Steps to Reduce Exposure
In a nutshell, the best way to reduce or eliminate
exposure to VOCs is to eliminate the source of the contaminant. When renovating
it is possible to choose materials, finishes and furnishings that do not emit
VOCs -- simply ask a few questions about the presence of VOC emitting substances
before you make decisions about materials and products, and choose alternatives
that do not emit VOCs. It is now possible to buy non-toxic grout and caulk, paint,
wallpaper adhesives, and floor and wood finishes. See our PROVIDER DIRECTORY for
sources of no-VOC and low-VOC materials. Make it a priority to avoid products
(paint strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol spray paints) that contain methylene
chloride and benzene. Never mix household cleaning products.
completely avoiding products that emit VOCs, ventilation is the name of the game.
If a substance you are using contains VOCs, meet or exceed the manufacturer’s
instructions and label precautions regardng handling and ventilation. Do not store
opened containers of unused paints and similar materials, don’t buy larger
quantities than you need and, because VOCs can escape from sealed containers,
safely dispose of any unused substances but be sure to do so when your garbage
collection service deals with toxic substances. Eliminate, by removal or sealing,
existing sources of formaldehyde and don’t introduce new ones. Secondhand
Simple: Don't smoke at home or permit others to do
so. Ask smokers to smoke outdoors.
If smoking indoors cannot be avoided,
increase ventilation in the area where smoking takes place by opening windows
or using exhaust fans – this will have an adverse affect on your energy
Do not smoke around children, particularly infants and toddlers.
In addition to
the measures noted above, keep in mind that “exterior-grade" pressed wood
products emit lower levels of formaldehyde because they contain phenol resins,
not urea resins. Also, the amount of formaldehyde that is released can depend
on heat and humidity, so controlling the indoor climate to moderate heat and humidity
levels can cut down on emissions from pre-existing sources; be sure to regularly
empty and clean humidifier collection pans to prevent them from becoming a breeding
ground for biological
. Sealing surfaces with a non-formaldehyde-emitting sealant may
also help for a period of time but be sure to seal every surface and edge.
Lead and Dust Particulate Matter Reduction During
Many houses and apartments built before
1978 have paint that contains lead. Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase
the danger to your family. If your project involves removing paint, sanding, patching,
scraping, or tearing down walls or any other job that may require you to break
through a painted surface (like replacing windows or doors, moldings, plumbing
fixtures, heating and ventilation duct work, or electrical systems) then you may
risk releasing lead dust or fumes.
First, determine if you have any
lead paint. Areas that get a lot of wear and tear, such as windows and doors,
pose the greatest risk because the paint will deteriorate faster due to the friction
of surfaces rubbing against each other, and the lead can become airborne each
time the painted surface is moved. A “paint inspection” will tell
you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your home,
but won’t analyze whether it poses a risk. A “risk assessment”
will tell you if you are currently subject to any sources of lead exposure and
what to do to mitigate the risk. Lead inspectors trained and certified by the
EPA or the state conduct visual inspections, use an x-ray fluorescence machine
that measures the amount of lead in paint, and send paint samples to a lab for
testing and test dust. Home test kits may not be reliable and the EPA recommends
that homeowners not rely on them before doing renovations. To find a certified
lead professional see The New
York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
website which has a comprehensive
list of information resources on lead. The
website has listings for lead contractors in New
York City and nationwide. Or call the EPA at 1-(888) LEADLIST.
rule is to never dry sand, dry scrape or use a heat gun or propane torch to remove
leaded paint because these activities can release lead dust and fumes that can
remain in the house long after the renovation is completed. If possible, the EPA
recommends that you move out while demolition work is being done, particularly
if you have children under 6 or are pregnant, and that you don’t return
until the area has been thoroughly cleaned, however cleaning itself may not be
enough unless you have thoroughly sealed all airducts, vents etc. before the work
was done. Lead dust can come to rest out of your reach.
the risk of lead exposure during renovation is thoroughly dealt with in the EPA
booklet entitled "Reducing
Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home
". This brochure explains what to do
before, during, and after renovations and includes very clear instructions about
the precautions summarized below. Most are very easy to implement, common sense
precautions and make sense when doing a renovation whether or not there is a lead
hazard because they are extremely effective in reducing the level of dust that
gets into the non-work areas of the house. The procedures involve the use of relatively
inexpensive materials (plastic, tape, respirators that are readily accessible
at hardware stores, overalls, buckets, cleaning products) and a bit of extra time
setting up the work area, but the result in protecting the rest of your home from
dust can be tremendous.
Also refer to the EPA’s guidelines “Lead
Paint Safety, A Field Guide for Painting, Home Maintenance, and Renovation Work
for excellent step-by-step work procedures.
Before you start the work:
• Remove furniture, area rugs, curtains, food and clothing.
Cover the floor and furnishings that can’t be removed (counters, shelving
etc.) with a layer of 6 mils or higher polyethylene plastic sheeting. Cover all
openings, air ducts and gaps around pipes, with plastic and duct tape.
Create an air seal with plastic over the doorway in and out of which workers will
travel to the work area.
• Turn off forced-air heating and air
conditioning systems during renovation and remodeling and seal all vents with
plastic and duct tape. Keep windows closed unless you are using volatile chemicals
and need ventilation – eliminate this complication by choosing no-VOC options.
Refer to the pamphlets for detailed instructions on what to do during the work,
which includes taking the following precautions:
• Clean dust with
a HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner
• Use NIOSH certified respirators equipped
with HEPA filters (always purple)
• Wear, and isolate from other household
laundry, protective clothing. Leave contaminated shoes in the work area or wash
them including the soles (a pan of water for dipping your feet and a towel can
work), before leaving the area, and remove contaminated clothing and keep it sealed
until it can be washed separately
• Use wet sanding equipment and spray
bottles to minimize dust and prevent it from spreading.
• Work on small,
contained areas at a time and completely clean up before moving on.
Use all-purpose cleaners or those designed to clean up lead dust, for washing
surfaces and equipment etc., and dispose of all contaminated waste water down
• Refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in the work
area, and implement the personal clean-up precautions of showering and washing
your hair as soon as possible.
The booklet also describes procedures
for working outdoors, for preparing walls for wallpapering, removing carpeting,
floor refinishing, replacing windows and cleaning up lead waste.
addition, it is possible to buy dust wall kits for building a kind of vestibule
around doorways for creating a dust barrier. The kits consist of spring-loaded
poles that hold themselves up between wall and ceiling, to which plastic can be
attached in order to build plastic walls. Also, by installing a fan in a
window to direct air to the outside, preferably with a HEPA filter to remove particulate
matter and potential hazardous substances like lead dust from the outgoing air
stream, you can remove dust from the work area and create a negative pressure
in the work area that also helps keep the dust from traveling to other parts of