It doesn’t matter whether you live in Europe, Australia, Asia, or any other place in the world, when it comes to your home, you want it to be comfortable as well as safe. No matter if you’re thinking about buying a new house or renovating the old one, there are upsides, downsides, and plain old dangers lurking around. This is the reason why you should keep your eyes open for one of the following materials and do your best to avoid them:
Both home builders and homeowners like materials that are low-cost but lightweight because this saves them a lot of money on transportation. This is one of the main reasons why polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is found in so many homes: light but strong, this plastic is commonly found in water and sewerage pipes as well as insulation for electrical cables. Today, a great number of gutters, as well as door and window frames in the US and Australia, are insulated with PVC, but it’s also found in flooring and ceiling materials. Sadly, the material contains phthalates and dioxins, which are classified as carcinogens, and their production exposes humans and the environment alike to toxic substances.
After the WW2, the world got familiar with asbestos and all the benefits it offers: it’s great for insulation and really firm, so pretty much every house in Australia built until the early 2000s contains asbestos. It’s found in floors and ceilings, walls, pipe covers, as well as in fireproofing insulation. Until disturbed it’s perfectly safe, but once the particles get into a person’s lungs, they can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and eventually lead to lung cancer. This is the reason why people choose to do preliminary asbestos testing in Sydney before they start renovating their homes. Fortunately, it’s rarely found in modern building materials.
Lead is a heavy metal and as such it’s been very common in roofing materials as well as plumbing pipes in the past. On the other hand, there are also certain paints that contain lead, which can cause severe damage to a person’s health. Not only is lead highly poisonous, but the bloodstream rapidly absorbs the metal. It can slowly accumulate in the bones as well as in the soft tissues of a person’s body and gradually destroy the nervous system. If a person has been exposed to lead, they can have complications with their reproductive health as well as severely damaged kidneys.
Halogenated flame retardants
In order to stop or at least slow down the spread of flames, construction material manufacturers use chemicals known as flame retardants. In case of a fire breakout, these chemicals form a protective film but they can also inhibit chemical reactions that support combustion. However, once exposed to the heat, these retardants also degrade into toxic gases that a person can inhale. The bad news is – they can affect a person’s thyroid function and cause cancer.
It might be corrosion- resistant, non-flammable, and able to stabilize plastic and colour glass, but cadmium has a ‘dark side’ too. Cadmium dust and fumes can cause accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary oedema) and inflammation of lung tissue (pneumonitis). In the worst cases, cadmium exposure can cause prostate, breast, and lung cancer, as well as death.
Unfortunately, a lot of building products and materials found in both old and new homes aren’t good for us, but even so, it doesn’t mean that we can’t do something about it. You can do a good job keeping the shelves in your bathroom and under the kitchen sink toxin-free, but if your home is built with dangerous materials, your health can be jeopardized. Do your research and if you find anything you’re concerned about, don’t hesitate to contact the authorities.