March 9, 2011

Home Renovations and Kid’s Health

(Ivanhoe Newswire) "“ Home renovations done by people lacking adequate training and knowledge could lead to the disturbance lead-based paint, asbestos insulation, and many other toxic materials in older buildings, which will put the health of all-especially children- at risk.

Lead exposure can potentially lead to lowered intelligence and worse; asbestos exposure can potentially lead to debilitating long term illness, and certain materials used in renovation can increase other health risks, experts warn in a new report by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).

"Many families in Canada struggle with high energy costs and retrofits help ease the financial burden while aiding the fight against climate change," CELA Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan was quoted as saying.

"Retrofits, done right, will also make these families' homes healthier and prevent health problems known to result from mould or inadequate heating and ventilation. Unless care is taken to avoid the release of toxic chemicals and ensure proper ventilation, however, such renovations can create serious health risks, especially for children."

"The goal here is a 'win-win' situation: homes that are more energy and cost efficient and healthier for children and their families," Erica Phipps, CPCHE Partnership Director was quoted as saying.

Among the biggest concerns is lead, which can pose a risk inside any home built prior to 1978.
The US Environmental Protection Agency, on the other hand, requires contractors to be lead-safe certified if they are doing renovation, repair or painting in pre-1978 homes, child care facilities and schools. The US and France are among very few countries known by medical experts to have created mandatory precautions or other legal requirements related to old lead paint.

Long-term effects may include slow development, learning disabilities, hearing loss and reduced height. There is a correlation between children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and presence of lead in their bodies, even at levels officially considered safe.

Other major health concerns include asbestos, a known carcinogen for which there is no safe exposure level. Asbestos was widely used in Canadian homes and buildings from the 1930s until the mid-1980s.

Buildings constructed or renovated in Canada between 1950 and 1978 may also have Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)-contaminated caulk around windows and door frames, between masonry columns and in other masonry building materials. PCBs were added to caulk to increase its flexibility. PCBs cause cancer in animals,and their use in caulking was discontinued in 1978. Dust created during renovations can be contaminated with PCBs from this older caulking.

"There is very little awareness in Canada of these issues," CELA researcher Kathleen Cooper was quoted as saying. "We need measures in place to ensure that renovations and retrofits are done in a way that minimizes potential health problems. Implementing our recommendations would help ensure that retrofits also create indoor environmental health benefits."

SOURCE: The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) March 6, 2011