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Remodeling and Health, Part - 2

Walls

Take care when plywood wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard and insulation are being used. These can contain chemicals that could be harmful the health over a period of time. Avoid the use of glass-mesh cement backer boards as they often contain urea, phenyls and other volatile chemicals. In addition they tend to leave a lot of dust and particles floating in the air. Many of these dangerous chemicals are of the type known as volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and the material that commonly contain them include:
  • Organic or rubber solvents
  • Putty, sealants and caulks
  • Wallpaper
  • Vinyl floor coverings
  • Synthetic carpeting, padding and adhesives
  • Plaster and drywall
  • Manufactured wood products (particle board, plywood, composite board, etc.)
  • Paint, resin and varnish
  • Drapery
  • And some cleaning compounds

The most common of VOCs found in materials used in home remodeling are:
  • Toluene
  • Trichloroethane
  • Chlorobenzenes
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Aldehyde
  • Benzene and related compounds
  • Xylene

These chemicals are also to be found in electrical components and plastic products used in remodeling. Besides irritating the eyes and nose, they can cause severe respiratory problems and some are thought to be carcinogenic.

Lead and Asbestos

Although the use of lead and asbestos is now no longer permitted, many older homes still contain them. Asbestos was commonly used as an insulation material and in floor and ceiling tiles till as late as 1970. If the contractor advises that there is asbestos present in the home and that it is being removed, ensure that everyone stays away from the area where the removal is being done. If possible stay completely out of the home. Once the removal has been completed, the area must be fully aired out.

The same applies to situations where lead paint or dust is present. While inhaling of asbestos can lead to serious respiratory problems, the absorption of lead into the body is known to cause brain damage.

Air Ducts

Cleaning out the air duct is a part of any home remodeling project. The jury is still out on whether cleaning the ducts will significantly improve air quality in the home. However, if done properly, it can do no harm. One of the most common methods of cleaning air ducts is to use a powerful vacuum to suck the dirt and debris from the ducts. The use of chemicals to clean the ducts is also widespread but if this is the method adopted it must be ensured that no chemical residue remains after the cleaning is completed. Any such residue can break down in the ducts over time and release dangerous chemicals into the air of the home.

Post Remodel Cleaning

A newly remodeled room or home can seem to be completely clean and spotless. And a good remodeling contractor will make every effort to clean up as much as possible once the work is completed. But no matter how much cleaning is done, all the dirt and minute debris of the work will not go away immediately. It will take some weeks of regular cleaning to bring the home back to the normal standard of cleanliness. Till then, it is best not to take the cleanliness of the home for granted. The basic principle to follow is for the first couple of weeks after the remodeling has been completed, clean twice as much as is normally done. And when in doubt, clean again.

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