Longer days and extra daylight make summer an ideal time to tackle home improvement projects. Don’t allow the lazy, hazy days of summer blind you to the potential environmental hazards that turn up during do-it-yourself renovations. Whether you are painting the house, updating a kitchen, or redecorating the kids’ rooms while they are away at camp, take heed. Here’s our “Watch Out” list:
1. Watch Out When Sanding or Disrupting Painted Surfaces
If you live in a home built prior to 1978, paint containing lead can be anywhere. Before starting any renovation project – big or small – test for lead paint. It can be dangerous. Even a speck of dust from lead paint can cause lead poisoning, which leads to neurological issues, brain damage, and other serious health consequences.
Whether you are remodeling your kitchen, sanding and staining the deck, or doing something as small as hanging pictures on a wall that contains lead paint, proper EPA Lead Safe work practices, outlined in the Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program (RRP), should be followed. Although following RRP work practices is not required for DIYers, it is the best way to safeguard your health and the health of those around you. For more information on Lead Safe work practices for DIYers, click here.
2. Watch Out That You Don’t Release Asbestos Fibers Into the Air
Before any renovation or demolition, you need to know if you are about to disturb any materials containing asbestos. Even though it is a naturally occurring mineral fiber, asbestos is banned in certain forms because of its toxicity. Once used for everything from insulation and decoration to fireproofing, asbestos now is restricted to certain products, but is still used.
Therefore, you can be exposed to asbestos fibers through demolition of walls and ceilings, tile, flooring materials, roof shingles, pipes, and many other items throughout your home. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious and fatal illnesses, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Experts state that even a few hours’ exposure to the toxic fibers can be enough to trigger illness from 15–40 years down the road.
Be smart – have an asbestos survey performed prior to your renovation project. An asbestos survey will determine if there are any materials containing this toxic substance that you are about to disturb. Something as simple as installing a ceiling fan, removing a boiler, or updating your bathroom could have serious implications.
3. Watch Out for Mold
When conquering DIY projects, be mindful of mold hidden under sinks, behind walls, or anywhere that has cellulose material, warmth, and moisture. Mold can cause health problems.
Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group, knows how prevalent mold can be. “Too often, we are called in to test for mold after a DIY project has gone wrong, or after someone tried to remediate mold on their own,” he says. “One of the most common mistakes homeowners make is ripping out wallboard, ceilings, and other building materials that are wet without mold testing or proper containment,” says Weitz, who saw this mistake repeatedly after Hurricane Sandy. “When extreme situations occur, like a hurricane, basement flooding, or a roof leak, people panic and start ripping things out with the intention of making the problem go away faster,” Weitz explains. “In doing this, they spread the mold spores throughout the home and ventilation system. Next thing they know, they have a full-blown mold infestation.”
So what should you do? First, if you know there has been water damage or a leak in the area, have it tested for mold. If mold is found, you can choose to have it professionally removed by a remediation company, or you can do-it-yourself following strict EPA mold remediation guidelines. DIY mold removal requires specialized equipment, air filtration, negative air pressure, protective personal wear, and more. Angie’s List shares information on the possible hazards of DIY mold removal.
For more information on environmental testing and tips to keep you healthy and safe, contact us.