Avoiding Toxins From The Floor Sanding Process
Floor sanding has its fair share of perils. In fact, they are some of the most numerous in the floor care process. With all the power tools being handled, the electrical hook-ups, heavy machinery requiring lots of muscle to move around, to the actual dangers of the process- which includes damage to the wood, the machinery being used and injury to the personnel involved- there is plenty that can go wrong. However, there is more to this that what catches the eye: the toxins that are in the sanding dust.
A cocktail of health risks
Floors are treated with different products. Wood stains that give a characteristic colour to the installation, sealants that increase ability of the structure to withstand moisture, preventing spills from being readily absorbed into the floor- thus buying you more time to clean them up, to lacquers and varnishes to enhance durability of the surface and deliver that desired gloss level for aesthetic effect. Whichever has been applied onto your installation, its role is suited when it is on the floor itself- not when it’s mixed up with the dust and gets airborne. Once this happens, it becomes a health risk. Inhaling those solvents and chemicals that made up the finish coats will put the affected person at risk of a wide range of effects. Toxins that affect body organs and systems, carcinogens that lead to long term effects- these are not issues that you want the occupants of the building being exposed to.
In some cases, there are lead and asbestos in the floor, especially when dealing with older homes. The older floor varnishes also come with lead, given that before the 1970s it was used in most of the clear coats that had drying agents like lead acetate. While there are installations that have lead amounts that are within the acceptable levels in parts per million, the sanding process can generate such high amounts that the required clearance levels are surpassed. Homeowners have a moral obligation to notify the contractors about the possible exposure of such toxins- especially exposure to either lead or asbestos. When workers are exposed to the lead- like through inhalation of lead-containing dust, it will lead to an assortment of health risks- especially with overexposure. Even kids are at risk, should the interior space be left covered in such dust, given that they have a tendency to get their hands on the different surfaces and put the hands into their mouths.
The dust itself is by nature an allergen, causing issues like eye and skin irritation, dermatitis, irritation of the respiratory system- from the nose to the throat and airways, to issues like reduced lung function- which is caused when the fine dust particles make their way into the lungs and scar the tissue. The longer the exposure, the more the damage that’s made. There are cases where the dust gets into the vents and ducts, and get recirculated into the airspace for months later. This reduces the quality of the indoor air. Increased cases of coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, asthma attacks- these are not the conditions you want for the occupants of the building.
Taking an accurate history
When the site visit is being conducted, the contractors will have an array of questions for the homeowner. Noting when the floor was last sanded can give an indication of whether or not it contains substances like lead. The older the varnish that had been applied, the more likely that it contains lead substances- especially for the really old installations. Ensuring that you give accurate response for this is key, for them to assess the threat level that is posed, so that they know what exactly they are dealing with. In some rare cases, when there is suspected to be high concentrations of hazardous substances in the floor, a sample can be scraped off and sent for testing to the appropriate health departments. Many homeowners gladly foot this additional cost, in order to have peace of mind. The checks are to ascertain if the lead is within the permissible limits. Standards vary based on the jurisdiction.
Controlling the dust generated
There isn’t anything like safe dust- whether it’s the varnish that is ground off the floor surface, or the wood itself. When it spreads around the house, a mess is created, and it also becomes a nuisance for the occupants of the building. Those fine particles that float around increase the level of risk involved. For young children, there is the additional risk of them ingesting the dust that gets left behind on the furniture and other surfaces. Since the sanding is carried out at the start of the floor renovation project, any delays at this point will be a major hinderance, resulting the project taking much longer than anticipated. You wouldn’t want everything grinding to a halt because of a monstrous clean up job that is necessitated by the dust generated in the process. So, what is done to contain it?
Dustless floor sanding comes in to ensure that over 99% of the dust from the process is captured and safely got rid of before it gets a chance to escape into the environment. Here, powerful vacuums are attached to the sanding machinery, with the suction involved directing the dust particles through the system of hoses, out to the containment units. Both coarse and fine sanding dust particles are got rid of, making the process much safer to both the contractors and the occupants of the building. Risks of fire incidences are drastically reduced with this approach. It also has the welcome benefit of reducing the cleaning workload that would be required later on, and also speeding up the floor renovation project since you get to move on to the refinishing stage much sooner. The sanding crew are also protected by adorning the appropriate safety gear, including quality respirators. All this is in line with enhancing the efficacy of the project, meeting your needs as the client, while meeting industry standards on workplace safety.