Chemical safety for Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects and renovations

Whether you own or rent, renovations and DIY projects are a great way to make a house a home. Some projects can expose you or others to harmful chemicals and pollutants. Before starting any DIY project, make sure you're aware of how to keep you and your family safe.

Follow instructions carefully

Follow all safety, usage, and disposal instructions every time you use a household chemical product. Look for hazard symbols on the front of the product. If you don't already know what these symbols mean, learn them. If you follow the instructions, you could prevent an injury or save a life.

Wear protective gear

Protective gear may include gloves, a proper breathing mask, and safety glasses. Some DIY projects will require that you wear protective clothing, steel-toed boots, hard-hats, and other items. Product labels will provide more detailed information on any additional safety equipment you should wear.

Let in fresh, clean air

Keep your work areas well ventilated. This is especially important when refinishing furniture, using paints, varnishes, glues, and adhesives, or other renovation projects which may create dust or release chemical fumes. Open windows and doors, run your exhaust fans, and work outdoors, if possible.

Take care with composite wood products

Composite wood products, such as plywood and particleboard, are made of wood pieces or fibres bonded together with glue. Glues in composite wood products can contain formaldehyde. If you're buying something made of composite wood, such as furniture, cabinets, countertops or flooring, check the label. Look for statements such as, California 93120 Phase 2 Compliant for Formaldehyde, Product in compliance with TSCA Title VI, Certified to CAN/CSA-O160, or Complies with CAN/CSA-O160. Products with these labels have reduced emissions of formaldehyde.

Health Canada is developing regulations that will target formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products.

If available, purchase low-emitting products or products with plastic laminate or coating on all sides. Always ensure you have plenty of ventilation when working with composite wood.

Ask retailers, vendors, and manufacturers to help you buy the safest items.

Learn how formaldehyde can impact your health.

Use low-emission products

Paint or varnish products often have a noticeable smell. The odour comes from emissions that will contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some household chemical products that are labelled as "low emission" give off fewer VOCs. Read the label and use products that are low in VOCs.

Prevent exposure to asbestos

Asbestos can be found in older insulation, cement, plaster, floor and ceiling tiles, house siding, and automobile parts. When renovating or demolishing parts of your home (sanding, drilling, sawing, or breaking apart material), you can release these fibres into the air. Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause serious health risks, including cancer. Before doing any renovations, have a professional test for asbestos. If it's found, always hire a qualified asbestos removal specialist to get rid of it before work starts. Do not disturb an area containing asbestos, and never try to remove asbestos yourself.

Check for lead-based paint

If your home was built before 1991, it may contain lead-based paint. Find out how to determine if your home contains lead-based paint and how you can reduce your risk.

Keep children, pregnant women, and seniors away

Do not let children near your tools, supplies, or the work site itself. Children are naturally curious, so always keep paints, adhesives, and chemical substances locked away and out of sight.

Children, pregnant women, and seniors may be at greater risk to the health effects of exposure to chemicals. When renovating, it is recommended that children, expecting mothers and elderly people are not present.

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