Dangerous Materials Still Being Used in Construction

Written by  //  January 7, 2021  //  Construction Materials  //  Comments Off on Dangerous Materials Still Being Used in Construction

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The future of construction looked promising in 1976 when Congress signed the Toxic Substance Control Act into law. It gave the Environmental Protection Agency the power to regulate and ban substances that were dangerous to human health or the environment. And yet, there are dangerous materials still being used in construction, including asbestos. Your best defense is awareness of the remaining hazards.


The EPA banned asbestos in 1989, but the TSCA overturned their decision in 1991 in an appeals court. They ruled that the EPA had not presented enough scientific proof that it was a risk to health or the environment. Now, thousands in the United States die each year from asbestos-related illnesses, and more suffer the effects of exposure. Lung disease is a common consequence, as is the often-fatal cancer mesothelioma.

The battle against asbestos hasn’t ended in total defeat. The EPA has banned some uses of asbestos, and local and state asbestos regulations are often more severe than federal ones. But builders continue to import raw asbestos for roofing materials, coatings, compounds, plastics, and more. Asbestos is also in many imported finished products, such as drywall and floor tiles. Only certified contractors can remove and dispose of this hazardous material safely.


The World Health Organization has declared that formaldehyde is a carcinogen, but the TSCA legacied it in 1976, and the EPA has never assessed it. Formaldehyde is a common ingredient in plywood, carpeting, and resins involved in the manufacture of polyurethane foam insulation. Exposure can irritate the mucous membranes, the thin tissue inside the nose, other respiratory passages, and the gastrointestinal tract. Repercussions include respiratory problems, dermatitis, and itching.


OSHA has released some regulations about the risks of silica with Permissible Exposure Limits, but it’s still a component of bricks, glass, and concrete. Inhaled silica dust can reach the lungs with disabling or fatal results. It has caused the lung disease silicosis, lung cancer, and kidney cancer. The EPA is reviewing more stringent regulations for silica.


Since the 1940s, this group of versatile chemical building blocks has been an ingredient in flexible foams. Where there’s polyurethane, there are diisocyanates, so in construction, it’s present in:

  • Coatings
  • Adhesives
  • Sealants
  • Elastomers

Diisocyanates are not a direct risk unless a worker comes into contact with their vapor and liquid forms. Still, the EPA is considering applying heavy regulations to them or possibly eliminating their use.


A company must make a federal report for spilling even just one fluid ounce of mercury because it’s a hazardous waste that’s difficult to clean up. It’s also a dangerous material still being used in construction because it’s part of so many household devices and types of equipment, including:

  • Smoke detectors
  • Emergency lighting systems
  • Elevator control panels
  • Lighting
  • Heating
  • Air conditioning
  • Ventilation systems
  • Thermostats
  • Fire stats
  • Manometers
  • Thermometers
  • Switches for sump pumps and pneumatic controls

image credit: twenty20.com

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