Asbestos and home renovations

Homeowners often choose to renovate rather than moving. And as is frequently seen on TV, do-it-yourself projects can be both cost effective and therapeutic. Unfortunately, remodeling can also be hazardous to your health and the health of your loved ones.

Something to be wary of however, is that older homes may contain contaminates, such as asbestos and lead. Homeowners seldom realize that other pollutants may be lurking in their homes. Old switches and thermostats may contain mercury. Some regions have the odorless, colorless gas radon. Other contaminates can include organic contaminates, such as various types of mold, and inorganic contaminates, such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). PCB may be present in flexible PVC products, paints, electrical wiring coatings, caulking and wood flooring finishes.

Many products, like asbestos, are not hazardous until they are disturbed or until they begin to break down. Children get lead poisoning when they eat paint chips or flakes and lick or suck on items that contain lead. When renovating, people sometimes sand or heat treat surfaces that have lead paint and the airborne particles can cause lead poisoning. Airborne, microscopic asbestos fibers are a known carcinogen, especially causing lung cancer or mesothelioma – a rare form of lung cancer.

It is essential to protect yourself and others from contaminate exposure while renovating your home. Use a high quality air filtering facemask to reduce inhalation of airborne contaminates. Wear gloves, long sleeves and long pants to reduce exposure to skin irritants. Ventilate the area well, especially in the basement where radon gas may be present.

While renovators often cover their furnishings to prevent paint drips, in reality they should either remove furnishings from the area or cover them with plastic. Contaminate particles can embed within the fabric covering soft furnishings. If possible, completely enclose the item with plastic, taping the seams well.

When dealing with asbestos, it may be advisable to hire professionals as mesothelioma can be developed with very little exposure. As little exposure as washing the clothes of an asbestos worker has been known to cause the development of mesothelioma, so it may be wise to use a professional company that specializes in and knows exactly how to contain the asbestos and reduce the risk of second-hand exposure.

If you are unsure of any materials that you are altering or removing in your home, contact JSI for advice or a quote. We wish you all a safe and happy 2013.

Just Screw It recognises and encourages employing sustainable design and building practices to have a positive effect on local and global environments.