Renovation contractors and workers can be exposed to asbestos fibres and other toxins.

Building performance renovation contractors and workers like to make homes healthy, comfortable, energy efficient, and durable. But they often have to deal with major indoor environmental quality (IEQ) nightmares.

These include CO poisoning and lead exposure, asbestos, radon, volatile organic compounds; sulfur-containing drywall — also known as Chinese drywall — and even everyday construction dust.

 Asbestos – harmful when inhaled

Asbestos is regulated at the local, state, and federal levels. All of these laws are intended to protect the public and the construction worker from being harmed by asbestos exposure.

Asbestos is most harmful when the tiny fibers are inhaled. The fibers are too small to be seen with the naked eye and can be inhaled deep into the lungs, where they remain. The fibers damage lung tissue, causing scar tissue to form; the result is a disease called asbestosis.

When the lung surfaces are covered with scar tissue, they cannot function properly, causing problems ranging from shortness of breath to death. Inhaling asbestos fibers can also cause lung cancer.

Workers can be exposed to asbestos when they are working in an area where there are airborne asbestos fibers. Fibers can become airborne when the material containing the asbestos is drilled, cut, abraded, sanded, chipped, or sawed during a home performance renovation.

This often happens, for example, when a worker is cutting holes through an asbestos-containing “popcorn ceiling.” The family living in a home that is being renovated can also inhale asbestos fibers. So can the family of the renovation worker who has brought the asbestos fibers home on his or her clothing and equipment.

Even though asbestos has been banned in most construction materials, buildings and homes are being constructed today with materials that contain asbestos. In fact, today you can go to your local hardware store and buy roofing mastics and other sealants that contain asbestos.

To avoid exposure to asbestos, a contractor must know whether the project will expose the workers to asbestos-containing building materials.

It makes sense to test for asbestos in the following situations:

  • The work will involve a material that is, or was, commonly manufactured with asbestos.
  • The residential property was built prior to 1980.
  • Anyone doing the renovations was hired to do the work.

Radon – second-leading cause of lung cancer

Radon becomes an IEQ nightmare when a builder or renovator fails to consider that radon can accumulate in a tightly constructed or tightly air-sealed home.

Radon is an odorless gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy.

This can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer. In fact, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking cigarettes.

EPA recommends radon mitigation in all homes with test results of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or greater. Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L can still pose a health risk, and in many cases should be reduced.

After renovation and remediation work is done, the building should be tested for Radon again, to make sure the measures were successful.

Source: Home Energy Magazine Online

Air cleaners for construction and renovation projects

Electrocorp has designed air filtration systems to aid in the mold and asbestos abatement process.

Contact one of our air quality experts for more information.

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