Thursday, February 25, 2010

Watch out for the nastys

In taking my haz mat recertification the other week I was reminded of what we can run into when doing other construction work. We do after all have to do demolition work many times to get to the bad stuff. We sometimes forget what things are made of when we're taking them apart. This was never a problem 50 or 60 years ago because nobody thought about it until workers started dying from exposures. So here's a little list (hope it doesn't get too long) for you viewing pleasure of the things you may encounter while doing a weatherization or remodel project.

Asbestos - was used in popcorn ceiling textures, drywall mud, drywall, window glazing, flooring such as tiles and sheets, glues and mastics for flooring and covebase, furnace joint tape, gaskets, pipe insulation, and paints. Exposures can cause cancers and mesothelioma.

Lead - was used in paints, roof flashing, and old plumbing. Exposures can cause headaches central nervous system damage and brain damage especially in children.

Arsenic - It was a common practice back in the 20s and beyond to mix a 100lb. bag of arsenic into the soil under a house to prevent insects and rodents from taking up residence. Exposures cause central nervous system damage.

Formaldehyde - found in most pressboard, carpeting, and insulation when it's new. It has to be given time to outgas after installation. Exposures cause headaches, nausea and breathing problems.

VOCs - are volatile organic compounds found in paints, glues and mastics. They are only dangerous when being applied and outgasing or evaporating. Exposures can cause headaches, nausea

Molds - There are eight main varieties of toxic mold found where moisture is present. Molds love drywall because of the paper backing (a food source) but can live on any surface. Exposures can cause headaches, breathing problems, bleeding from the nose eyes and ears.

Insects rodents and other vermin - spiders rats and raccoons can take up residence in a crawl space or attic. Exposures: spiders bite, rodents carry disease and pigeon poop carries all sorts of nastys.

Concrete dust - When sawing grinding or breaking up concrete the dust contains silica that's very damaging to your lungs when it get airborne.

There's a bunch of other nastys but they're not as common as the ones above. So when your doing a remodel or weatherization project take a minute and think about what might things are made of and what might bite you.

And as always keep your drums upright.


The Blog Fodder said...

That is a good list and a reminder to wear a decent breathing mask when working on such stuff.
You will be horrified to know that popular cheap roofing panels and fence panels here are all made with pressed asbestos. Every house and outbuilding, including ours is roofed with gray asbestos. Cheap, durable and ugly. Safe unless you are cutting it or maybe even working with it?

Steven said...

I became drywall carpenter apprentice in 1962, doing commercial work. In those days, fireproofing for structural steel was asbestos laden. 'Spray Don' was a favorite material for this and we used to sweep it up so that we could lay out the partitions. Plasterers who were pumping cement plaster or gyp plaster through a 'Tommy Gun' kept a sack of asbestos fibers nearby to add to the mix. Asbestos fibers will always align with each other and so make the material flow faster and smoother. Dangerous times...

Randal Graves said...


I wonder how much asbestos I've sucked in since they started cleaning it out of this tower years ago.

Question though, sir. With all the crazy, toxic stuff you've encountered on your hazmat duties, how come you haven't developed any superpowers?

Demeur said...

Fodder - The roofing and siding panels are okay unless you're planning on removing it. The fence panels I'd want to get rid of as kids just love running into it.
Steve - You should write about all your experiences as you spent years installing it and and I've spent years removing it. We're just guinea pigs for industry.
Randal- Didn't you know? I glow in the dark (notice my avatar?)

Ole Phat Stu said...

Then there was the hippy who named his daughter Sarin - because he thought it was a gas ;-)