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Hazardous Materials in Renovations

When it comes to the construction industry, it’s no surprise that the job involves some physical risk. Some common risks include working from heights, slipping or tripping in a messy job site, and moving heavy materials. While some risks are more obvious than others, one is one of the most lethal and the least obvious: the risk of hazardous materials. These materials, like asbestos, dust, and lead paint, can cause lasting health problems for anyone working on the job, including the client.


Asbestos exposure is a big risk, especially when it comes to working in older buildings. To give you some background, asbestos is a mineral that is heat and flame resistant. Because of this, it was used in a slew of construction materials such as flooring, roofing, cement, insulation, and adhesives. It was commonly used up until the mid 1960’s when scientists confirmed that breathing in asbestos can cause severe lung issues, such as lung cancer and asbestosis. A study from the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine reports that at least 1.3 million construction workers are still at risk for asbestos exposure.


When it comes to hazardous materials, dust might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s another hazard that can have serious implications for worker’s lung health. There’s a few different kinds of dust that are common at job sites: silica dust, wood dust, and lower toxicity dust. Here’s a quick breakdown of where these types of dust can be found:

  • Silica Dust: concrete, mortar, and sandstone

  • Wood Dust: exposure comes whenever wood is sanded or cut, with woods such as softwood, hardwood, or plywood

  • Lower Toxicity Dust: drywall, marble, or limestone

Lead Paint

Lead paint is another common, but deadly, hazardous material that can be found at construction sites. Buildings built before 1978 have a higher chance of having lead-based paint, so this is a hazard to be especially aware of in older properties. Did you know that lead paint isn’t actually dangerous until it starts chipping? The danger is in the toxic lead dust that’s created when painted areas are disturbed, demolished, or renovated. For this reason, it’s important to know if the walls you’re working with are covered with lead paint before construction begins.

While job sites come with their risks, there’s been tech advancements within the past 30 years to help with the safe disposal and sanitization of dangerous materials. Safe removal of hazardous material is highly important for the safety and wellbeing of construction workers, but it’s also important to be aware of the risks. When you’re walking through an older building before construction begins, it’s best to bring in a trained professional to look for potentially hazardous materials. This not only ensures the safety of the construction workers, but also helps clients plan ahead as far as budgeting and timeline goes.

Worried about what materials might be wreaking havoc on your project site? Curious about other ways you can work smarter? Let us know here.


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