9 Dangerous Materials That Could Have Been Used To Build Your Home

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The building industry has boomed in recent years and with scientific advancements surely our houses can’t be harming us? Sadly, the truth is that the construction industry is full of hazardous materials, both natural and synthetic, that could be harmful to both humans and the environment. Below are 9 of the most toxic building materials as outlined by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), a US-based sustainable building certification program. Do you have any of them in your home?

  1. Lead
    Lead is a highly toxic metal which easily crosses into the bloodstream. Found in old lead-based paints, roofing materials and even some children’s toys, a build-up of lead in the body over a few months or years can cause lead poisoning leading to severe mental and physical impairments. Most lead-based paints have been banned nowadays however some may remain in older houses. Children are most susceptible to lead poisoning as they tend to put things or their fingers in their mouths,

  2. Asbestos
    Asbestos is the name for a group of naturally occurring minerals with fibre-like structures. Asbestos is fire retardant, heat resistant, and non-conductive making it a useful material in the building industry. However, prologued exposure to asbestos has been found to be very damaging and can lead to a number of health conditions including cancer and mesothelioma.  If you’ve been diagnosed with mesethelioma then a mesothelioma attorney may be able to help you. Many countries have now banned the use of asbestos but it still remains in many old buildings.

  3. Fibreglass
    Fibreglass is a commonly used type of insulation made up of tiny fibres of glass. Fibreglass in its solid state isn’t in itself toxic but when cut and trimmed it causes dust which is easily inhaled. Of you come into contact with these tiny glass fibres through fibreglass dust they can cause irritation to the eyes, skin and throat and lead to conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. 
  4. Polyvinyl chloride

PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a cheap and commonly used type of plastic most often used in drainage pipes and insulation for electrical cables. PVC’s contain phthalates and dioxins which interfere with the bodies hormones and can affect the function of the thyroid, pancreas, adrenal, pituitary and reproductive glands. PVC’s are also classified as carcinogens and could lead directly to cancer.

  1. Cadmium
    Cadmium is a soft and malleable metal which is also resistant to corrosion, this means that it is often used as a form of protection for other metals such as steel. Cadmium fumes and dust can cause fluid build-up in the lungs and high levels of cadmium exposure have been linked to cancer. 
  2. Silica
    Silica is a naturally occurring substance found in most rocks including sand and clay. Silica dust can be very dangerous and can be released as a result of any process which breaks up rocks or stone. If silica dust is inhaled over a long period of time then it can lead to lung infections and lung cancer.

  3. Volatile organic compounds
    Volatile organic compounds or VOC’s are man-made or natural substances with a low boiling point, which means that a lot of their molecules evaporate into the air. In construction VOC’s are most commonly found in solvents, paints, adhesives and coatings. If inhaled they can cause memory loss, irritation to the lungs and damage to the kidneys, liver and central nervous system.

  4. Halogenated flame retardants
    Halogenated flame retardants are incorporated into building materials to stop the spread of fire. When exposed to heat halogenated flame retardants turn into toxic substances that can enter the body through the respiratory system leading to the disruption of the bodies hormones. 
  5. Creosotes
    Creosotes are often applied to wooded materials to help preserve them for longer periods of time. They can also help to prevent the wood from rotting under wet or damp conditions. Coal-tar creosote is one of the most commonly used types of creosote and is also the most toxic, having been proven to directly cause cancer. 

Many of these compounds are only harmful if inhaled or ingested and so as long as they remain in their solid-state within your home, you are not at risk. The people most at risk from these materials are builders who have to work with them on a daily basis, demolition experts who risk disrupting their solid state and maintenance workers who may need to cut and disturb materials in order to make repairs. If you need to deal with any of these materials then be sure to wear the correct protective clothing, including gloves, goggles and a respiratory mask. 

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