Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Hidden Dangers of Renovation

Thank you to Brian Turner for contributing this article on an important topic for anyone working on a home renovation - particularly for mid-century basements like ours that are potentially filled with hazardous materials!

The Hidden Dangers of Renovation
With construction costs spiraling upward in a tough economy, many people are choosing do-it-yourself home renovation over hiring a contractor. This may save a substantial amount of money, but there can be hidden dangers especially in older houses. The toxins that can be present during demolition are outlined below.

Asbestos is a mineral that was often used in insulation, floor, ceiling and roofing materials. It emits tiny fibers that are inhaled and settle in the lungs where they can remain for decades before causing diseases like mesothelioma cancer and asbestosis, which causes the lungs to scar.

If there is any chance at all a home could contain asbestos, the removal should be handled by professionals during the demolition process.

Prior to 1978, lead was in widespread use in painting materials. During a renovation, lead can get into the air through dust and the use of paint stripper. After being inhaled, it causes nausea, digestive issues, headaches and anemia.

Mercury is an often-overlooked home toxin that is found in heating systems, switches and older thermostats. A single drop is capable of contaminating a large amount of water. Signs ofmercury poisoning include damage to the kidneys and liver, learning disabilities and retardation.

Although formaldehyde has long been identified as a carcinogen, it is still in fairly wide use. In homes, it can be found in paneling, plywood, cabinets and particleboard. Even small amounts of formaldehyde can cause burning and watering of the eyes, nausea and breathing difficulties.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were used in caulking, plastics, paint and electrical materials in homes built before 1977. The toxic chemical causes cancer in people, and it leads to immune, endoctrine, nervous system and reproductive problems in animals.

There can be many toxins in the dust created by a demolition. Aside from asbestos and lead, silica could be lurking in the air if there is any type of rock or concrete being broken up. Once silica enters the body, it can cause damage to the lungs through breathing problems and infections.

The best protection against hazardous materials during a renovation is by covering up all exposed skin areas and wearing a mask and goggles. It is preferable to wear old clothes that can be disposed of at the end of the project and to shower thoroughly after each day's work.

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