6 Environmental Risks During Building Renovations

It’s crucial to identify and eliminate any potential environmental risks during construction projects. This includes everything from air quality issues to hazardous material exposure. The EPA has identified a lengthy list of substances that can lead to contamination and exposure during building renovations. Here are six hazards to be aware of and include in your Operations and Maintenance (O&M) plan before beginning work.

  1. Lead
  2. Asbestos
  3. Mold
  4. VOCs
  5. Radiation
  6. Combustion Appliances

1) Does Your Building Contain Lead Paint Or Pipes? 

Older buildings constructed before 1978 can contain some measure of lead. Lead paint chips and dust can be harmful if ingested or inhaled, and this toxic heavy metal is hazardous to small children and pregnant women. You can also find lead in plumbing pipes and other building materials, so it’s vital to professionally test for it before starting to remodel an older building.

2) Asbestos In Older Buildings

Like lead, asbestos exists in many mid-20th-century buildings. In addition, many construction materials included asbestos between the 1940s and 1970s as a fire retardant and acoustic insulator. Unfortunately, asbestos exposure can cause a range of health hazards, including a highly fatal form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Therefore, no older building renovation should occur without professional asbestos testing and careful monitoring.

3) Mold Thrives In Damp Environments

Mold is a fungus that spreads rapidly in damp environments, including older buildings that may have experienced various roof and plumbing leaks over the years. Black mold can cause many health problems, including respiratory issues, headaches, skin irritation, and cognitive impairment. Therefore, whether or not visual mold is apparent, it’s a good idea to test for mold presence before renovating any old structure.

4) What Are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)? 

VOCs, volatile organic compounds, are chemicals released into the air when certain materials are disturbed or used. VOCs can cause respiratory problems, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Be sure to ventilate areas where you will be working with VOCs and use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and masks when necessary.

5) Radiation Can Be A Completely Hidden Danger

Radiation is probably far from your mind when preparing to carry out a reno project. However, the EPA states that radon gas commonly exists in older buildings throughout the USA. Radon is a leading cause of lung cancer. It is also completely odorless and invisible, so without professional environmental testing, you won’t even know it’s there.

6) Be Mindful Of Old Appliances

Combustion appliances burn combustible materials such as gas, wood, oil, kerosene, and coal to cook or create heat. Although they are usually safe, sometimes back-drafting and combustion spillage can occur. If this happens, appliances can release dangerous or fatal substances, such as carbon monoxide, into the air.

When remodeling, combustible appliances should be inspected, as should related ventilation equipment. Damaged equipment should be replaced immediately.

Don’t Underestimate The Importance Of An O&M

One way to help alleviate the above environmental hazards is to develop and implement an O&M (Operations and Maintenance) plan. It’s best to tailor the program to the specific project after conferring with an industrial hygiene consultant, who can test for particular dangers before and during the project.

O&M plans help protect employees, the general public, and the environment from potential harm. You can also save money by preventing unplanned downtime and the need for additional retesting after project completion.

Environmental Hazard Testing In San Jose, CA

By being aware of the potential hazards and taking steps to protect yourself, your workers, and the public, you can ensure the safe completion of your building project. As one of the premier Industrial Hygiene Consultant firms in the San Jose, CA, area, Benchmark Environmental Engineering is ready to help ensure your site stays safe for all involved. Call us today to learn more about our environmental testing services.

Scroll to Top