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Published on Apr 2, 2015
When a home or building has outgrown its useful life, has been destroyed in a natural disaster or needs to make way for new construction, it is often slated for demolition. Each year, countless buildings are torn down resulting in millions of tons of demolition waste.
Much of this waste is inert or nonhazardous, but other debris may contain hazardous waste that may be regulated by the state and/or federal government. This waste and the demolition process itself, can in some circumstances create exposure concerns for the project workers and nearby residents.
Demolition projects often create a large amount of debris and particulate matter that can become airborne and spread to surrounding properties. Depending on the type and age of the building, it could contain any number of hazardous materials, including the following:
• Asbestos was used in many materials found in older buildings, including insulation, flooring tiles, shingles, roofing, textured paints and numerous other items. • Lead-based paints were banned in 1978, but many buildings constructed before then still contain it. Some structures may even have old lead pipes. • Mold can quickly begin to grow throughout an abandoned building or one in disrepair, including some types that are known to be pathogenic or capable of producing mycotoxins. • Polychlorinated biphenol, also known as PCB, was used in many applications including fluorescent light ballasts, caulks, thermal insulation materials and other items up until 1979. • Mercury is an extremely persistent and toxic human health and environmental threat found in some types of thermostats, fluorescent bulbs, smoke detectors, old paint and other materials.
These and other substances mixed with general dusts from demolition activities can create high levels of particulates that can spread across the surrounding area creating exposure concerns and general respiratory issues for project workers and neighbors. Even diesel exhaust from demolition equipment can create exposure concerns.
These are just a few things to know about how demolition projects can create potential air quality and environmental hazards for demolition workers and people who live or work near these worksites. To learn more about this or other air quality, health and safety, occupational or other environmental issues, please visit the websites shown on the screen.