Hints & HELP!
by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
This article appears in the October 9,
2004 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.
to remodel or renovate your home this year? Indoor air quality
is important at all times and must be kept in mind when
working with the home. This is Home Remodeling Action and
There can be some hidden environmental health hazards if
the work is not done carefully. This is especially true
in older homes. The good news is in many cases, a few simple
measures can reduce these hazards. Give some thought to
the environmental health hazards that might be in or on
your walls. A few precautions during the job can keep things
healthier for occupants and workers too.
sort of hazards do you need to be concerned about? One of
these is lead paint, common in homes built before 1978.
Opening up walls, removing moldings, replacing windows and
especially exterior painting, can produce a lot of lead
contamination. Even careful cleanup might not be adequate.
Tiny amounts of lead dust, or a few small paint chips, if
swallowed by young children, can cause lifelong learning
and behavioral problems.
If you are working on an older house, you can assume there
is lead paint present, although testing can also be done.
Using lead-safe work practices provides a good approach
to minimizing contamination and hazards. (Research has shown
site protection is more reliable than depending on a good
cleanup afterwards.) Information on proper work practices
is available from the US Department of Housing and Urban
Development. This agency also provides an excellent free
booklet detailing safe work practices http://www.hud.gov/offices/lead/training/LBPguide.pdf.
represents another potential hazard—especially in older
homes, where it can be found in pipe, duct and furnace insulation,
regular insulation and various other products such as floor
coverings, asbestos-cement siding and even spackling compound.
If demolition will result in disturbing such materials,
state and federal regulations may be involved, so make sure
this work is done by qualified persons. Amateur attempts
at removal can create serious environmental contamination
in the home.
or damp conditions in buildings, either current or past,
can led to mold growth. Opening up walls with such contamination
can cause problems for workers and occupants, especially
the young, the elderly and those with special health problems.
Such work needs to be done carefully, and if large contamination
is involved—more than 10 square feet—expert assistance may
be needed (although bleach solution can kill mold, the dead
spores can still be harmful; such material must be carefully
common denominator for many types of remodeling health risks
is dust. So health risks in any remodeling project can be
reduced by careful attention to dust control. Some general
ways to control dust include isolating the work area from
the rest of the house; sealing doors and air ducts in the
work area; removing furnishings, etc. from the work area
and covering items that can’t be removed; and using demolition
methods that keep dust to a minimum.
way to reduce the heath impact of remodeling is to choose
or specify “friendly" materials, such as “Low VOC" (Volatile
Organic Compounds) paints, adhesives and coatings. Ask about
certified carpeting having low emissions. It is also helpful
if carpeting can be unrolled in a protected location before
installation. Such “airing out” can allow most of the new
carpet fumes to escape.
the above measures may involve some extra time, effort and
work, the result will be a healthier environment for your
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