Avoid these Dangerous Building Materials

When building any type of structure, there are countless materials to choose from. Unfortunately, some very common building materials are surprisingly dangerous. Using the wrong types of building materials can end up harming the inhabitants or creating a structurally unsound building that will cost extra to repair. Whether you are constructing a new building or considering buying a property, make sure you avoid these dangerous materials as it might affect indoor air quality.


Until the 1980s, this was a frequent construction material due to its fireproof qualities. In addition to being found in older buildings, asbestos can still end up in imported materials from countries with less quality control. Be on the lookout for asbestos in insulation, vinyl tiling, pipe covers, certain caulking compounds, plaster, and adhesives. Asbestos irritates the respiratory system, causing damage that can lead to years of breathing problems or cancer.

Polyvinyl Chloride

PVC is a favorite of construction companies because it is affordable, lightweight, and strong. It can frequently be found in pipes, gutters, vinyl tiling, doors, window frames, moulding, and electrical insulation. Unfortunately, PVC contains dioxins and phthalates that are classified carcinogens. These materials are typically only released during production and destruction of PVC, but using the material leads to more carcinogens being released in the environment. There is also some concern that harmful toxins might be released and affect inhabitants during fires.


Silica is a naturally occurring substance commonly found in types of stone. It is incredibly common in cement, concrete, brick mortar, and sandstone. Though silica is relatively harmless inside of other materials, any activity that demolishes, cuts, or grinds these types of natural stone can throw silica into the air. Breathing in silica repeatedly can lead to silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or even lung cancer. It is possible to modify construction techniques to reduce the amount of silica used, but it is easier and safer to switch to using better materials that are silica free.


This material might not be quite as common in modern times, but it is still found in a lot of historical buildings or in certain fixtures of construction. Lead is frequently in plumbing pipes, solder, connectors, fasteners, and flashings. Lead exposure builds up in the body over time, destroying the nervous system and some organs. Whenever possible, lead should be removed from a building.


Fiberglass is commonly found in roofing and walls because it is a type of insulation. Cutting and installing this material leads to a type of dust that can be inhaled by workers. Using fiberglass puts a construction crew at risk of developing asthma, bronchitis, or eye and skin conditions.

Wood Preservatives

Even certain types of wood can be harmful because they are treated with creosote, arsenic compounds, or pentachlorophenol. These types of treatments make wood last longer, but they have been linked to cancer, immune system disorders, and kidney problems. Try to select woods treated with safer compounds if you wish to use wood. More tips on keeping your home safe.


Some building materials might contain radon, a radioactive substance often found in concrete and other building materials used before 1960s. If you have a house built before this date and with a basement you should measure the radon levels in your home. Radon is a toxic substance that causes lung cancer. There are several ways of testing radon but the most reliable ones are short or long term testing using trace film. Several companies like Radonova is using this method successfully. With their test kits you can measure radon in both apartments and houses with Radtrack or Rapidos.

Sometimes its also important to measure radon levels in water. More info on how to check your indoor water be found here.

Radon is a bigger problem in northern countries like Sweden Norway, England and Denmark but can also be found in the rest of the Europe.

For more information about radon in Europe visit this link: http://radoneurope.org