Home-Improvement DIYers Risk Toxic Dust Exposure

Pregnant couple does DIY project
The do-it-yourself (DIY) movement in the US has taken the home-improvement industry by storm. Many people are choosing to upgrade their existing homes rather than move up into bigger or more modern houses. A Harvard study finds homeowners younger than 35 are spending considerably more money on DIY home-improvement projects than any other segment of the market. The study also found these projects to be a lot dirtier than might be expected; pregnancy is not the time to be a hands-on DIY participant.

Toxic Dust Level

Home-improvement projects usually stir up a lot of dust. A recent British study measured dust levels when common tasks are done using circular saws, electric drills, and concrete mixers and found DIY projects to be a lot dirtier work than might be expected. Every home has dust particles in the air but the study measured as much as 4,000 times the normal dust level when home-improvement projects were in full swing.

Respiratory and Cardiovascular Risks

All this dust creates more than a mess; it could trigger or aggravate respiratory and cardiovascular medical conditions for anyone in the house. Many young DIYers are likely to be parents of babies and young children who may be the first in the family to exhibit problems with dust exposure even when kept away from any work actively being done.

Toxic Dust and the Body

Ultrafine particles of materials such as aluminum, copper, silicon, and other elements travel deeper into the lungs than larger particles that can be seen with the naked eye. Once inhaled, the invisible dust particles can enter the bloodstream which takes them to other parts of the body, including the brain and liver. It can even contaminate the womb when a pregnant woman breathes in these toxic particles. You don’t want to breathe in the dust you can see but the dust you cannot see may be even more dangerous.

Pregnancy Risks

Pregnancy is not the time to be a hands-on participant in many home-improvement projects. These projects often include the use of solvents, paints, adhesives, insulation materials, and other toxic chemicals that emit fumes that add to the healthy treats of inhaled dust. Dust or fumes, it can all be harmful to pregnancy health and fetal development.

Wear Face Masks

Face masks minimize the amount of dust a person breathes in and should be worn by everyone in the vicinity when dusty projects are underway. Replace face masks as they get clogged with dust.

Clear the Dust

Once the dust settles, hosing down the work zone with clean water eliminates a substantial amount of dust. If hosing the area down is unrealistic, wiping the area with a damp cloth or using a shop vac to remove it can make the area safer.

It is important to clean up as much dust as possible before opening the area to small children, pregnant women, and grandparents or other older family members who are at increased risk of illness from exposure to toxic airborne dust particles. Even where there seems to be no dust in the air, your footsteps, fans, breezes, and other activity can stir it right back up.

Your Neighbor’s Projects

Your neighbor’s home-improvement projects may pose a risk of exposure to toxic dust and chemical fumes in your home, especially when work is being done in a multi-family dwelling or where houses are built close together. Take precautions to protect yourself and your family when neighbors are actively engaged in dust-producing projects. The finer the dust particles, the farther they can be carried by wind and breezes.


Sources:

  1. "Improving America's Housing 2015: Emerging Trends in the Remodeling Market." Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2015. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.
  2. Azarmi, Farhad, Prashant Kumar, and Mike Mulheron. "The exposure to coarse, fine and ultrafine particle emissions from concrete mixing, drilling and cutting activities." Journal of Hazardous Materials 279 (2014): 268-79. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.
  3. Froines, John R. "Ultrafine Particle Health Effects." South Coast AQMD. South Coast Air Quality Management District, n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.