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The Dangers of Hazardous Chemicals in Renovation Projects

Now that the economy has begun to stabilize, many homeowners are continuing saving money by doing their own home renovation projects. However, some of them do not look before they leap and take on projects they are not prepared to safely complete.

In the midst of their enthusiastic work, some homeowners overlook some dangers that may be lurking out of sight, like toxic mold, lead, and asbestos. Some of the hazardous chemicals are undetectable by a layperson, especially in older homes. Let’s examine some of these chemical hazards to help you complete your project efficiently and safely.


For over a century, it has been known that lead exposure is toxic, particularly to the growing brains and nervous systems of children. Although lead was banned from use in paints in 1978, a large number of homes still contain dangerous levels. Almost 40 million homes harbor lead paint.

Almost half a million children under the age of 6 are poisoned by lead. Disturbingly, many parents of these children have no idea their children are in danger until lead has damaged them in some way. The effects of lead poisoning are irreversible, so it is particularly important to be aware of the dangers and work to prevent exposure.

Probably the main risk of lead exposure during home renovations is unwittingly disturbing lead paint in an old house. If the dried paint is sanded, scraped, or otherwise disturbed, it can become airborne and be inhaled. Also, toddlers who like to put new things in their mouths could eat lead paint chips. Be sure to wear protective gear or have the material tested before working in areas that may contain old lead paint.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs are present in some types of paint and can be damaging to your lungs. If you are painting indoors, be sure to provide adequate ventilation. Put a fan in a window and keep doors and windows open.

Asbestos and Asbestos Cancer

If you are renovating a home built prior to 1989, you should be aware that some of the materials used in its construction may contain toxic asbestos. Asbestos was commonly used years ago in construction materials to insulate and protect against fires. By the time is was banned in 1989, it had been used in millions of applications ranging from home construction materials to U.S. Navy ships.

Asbestos causes a deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Many lawsuits have been initiated against the manufacturers of this toxic material. The danger comes when the fibrous material is breathed into the lungs. Mesothelioma can take years, even decades, to develop.

If you are working in an older home you should consider having an expert examine any areas where you think asbestos might be lurking. You definitely do not want to disturb any area containing asbestos like insulation or fire-proofing materials and risk breathing in the fibers. If you are doing work that tends to create a lot of dust, take precautions by wearing a filter mask.