Are you planning a green home renovation? Have fun coming up with new interior designs and imaginative ways to use your space! But while you’re plotting for the new, make sure to take proper precautions as you get rid of the old. Why? Because the furnishings and construction materials found in many older homes actually contain dangerous chemicals and compounds that can cause serious health problems if they’re underestimated or ignored. This post, sponsored by Newcastle Permanent, highlights several problems you want to be aware of as you consider your green home renovation.
Renovation and remodeling may result in lead poisoning in children, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The lead primarily comes from old paint. Power sanding and demolishing walls and ceilings can release toxic dust, which can poison kids and pregnant women in particular. Your contractor can do a test to detect the presence of lead in wall, ceiling, door and window trim paint.
To be safe, if your house was built before 1978, assume the worst so you’ll take the best precautions. Work with a contractor who is certified in safe lead removal practices. Seal off the area that is being renovated with plastic sheeting and make sure the paint is being removed using a wet sand or wet scrape process, which reduces the presence of dust and fumes. Clean up thoroughly every day. And keep pregnant women, babies and children, and even pets far away from harmful dust and debris.
Minute particles of dust and fiber seem to come from everything: drywall, plaster, concrete, soil, wood, masonry, flooring, roofing, and insulation. Even if these particles aren’t toxic themselves, because they’re so fine, they can irritate the lungs if they’re inhaled, leading to such health risks as asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease. Motes of fiberglass and insulation can irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. Toxic dust containing asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and lead can cause serious long-term health effects.
What to do? Before construction starts, set a plan to minimize exposure. Separate the area being remodeled from other areas in the home, creating a secure barrier if needed. Exhaust ventilation is critical as well, to remove dust and fibers from demolition as well as the construction process.
MOLD AND MILDEW
Water can get into the house via foundation cracks, leaks in the roof, even a window left unintentionally open during a rainstorm. Before long, mold and mildew can build up, causing a wide variety of respiratory and system ailments.
Foundation cracks will require professional attention, as will most leaks in the roof. What is critical is to get mold under control before it has a chance to spread. You may see it show up on walls and ceilings, but it also may be hidden from sight, maybe inside a dehumidifier, for example, or between floorboards. If a roof leak or water spot shows up, you ignore it at your own peril.
The use of asbestos has been banned in many industrialized countries, but materials containing asbestos can still be found in many buildings, including houses and apartments. That’s because, after World War II, a shortage of bricks led to creation of new composite materials. One of these, known as “fibro,” was actually asbestos cement sheeting. Experts worry that do-it-yourself home renovation projects can be particularly deadly, since so many people don’t know the proper way to protect themselves around asbestos.
Many professionals recommend not disturbing asbestos unless it absolutely must be disposed of. Wherever it is encountered, it should be treated by professionals who are trained and certified in safe and effective asbestos removal.