With winter quickly approaching, you may find yourself experiencing cabin fever and looking for new ways to pass your time indoors. This time of year is often seen as the perfect opportunity to finally clean out storage and fix up any damaged areas around the house. Unfortunately, what many homeowners fail to realize is that the renovation process has been associated with serious health hazards, some of which can cause lifelong health complications. With awareness at the forefront, our goal is centered around prevention and reducing the number of people at risk of developing a preventable lung disease.
There are an endless number of airborne toxins found indoors, however, these emissions are often associated with outside sources such as radon or toxic consumer products. While these factors certainly have a profound impact on our lungs, the very infrastructure of your home can also play an important role. Here are the most common airborne hazards that can result from home improvement and what you can do to assure your safety.
Harmful Dust and Asbestos
In the midst of renovations, homeowners may be so distracted that they overlook the threat of harmful dust indoors. The risk is without a doubt heightened during the renovation process due to the tasks associated with construction projects, including sanding wood and patching up drywall. These such activities can release particulate matter that is directly linked to a number of respiratory issues. Among others, dust from these sources may lead to asthma and chronic bronchitis.
Asbestos was once commonplace within the construction industry and was manufactured into thousands of building materials worldwide. Most notable for its use within insulation, it was also mixed into millboard, sealants, pipeline wrap and joint compounds, to name a few. Once these fibers are broken or crumbled, they can settle into the lining of internal organs and result in an asbestos-related illness.
Before You Begin Your Renovation
Before you begin to tear down a wall, rip up old flooring, or replace weathered appliances, you must understand that you can’t spot asbestos just by looking at it and any form of pressure can stir up harmful fibers. If your home was built over 40 years ago and shows signs of aging, you should be more than cautious before performing maintenance. Always have the designated area tested before you begin and do not touch, displace, or try to remove suspicious materials yourself. If you’re looking to replace insulation, flooring or siding that may contain the toxin, remember to have your home tested and consult a professional.
Which Paint Should You Use?
Homeowners may consider applying fresh paint to their newly renovated space, however, it’s important to remain conscientious of the products on the market. While volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are often found within household cleaning products, they are also commonly mixed with paint and varnishes. Not only are VOC levels found to be significantly high throughout the painting process, but they can continue to off-gas after the solution has dried. The reality of the matter is that only 50 percent of VOCs are released following the first year of paint application and the fumes can accumulate over time. Exposure has been found to irritate the respiratory system and can worsen symptoms of a pre-existing lung condition like asthma or COPD.
If you do decide to roll up your sleeves and take on a painting project, make sure to purchase no- or low-VOC paint. In addition, remember that the product may include a number of chemicals so you should always keep the area well-ventilated. The EPA recommends purchasing paints with a green seal label, which proves the product is free of carcinogens, heavy metals, and other harmful toxins.
This month reminds our nation of the impact behind air pollution the best ways to prevent lung disease among the public. While you might not live or work in a toxic environment, your home may conceal harmful chemicals that could become dangerous under certain circumstances. Whether you work in the building trade or you prefer to dive into home projects yourself, it’s important to understand the common sources, risk-factors, and best ways to combat toxic exposure during home projects.