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. In part on of our 4-part series on how to avoid home remodeling health hazards, we’re discussing asbestos, lead, mercury, and radon.
It’s commonly known that asbestos was typically used as insulation between walls and in the attic. But many people don’t realize that asbestos was a component of flooring, caulking, window glaze, drywall, joint compounds and plasters. Any project that involves cutting into walls in homes built prior to 1980 may expose workers and homeowners alike to asbestos hazards.
The EPA suggests that it’s safe to assume that paint in homes built prior to 1978 contains lead. Make sure that whoever is hired to remove the lead paint has met the Federal training and certification requirements for the abatement of lead-based paint. In some cases, it may be best to replace an item such as a window or door frame altogether rather than stripping or sanding it. Stripping and sanding and the major means of lead exposure, but lead might also be found in soil and water pipe soldering.
Most older homes have heating systems and thermostats that contain mercury. Mercury is also found in fluorescent bulbs and thermometers. The problem is that when older bulbs, thermostats, thermometers, and heating systems are removed, the mercury can leak out, causing a major hazard. When ti leaks, mercury evaporates into an odorless toxic vapor that can cause birth defects, developmental disabilities, and organ damage.
Radon gas is odorless, invisible, radioactive, and deadly. An estimated 21,000 lung-cancer deaths per year have been attributed to radon gas exposure. Radon usually seeps into a home from the rock beneath the home’s foundation. Installing a ventilation pipe in the basement or ground-level can help direct the Radon gas outside, where its concentrations will diminish significantly.
If the house being remodeled was built before 1980, consider hiring an environmental consultant who can diagnose issues that even an experienced contractor might miss. While the majority of remodeling health dangers are due to air-quality hazards, it’s also important to keep current with the industry’s best practices for handling and disposal of hazardous and toxic materials.