Three Types of Hazardous Building Materials Found in Construction and Homes

February 12, 2021


Constructing a building requires various resources that have fortified, expedited, and developed our communities. These man-made and natural substances are a combination or ingredient of chemicals, bricks, metals, cements, plastics, and foams to produce and construct houses, schools, offices, and stores.

Building materials are fundamental; however, not all of these sources are clean, renewable, or safe. Some of the materials used extensively in construction products could pose real threats to your health.

The following three types of hazardous building materials are not an exclusive list of dangerous additives, but they can help you identify a few of which to be cautious.


Batteries, silent switches, light bulbs, HVAC parts, and relays can all contain mercury. It can be found in soil, water, and air and is a naturally occurring element. The World Health Organization ranks mercury in the top ten chemicals that cause a health risk to the public.

Although this toxin is often sealed for protection, exposure can lead to critical health issues, mostly to children and developing fetuses. The nervous, immune and digestive system can be affected, as well as lasting damage to the respiratory system, eyes, skin, and kidneys.

Workers who come in contact with mercury could be at increased risk for mercury-related symptoms. The toxicity levels can influence the extremity of health effects. Seafood is known to have trace amounts of mercury and is not as toxic as occupational inhalation of elemental mercury. A person’s age, the length of exposure, and whether the exposure was internal or external matters, as they contribute to the criticalness of symptoms.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Also referred to as vinyl, polyvinyl chloride is used in upholstery, floor and wall coverings, pipes, wire and cable coatings, and housewares.

Throughout its lifecycle, PVC is harmful to the environment and people both at production and disposal. Polyvinyl has long been known as a carcinogen and has been tied to liver, brain, and some types of blood cancers. It can infiltrate the air and breathing in concentrated levels of vinyl is deadly, while long term exposure even at low levels is toxic to bodily organs.

This chemical may be valuable in construction for its anti-corrosion, resistance to moisture, and low-maintenance. Most typically it can be practical for windows, roofing, decking, and flooring. Almost three-quarters of vinyl manufacturing goes to building and construction.

This does not mean that it is always safe and can still negatively impact your health if inhaled.

Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs)

ACMs include but are not limited to insulation, plasters, gaskets, cement, wiring, and siding.

As another building additive, asbestos was widely used in the twentieth century before partial bans came out in the 1970s due to mesothelioma diagnoses and similar asbestos diseases. Asbestos is a natural mineral with fibrous qualities that can break and become airborne. The microscopic fibers are able to enter the body, scarring or fixating on the lungs and other organs, becoming cancerous.

This carcinogen is one of the top causes for lung cancer and the only known trigger of mesothelioma. ACMs are generally secure and cannot expose you to asbestos fibers through inhalation or ingestion unless they are open. If a product containing asbestos is broken, it is no longer safe to touch, carry, or disrupt.


These are just three possible hazards you may come in contact with in buildings and homes.

Regardless, you should hire a professional to protect yourself from exposure. Removing these toxins can alleviate any concerns. You can also swap out these hazardous materials and chemicals, with newer, more environmentally friendly, and healthier alternatives.

Mercury, polyvinyl chloride, and asbestos may all be beneficial and helpful to construction. However, the health effects outweigh the temporary improvements of using them, as they are not proven completely safe.

Health is non-negotiable and the quick fixes and easy solutions are no match for the long-lasting consequences of cancer, toxic organs, and permanent physical damage.


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