What home improvement projects are on your list this year?
Before you start tearing out that drywall or old carpeting, research how each specific project could affect your lung health. Because many home improvement projects disturb old materials or introduce new chemicals to the home, it’s crucial to know what you’re dealing with.
Call professionals for asbestos and lead
When was your house built? Homes built before 1978 likely contain lead paint and homes built before 1980 likely have some form of asbestos in them. If your home falls into this category, you should consider hiring a professional contractor to check for and remove both materials before you start any major remodeling. Lead is mostly found in paints and asbestos is found in home materials such as pipes, flooring, popcorn ceilings, and insulation. Exposure to lead-based paints could cause lead poisoning and exposure to any of these materials could cause asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer.
Ventilate when painting or using anything with fumes
You should use anything that may have chemical fumes with care. Read the warnings on the can or packaging carefully and prioritize ventilation by opening windows and doors. You could even go the extra step and have a few fans running. Some products or paints have a recommended exposure limit for being in an enclosed area, others may recommend wearing a respirator. Always err on the side of caution and follow the painting safety guidelines closely. You should also take breaks to fill your lungs with fresh air and ensure you don’t inhale too many fumes at once.
Minimize dust inhalation
Many home improvement projects include some form of demolition, sanding, or wood sawing. These activities can release sawdust, sheetrock residue, or other fine powders into the air. Seal off the doors and vents coming into the room with poly or plastic tarps and run an exhaust fan out the window. This sets up a pressure barrier, which will keep the dust from escaping into the rest of the house instead of siphoning it outdoors.
Be careful with mold
If your project is in a damp and dark environment, it’s crucial that you watch out for mold. Mold is often found in basements, bathrooms, kitchens, or under carpeting. If it’s only a small patch of mold on a hard surface, you can just bleach it and move on, but if you find a lot of mold or mold on soft surfaces like carpeting or insulation, you may need to replace it. Either way, when handling mold, you should wear respiratory protection, eye protection, and outerwear that can be discarded after. This protects you from the mold, both during the removal and later.
Limit family exposure
Only those essential to the project should be around when you’re working on any home improvement projects. Not to exclude them, but to protect them. If you have children, a spouse, or roommates who aren’t helping, ask them to spend the day away. Especially if you’re working with chemicals or disturbing any hazardous materials. There’s no reason to expose them to poor air quality and compromise their lungs.
Check in with yourself
If at any point during the renovations, you start feeling slightly off, take a step back and evaluate. Maybe you’re feeling dizzy, having a hard time breathing, or getting a headache. Whatever it is, step out for some fresh air and try to figure out what’s going on. What materials are you using? Is there something in the air that could be making you feel sick? Although you’ll want to push through and just finish the project, you’re more important than whatever home renovation project you’re working on.
It’s important to focus on health and safety whenever you start on a home improvement project. You can prioritize respiratory safety by learning about the materials and taking steps to mitigate risk accordingly. This way you can take preventative measures to protect your lungs and loved ones.