With a growing environmental and health consciousness, green construction is becoming a very popular choice in some cities, especially the ones where communities are developing quickly. The environmental and economic benefits of green construction are what dictates this change the most, but there is one more type of advantages we often fail to consider, and those are social advantages. They include improving the indoor air quality, enhancing occupant’s comfort and improving the overall quality of life. This is especially significant because most of the houses that are built in the 20th century and before, regardless of in which part of the world they are located, contain a lot of hazardous materials that can have a huge impact on the occupants who are continuously exposed to them. Let’s see what are the biggest hazards in our homes, and what can we do about them.Hidden Health Dangers in Our Homes, and What Can We Do about Them

 

Mould – dangerous occurrence we rarely take seriously

Mould is a type of fungus. It thrives in poorly ventilated and damp areas, which is why it is most frequently found in humid rooms, at the origin point of a water leak and in the corners of the shower. In its early stages, mould is very difficult to spot and identify. It often looks like discoloration, stain or smudge of black, green or white colour. However, once it starts spreading, can be spotted instantly. Sadly, by the time when that happens, mould has probably made a certain impact on the occupants’ health.

The effects of mould on one’s health are various, and they depend on the individual’s susceptibility to the symptoms associated with mould. The most frequent symptoms linked with damp environments and the development of mould include cough, sneezing, nasal congestion, respiratory problems and aggravation of asthma or allergies.

When identified, mould should be cleaned immediately, and actions should be taken to prevent it from developing again (e.g. improving ventilation, using exhaust fans and improving insulation).

 

Asbestos – a worldwide health concern

Asbestos poisoning may seem like something that only happens in the so-called less developed countries, but it is widespread throughout the countries such as the U.S. and Australia. In fact, Australia has the second-highest mesothelioma (a form of cancer, frequently associated with asbestos exposure) death rate in the world.

This should not come as a surprise, knowing the country’s extensive history of asbestos use, especially in the period between the 1950s and 1970s. While Australians are now quite aware of the dangers that come with the use of asbestos in construction, many older properties are still riddled with this hazardous material.

Generally speaking, when left untouched in a structure, there is no direct danger of asbestos poisoning, but any type of remodelling project can spread asbestos particles through the air, which can be devastating for one’s health. That is why many environmental consultants in Sydney and other Australian cities offer asbestos testing and removal. Indubitably, this is something that should be left to properly equipped professionals.

 

Lead – the silent killer

Before the 1970s high concentrations of lead have been found in many paints in Australia and all around the world. It was not until the 1960s, that people started to understand just how dangerous this ingredient may be. However, even after that, paint manufacturers continued to produce products with a certain percentage of lead (it has decreased to 0.1 percent only in 1997).

What we fail to see is that even the tiniest amounts of lead can cause serious health issues, especially for pregnant women, babies and children, who haven’t yet fully developed their respiratory system. The tricky thing about lead is that it does not affect one’s body immediately. It accumulates in individual’s body over time (when they are exposed to it constantly and for long periods of time) and damages their health.

Since lead in house paint is hazardous only when the paint is damaged or chalked, sometimes it is enough to cover the lead paint with a layer of lead-free paint to prevent health problems. Still, it is always better to remove the paint altogether, and this is a job that amateurs shouldn’t tackle on their own.

Other materials that can pose a health threat

Unfortunately, the previously mentioned hazards are not the only ones that can impact occupants’ health. Silica, for example, is a respiratory irritant, similar to asbestos and if you are exposed to it for a long time, you can have breathing problems.

Unlike silica, polychlorinated biphenyls are synthetic chemical composites which were used in manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as light fixtures and transformers. Although they are not being used as much, or at all, after the 1990s, polychlorinated biphenyls remain in old equipment. Their effect accumulates over time, and leads to damage of skin, liver and other organs.

Finally, formaldehyde, which is found in some manufactured wood products (e.g. furniture and flooring), permanent press fabrics (used in drapes, upholstery or curtains) and household products, such as paint and caulk, can cause irritation to the eyes, breathing problems and other health issues.

All of these hazards are easily resolved by switching to organic, non-harmful materials.

The social aspect of green construction shouldn’t be ignored, since all changes come from meeting people’s individual needs. If every person starts by prioritizing health of their family and removing hazardous materials from their houses, we can hope for a better and greener future for everyone.