inhaling the vapor released by a mercury spill can cause tremors, neuromuscular issues, insomnia, and memory loss, just to name a few.

Household Items That Contain Mercury

Household Items That Contain Mercury

How to Protect Yourself from Mercury 

Should you be working on a project where a mercury spill is remotely possible, you'll need to wear a face shield with goggles in addition to chemical protection-grade clothing (apron, boots, and gloves). In some cases, a hazmat suit may be necessary.

DS

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian

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