Toxic Chemicals in Building Materials

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Toxic Chemicals in Building Materials

You may not be able to see, smell, or sense the toxic materials around you in any way, but that does not mean they are not there. Based on advanced understanding of synthetic building materials, the list of dangerous materials changes often. For that reason, it is important to know that based on the United States sustainable building certification program known as the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), these five of the most toxic building materials, you should avoid at all costs. 

  1. Lead 

This is one of the most common toxic metal construction materials used today. A heavy metal found mostly in roofing materials, paint, plumbing pipes, and other metal construction materials, lead is a known toxin. Lead is absorbed into your body through the bloodstream stimulating calcium to cross your blood-brain barrier. This type of absorption into your body is highly poisonous and can ultimately destroy numerous aspects of your health. Lead poisoning can affect your bones, eyesight, reproductive ability, kidneys, brain disorders, nervous system problems, and more. If you suspect that you could be living, or working in a building where lead paint is used, you could be at risk. 

  1. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) 

As a lightweight plastic, PVC is one of the most popular materials used for water and sewerage pipes. Also used for electrical cables, doors, and window frames, gutters, roof membranes, and moulding, PVC is not as safe to have around your home as you may think. As much as PVC pipes are used, they could be causing you health problems if you are living, or working in an environment where they are present. You see, PVC pipes contain synthetic chemicals known as phosphates, as well as dioxins known to interfere with hormone function in people which may influence thyroid, pancreatic, adrenal, pituitary, and reproductive problems. The disposal of PVC is also problematic to the environment as it exposes wildlife and neighboring humans to the toxic substances contained in the pipes. PVC is also used in wall coverings, flooring, ceiling material, and tiles which are commonly found in houses, hotels, hospitals, schools, and more. 

  1. Asbestos 

Used in the 1960’s as a building material, asbestos was is now well-known to be extremely dangerous. Linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer, this material is still present in many buildings. That is because this toxic building material was used freely up until 1983 when it was banned in Iceland. Although this toxic compound has been banned for some time, it is common to find asbestos in older buildings. However, it is rare that modern building materials will include asbestos in the pipe covers, flooring, insulation, or adhesives. 


  1. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) 

These materials are commonly confused with non-toxic materials. However, just because the term “organic,” is in the name, doesn’t mean VOC’s aren’t dangerous to your health. In building and construction, VOCs are most commonly found in materials like paint, adhesives. solvents, plastic, synthetic fibers, and protective coating. Although you may not realize it, VOCs may become noticeable if you have eye irritation, respiratory issues, dizziness, memory impairment, or notice kidney, and liver issues. 

What Are Sustainable Modern Building Products? 

Synthetic building materials can be dangerous, and in the past many of these products have been known to harm your health. If you want to stay away from toxic building materials it is best to avoid homes constructed before 1990. In addition to avoiding aging homes that may contain hazardous building materials, you can look for homes that include common materials used for sustainability. You may not realize that the modern building products today are not like those in the past. IN fact, there are all types of eco-friendly construction materials that reduce your risk of toxic overload, poisoning, and pollution. 

Look for property made without synthetic building materials in the future that feature the most common modern building products that support sustainability. 

  • Hemp
  • Bio-plastic 
  • Recycled metal construction materials including steel
  • Bamboo material
  • Sheep wool
  • Straw 
  • Precast hemp concrete 
  • Plant-based polyurethane foam 

Common construction materials can be hazardous if they are natural or synthetic substances. Harmful to people, and the environment, these chemicals can be mildly or highly toxic. Oftentimes, these toxins can get into your body through inhalation, indigestion, or contact with your skin. 

Using materials that are hazardous in construction is common however, that does not mean that you want to be exposed to these toxins. You can find toxic building materials lingering in the air, soil, and even in the water around your everyday environment. That is why it is so important to use this simple list of the 5 most common toxic chemicals in building materials and avoid them at all costs. 

What Are Sustainable Modern Building Products

Remember: Do NOT be afraid to ask a real estate agent, a landlord, or your property manager if any of these materials are present in your home. You can also ask your employer to verify that your workplace is free from pollutants caused by common toxins. 

If you want to protect the environment, and your own health you must pay attention to toxic chemicals. While not all of these chemicals are in your path every day, some of them could be lurking at home, in your office, or even in your car. Take a close look at this list of the top 5 most toxic building materials, and then ask about them. If you talk to your property manager, or employer, and find out that these toxins, or others can be found in your environment – speak up. You want to AVOID these toxic chemicals in building materials at all costs. 

If you are exposed to these materials it is best to talk to your doctor. Together, you can create a non-toxic health regimen that may include a time of detoxification. There are many natural ways to reduce your risk from health problems associated with exposure to toxic chemicals in building materials. It all starts with your awareness of the materials, reducing your risk, and then making the changes.