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The 9 Most Dangerous Common Building Materials (Part 2)
Posted by David Cant on September 29, 2014

The 9 Most Dangerous Common Building Materials (Part 2)

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)Here’s the second part of our guide to the 9 most common dangerous materials you’ll find on building sites around the UK.

For part one of the guide, detailing the first 4 – asbestos, silica, lead, and Polychlorinated biphenyls – go here

We don’t mean to be a scare-monger! But to be aware, prepared and safe, it’s worth knowing these materials and how to deal with them. So here are the final five;

  1. Glass Fiber

You’ll find glass fiber in insulation, and often as reinforcement in plastics. When it’s made or handled carelessly it can release what are called ‘continuous filament glass fibres’ into the air, which when breathed in can reach the lower lungs and cause quite a bit of damage – irritation in the short run, and even lung disease in the long run. Also irritating workers’ eyes and skin.

Workers are most at risk when cutting, cleaning or discharging containers. To knock down the chances of harm from glass fibre, make sure any such materials are handled with care. And wear gloves, long sleeves, long legged trousers, respiratory masks. And you can measure the fibres in the air, to know if they’re getting too high.

  1. Mineral Wool

Very similar to glass fibre, mineral wool is an irritant to the eyes, skin and lungs. It’s also found in insulation and is often used as reinforcement to vinyl composition floor tiles.

You should take the same care with this substance as glass fibre, and be aware that mineral wool also sometimes contains silica and asbestos too. So handle with care!

  1. Cadmium

This very common silver-white metal is used as a rust inhibitor and in paints. It’s often alloyed with copper and other metals for fire protection systems, solders and electrical cables. It’s in many pigments for plastics, glasses and ceramics and as protective plating on steel. So you can see it gets around!

The danger with cadmium comes mainly when you breathe in fumes which contain it. When it is heated, which is common while working with it. Also, if you get it on your hands when eating, drinking or smoking.

Cadmium can lead to all sorts of soreness and irritation to your eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Creating dizziness, headaches, chills, chest pains and more. And a lot of exposure can even cause serious lung damage, even cancer.

Minimize contact and use of this nasty customer as much as possible.

  1. Asphalt in Some Uses

When asphalt is used in adhesives, as a sealant, or in roofing materials, and is heated, the fumes are as dangerous as with cadium, with similar symptoms and health risks. Also one to watch out for.

  1. Radioactive Isotopes

And the last one is a radiation risk. It might sound far-fetched, but radioactive isotopes used in ionization-type smoke detectors and fluorescent lamps cause damage to workers’ health across the UK! They emit radioactive particles as they decay, and a lot of exposure can lead to cancer, radiation poisoning and other illnesses.

Best be aware of it and reduce the number of these items of equipment if at all possible.

And there you have all 9 of the most common dangerous materials on building sites.

Let’s keep them well-handled and our workers safe!

Do you have any questions about the list?

Do you think we’ve missed anything out?

Comment and let me know!

If you are interested in what we said in Part 1 it’s right here


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

You can find him across Social media - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Blog


  1. john
    September 30, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Is 7 actually Cadmium?

    • September 30, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      Yes It certainly is…well spotted John. is Cadium such a thing.. one would ask

  2. Marcin
    May 5, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    How about isocyanide? All resin coatings contain large concentrations of that nastiness

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