Avoiding Home Improvement Health Hazards

Avoiding Health Hazards When Doing Home Improvement Projects  

When doing home improvement projects you may find yourself using all kinds of chemicals and compounds. Unfortunately, many of these often used items such as paint and paint stripper can be bad for your health. Here are some positive steps you can take to protect your health.

Indoor air is considered to be one of the top five hazards to human health according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Their studies found that levels of several Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) average from two to five times higher indoors than they do outdoors.

Levels may be 1,000 times higher than outdoor levels during and several hours immediately after certain home improvement activities, such as paint stripping. Among the leading causes of VOCs are paints and finishes.
VOCs are gases that are emitted from certain solids or liquids and include a variety of chemicals, some of which have adverse health effects.

VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products including: cleaning supplies, paints, lacquers, correction fluids, carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials, adhesives, markers, pesticides, building materials, furnishings and office equipment such as copiers and printers

As a result of exposure to various organics some people have experienced immediate symptoms such as eye and respiratory tract irritation, visual disorders, impaired memory, headaches and dizziness. Other symptoms include eye, nose, and throat irritation; loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

Steps to Reduce Exposure

Paints and other finishes can give off VOCs for years after they are applied. Recently many manufacturers have begun to manufacture paints, varnishes, etc. without the use of VOC’s. If at all possible find products that have low or no-VOC on the label.

Increase ventilation when using products that emit VOCs. Be sure to meet or exceed any label precautions. Don’t store opened containers of unused paints and similar materials.

Use household products according to manufacturer’s directions. Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using these products. Throw away unused or little-used containers safely; buy in quantities that you will use soon. Keep out of reach of children and pets. Never mix household products unless directed on the label.

Throw away any partially full containers of unneeded or old chemicals. Because gases can leak from closed containers, this one step could help lower the concentrations of organic chemicals in your home. (Be sure that materials you decide to keep are stored not only in a well-ventilated area but are also safely out of reach of children.) Find out if your community sponsors special days for the collection and disposal of toxic household wastes. If so, use them to dispose of the unwanted containers safely. If not, think about organizing one.

Buy limited quantities. Products you use only occasionally, (i.e. paints, paint strippers, kerosene, gasoline) should be purchased only in quantities you will use right away.

Exposure to products containing methylene chloride such as paint strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol spray paints should be kept to a minimum. Use outdoors when possible; use indoors only if the area is well ventilated.

Minimize exposure to benzene, a known human carcinogen. Tobacco smoke, stored fuels, paint supplies and automobile emissions are the main sources of this chemical.

Fixing up your home can be an enjoyable pass-time and make for a more comfortable home, make it a safer one while you are at it.