Can You Tackle Asbestos, Lead, and Formaldehyde?

From on November 27, 2007 in General Remodel

Dangerous Chemicals RemodelingIf there were one thing holding you back from do-it-yourself remodeling, what would it be? You’ve got to have a sense of adventure and the willingness to learn and make mistakes along the way. You’ve also got to be the type of person who takes pleasure in rolling up your sleeves and watching your hard work manifest into spotless floors, brand new walls, or gleaming countertops. But given that you have all these qualities, there are still some things you may not know about toxic chemicals lurking behind construction materials. This safety concern is high on the list of reasons why homeowners choose to hire seasoned professionals. Here’s what certified contractors have to say about potential exposure to chemicals during the remodeling process.

Steve Stiles of MoonDance Painting says toxic chemicals can potentially be found in several places, most often carpet, paint, and cabinets made from low-grade particle board and plywood. According to Stiles, when the glue that holds the material together is not formaldehyde-free, it will off-gas for years to come.

Classified as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. EPA, high exposure to formaldehyde can cause such symptoms as irritated eyes, headaches, difficulty breathing, and allergies.

Stiles advises being particular about the products you order. When purchasing glue, for instance, be specific about ordering formaldehyde-free.

Steve Domasig of GreenWurks Development agrees that toxic chemicals have the potential to turn up anywhere. Among the dangers, Domasig cites asbestos and lead in older homes.

“Some people try to remove asbestos siding, taking it out to do stucco, or replacing it with wood siding.”

Domasig warns that this can disturb the asbestos, which permeates into the dust in the air. At this point, you are in danger of breathing the substance in.

Domasig also advises against underground toxins when working on projects such as landscaping, cutting lawns for foundation, drilling, or accessing sewer drains.

“If you’re working around places, for example, that are close to a gas station, sometimes these toxins will come up through the ground. With sewer drains, you never know what people put down there, whether it’s gasoline, paint thinner, you name it. You can get chemicals anywhere.”

Fortunately, awareness is the first step toward avoiding unhealthy situations. Stiles recommends finding green businesses that sell environmentally friendly carpets, countertops, or cabinets, and finding a contractor who is willing to use those products. Since MoonDance is a green business, for instance, Stiles only uses VOC-free paint in the interior of homes.

“This drastically minimizes the amount of toxins in relation to the internal environment,” he says.

Domasig suggests, “You’ve got to educate yourself and hire an individual who is knowledgeable about these facts.” As a certified contractor with 40 years of experience in the business, a professional such as Domasig will know how to recognize and safely handle potential toxins.