Everyone loves fall. The crisp, October air chills the lungs with each deep breath, a refreshing change after a hot summer. Coincidentally, Healthy Lung Month is nationally recognized every October as a reminder of how important it is to keep our lungs in top condition while raising awareness to common contaminants and environmental pollution. As global concerns rise over product safety and sustainability, adhesives and sealants producers have been busy creating safer and more environmentally friendly alternatives. With Healthy Lung Month under way, we thought it’d be a great time to share some information on past adhesive products and the present innovations that are transforming the industry.
Up until the 1980s, asbestos was a major component in various common products, including mastic adhesives. The strength of the heavy duty glue could hold almost anything together, its bind unphased by high heat and even fires due to the fire retardant properties of asbestos.
The miracle mineral did come at a major cost―a cost to the public’s health. The microscopic asbestos fibers present in adhesive were capable of becoming airborne during the production of the adhesive, as well as years later when the aged adhesive fell apart. With the damaged asbestos particles released into the air, it gives it the opportunity to enter the body and become lodged in certain parts. Most commonly it’s been known to become trapped in the lungs, abdomen, and heart linings, causing inflammation and developing into tumors, otherwise known as mesothelioma cancer. More than 75% of mesothelioma cases occur in the lungs, with an average life expectancy of about 1 year. While today’s sealants and adhesives do not contain the harmful carcinogen, a large number of older houses and buildings still contain the asbestos containing material. It’s crucial to get a professional asbestos inspection before undergoing any sort of renovation to a structure that may pose a risk to your lung health.
Formaldehyde isn’t just used to preserve frogs for dissection day in science class; the chemical resin is widely used to manufacture building materials, most commonly found in the wood panel industry, giving the wood finishes that glossy look and feel. Used for its rigidity and moisture resistance, formaldehyde preserves the building materials from the elements, ensuring a longer life for wood panels, cabinets, furniture, plywood etc. The greatest risk of adverse health effects involving formaldehyde exposure is during the manufacturing of the products. It’s during this process that the emissions reach the most dangerous levels. Proper ventilation is critical at this point, in order to prevent fatal levels of formaldehyde gas in the air. Unfortunately, any product’s formaldehyde-based resin continue to release the formaldehyde gas into the air and pose a health threat due to “off-gassing.” In high humidity, heating or disturbance instances, an increased level of formaldehyde is released from the resin and into the air. This can be especially harmful indoors, where the chemicals gases are released in closed spaces without much ventilation. Chemical gases and inhalation usually aren’t the best combination, and in this case, that’ especially true. Elevated levels of the toxic gas can lead to pulmonary edema―an accumulation of fluid in the lungs. With enough exposure, formic acid is produced in the body, leading to blood acidity, trouble breathing, hypothermia, and in the most severe cases coma or death. Protect against formaldehyde exposure by purchasing formaldehyde free products, or products that are certified as compliant with emission standards. Proper ventilation, air conditioning and dehumidifying are other measures that can be taken to slow the emission of formaldehyde products already present in a home or building.
Since its discovery in the 1930s, polyurethane has become a component in almost everything we use. Depending on the current density, flexibility and toughness of the compound, it can be used for a wide variety of things like: cushioning, car and truck seating, sofas, mattresses, thermal insulation, gel pads, print rollers and various footwear products … not to mention its solid form, which is used in hard plastics like automotive parts, and bendable plastics like backpack and watch straps. Since the discovery and use of isocyanates in polyurethane products, attention has turned to the potential harm of its fumes. Polyurethane exposure causes lung irritation, asthma attacks, lung infections, coughs and colds.
This month, reflect on the importance of a healthy pair of lungs. Become conscious of the hazards present in today’s manufactured world, and take the appropriate steps to reduce or replace daily items that may negatively affect our respiratory health.
Click here to view the Asbestos Awareness infographic.
Additional resource: Mesothelioma.net