Home Repair and Building Materials
Safer building materials for the home
Why be Concerned?
- Many products used in home repair and remodeling contain hazardous solvents: e.g. oil-based paints, paint thinners, paint removers, stains, wood preservatives, and many adhesives. Inhalation of solvents can be hazardous, especially in poorly ventilated areas or over long periods of time.
- Some building materials such as interior plywood, particle board, and some carpeting emit hazardous gases after installation.
- Lead and asbestos in older homes can be disturbed and spread around the home during remodeling activities. Lead impairs a child's IQ and ability to learn. Asbestos lodges in the lungs and can cause lung cancer.
- The production of vinyl (PVC) for siding, window and door frames, plumbing, shower curtains, and many other household items releases dioxins and other highly toxic chemicals into the environment. These materials are also extremely toxic if they burn. PVC may contain lead, phthalates, and other toxic additives.
What You Can Do
- Choose safer products, such as water-based (latex) paints and coatings: read tips from the Pollution in People website and 5 Steps to a Healthy Nursery or Child's Room.
- Read our fact sheets to learn more (see list below).
- Support Washington Toxics Coalition.
- Sign up for our email alerts.
Read our Fact Sheets and Pages on Home Repair
- Paints, Solvents, and Wood Preservatives (36kb PDF file)
- Reducing Exposure to Lead in Older Homes (42kb PDF file)
- Vinyl Exam: Eliminating PVC in your Home (88kb PDF file)
- Treated Wood: Hazards and Alternatives
- Buy least-toxic building materials (EcoHaus)
- What you should know about asbestos (Puget Sound Clean Air Agency)
- Protect your child from lead poisoning (US EPA)
- Why PVC is a problem and what you can do about it (Healthy Building Network)
- Formaldehyde and Wood (Healthy Building Network)
- BuildingGreen: publisher of Environmental Building News and other publications
- More resources from the Sound Home Resource Center
Although local regulations vary, generally paints, solvents, glues, and other chemicals used in home construction and maintenance are considered hazardous waste once they are no longer needed. They need to be disposed of at a hazardous waste collection site. Paint and glues that have dried to a solid form may be disposable as solid waste; check with your local solid waste utility or health department. Click here for information about disposal of household hazardous waste in your community.
Still Can't Find the Information You Need?
See our Toxics Hotline page for tips on navigating our website and how to contact us to get more information.