Before you begin your next home renovation project, it’s important to remember that many older construction materials contain substances that are considered hazardous. Certain materials that were once common were later discovered to cause health risks and have since been discontinued. However, that doesn’t change the fact that they were once used and may still be found in many older homes. Here is a look at some of the most common hazardous materials found in American homes.
Lead was once used in a variety of common household products including paint, ceramics, pipes, and gasoline. It was later discovered that prolonged exposure to lead caused lead poisoning, which results in symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, irritability, and memory problems. Children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning because they are prone to gnawing on lead paint chips, which can lead to development problems and other health risks. The use of lead paint was banned in 1978, however many homes built before that time likely contain lead-based paints.
Another hazardous material you should keep an eye on is Mercury. Mercury is an element that can be highly toxic to your brain, kidney, and lungs, yet is used in a variety of household products including thermometers, barometers, and fluorescent lamps. Mercury poisoning can occur by either injecting the material or letting it seep into your pores through your skin. So be aware of any products or appliances in the home that may contain mercury and make sure they are isolated before you begin any demolition.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of man-made chemicals that were once commonly used in appliances and household devices, such as transformers, electrical equipment, fluorescent light ballasts, and insulation material such as fiberglass and foam. Although they were banned commercially in 1979, homes built before then may devices and appliances that contain the chemical. Exposure to PCBs can cause adverse health effects in both animals and humans, including the potential to cause cancer. If you are doing work on an older home, be wary of exposing yourself to any chemicals or unknown materials in case they contain these dangerous substances.
Asbestos is perhaps the deadliest former construction material found in older homes. Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that were commonly used in many household products because of their resistance to heat, electricity, and corrosion. It is found in products such as insulation, floor tiles, roofing shingles, guttering, and a variety of other similar places. Asbestos exposure is known to cause serious health problems such as lung damage and a form of cancer called mesothelioma. If your home was built before 1978, be on high alert for any asbestos-containing materials. It can be hard to detect unless you are trained to identify the substance, but red flags include crumbling drywall, cracked siding, damaged shingles, and brittle ceiling tiles and coating. It may help to bring in a professional asbestos inspector if you have a suspicion that your home contains the material.
If you discover any of these dangerous materials in your home, you should contact your doctor immediately — especially if you find asbestos. You also may be entitled to compensation if you have suffered prolonged exposure to the material. The Mesothelioma Cancer Network offers more information on what you are your legal rights and how to proceed with a lawsuit against any negligent parties.