General Rules for Managing Toxic Household Products
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Q. What remodeling hazards should I be concerned about?
A. Asbestos, formaldehyde, organic solvents, and leaded paint dust are the main ones. These hazardous materials can be released into the air when you remove paint, hang cabinets or disturb other existing products that contain these materials. Paints, striping and finishing products, and adhesives can also create indoor air pollution.
Q. By remodeling with products that don't include these hazardous materials, won't that minimize my exposure?
A. Not necessarily. Lead and asbestos were commonly used in home building until the late 1970s. Attempting to remove these materials from a building prior to remodeling can actually increase your risk of exposure. Often it's better to leave the lead-or asbestos-containing materials in place, but cover or seal them to reduce exposure. If you suspect these materials are in your home, seek professional help before remodeling. If you remodel, remember that careful cleanup is important to control exposure.
Q. What is asbestos and why should I be concerned about it?
A. Major sources of asbestos are deteriorating, damaged or disturbed insulation, fireproofing or acoustical materials, and floor tiles. You won't feel any immediate symptoms from excessive asbestos exposure, but there is the long-term risk of chest and abdominal cancers and lung disease. Smokers are at higher risk of developing asbestos-induced lung cancer.
Source: Healthy Indoor Air for America's Homes (an educational module), EPA and USDA 1997