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DIY Techniques are Found to be Less Productive

Aug 27, 2015 06:11 PM EDT

Reduce, reuse and recycle have been drilled into our heads since climate change became recognized as a global problem, escalated by human activities. However, DIY enthusiasts who have taken reducing their carbon footprint seriously may be risking their health, according to a release.

Scientists at the University of Surrey found that breathing in harmful, ultrafine particles produced from activities such as drilling can cause cardiovascular and respiratory-system related diseases. This is because the ultrafine particles inhaled penetrate deeper into one's lungs. Their study, recently published in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research, showed that such particles reach up to 4000 times local background levels when building activities are performed. They also found that the greatest ultrafine particle emissions occurred during wall chasing, which is when grooves are cut into a wall using an electrical tool, for example, to lay electrical cables.

"There has been an increase in refurbishment work in the U.K., with a much greater focus on improving existing buildings rather than constructing new ones. The market for DIY refurbishment is also growing, as people try to add value to their homes rather than move," explained the researchers in a statement.

The team also discovered that ultrafine particles from building work travel for longer distances, compared to their larger-sized counterparts; resulting in exposure not only to on-site workers, but also to passers-by and occupants of nearby buildings. To suppress the dust released, the team found that water sprays work well.

"While this focus on renewing rather than replacing is great for sustainability, it is less positive for those working in and around these sites. With the potential to breathe in harmful dust particles including silicon, copper and aluminum, our research shows that we need more regulatory guidelines, not only to protect construction workers, but also to protect the general public," explained the scientists in the release. They encourage people working on building projects to always err on the side of caution and wear face masks because some of most harmful particles are invisible and one's health can never be underestimated.

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