Avoid Health Hazards for a Safer Remodel, Part 2: Organic Hazards

Home remodeling is a fairly complicated process, and it’s easy to forget that it can also be a hazardous one as well. In order to ensure the safety of yourself, your crew, and the homeowners who you’re working for, keep an eye out for health hazards during the remodeling process. Today in part 2 of our 3-part series, we will be talking about organic hazards.

Part 2: Organic Hazards

1. Mold & Mildew

Mold & mildew are both types of fungi that are likely to be uncovered during a home remodel. Mildew is black or green, may be powdery or downy in texture, and will be found growing flat across surfaces. Mold usually occurs in the form of green, yellow, brown, gray, black or white fuzzy clumps, and can show up anywhere.

The highly toxic stachybotrys chartarum, otherwise known as “black mold,” is one of the most serious biohazards that can be found in the home, and can cause severe respiratory and mental impairment. Mold and mildew typically grow in kitchens and bathrooms, or in areas prone to water leakage. Homeowners living in humid climates often find it when they remove old drywall or cabinets.

If there is a lot of mold or mildew, remediation will be required to get rid of it before any remodeling can take place.

2. Volatile organic compounds

Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC’s, are substances that are found in building materials and emitted into the air as fumes over a period of time.

Formaldehyde is one of the most common VOC’s, but most wood finishes such as shellac, stain, oil, and varnish contain VOC’s, as do glues and adhesives, paint stripper, furniture stripper, turpentine, paint, and paint thinners. They are also found in carpeting and upholstery. If inhaled, VOC’s irritate the mucus membranes, eyes, and respiratory tract, cause dizziness or headache, and can induce vomiting.

When shopping for materials, chose low- or zero-VOC products to avoid some of the health dangers associated with VOC’s.

3. Dust & Allergen Build-up

Some might be surprised to learn that the immense dust pockets that build up between walls, under floorboards, and above ceiling panels can be a serious health hazard. The hair and dander from homeowners’ pets that ends up in the cracks and corners make the dust situation worse. The allergen factor increases dramatically with the inclusion of dust mites and other tiny parasites that are also found in these dust drifts.

Remodeling activity stirs all this microscopic debris up into the air to be inhaled by the hapless renovator. Rather than working around the dust, keep a vacuum cleaner nearby to sweep up and contain the dust drifts whenever they are encountered.

These three health hazards can be avoided with a little planning and some common sense. Wearing goggles, gloves, and respirator masks will help keep health dangers to a minimum. Good ventilation and air flow when are also a must, so turn on the fans and open the vents and windows.

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