Your home and your lungs

Building materials and air quality

The most significant building material with lung health risks is asbestos, which is now banned in the UK.

Before its dangers were known, asbestos was often used in buildings for insulation, flooring and roofing and sprayed on ceilings and walls. If you breathe in asbestos fibres, it could lead to lung diseases decades later.

What should I do if there's asbestos in my home?

If you find there is asbestos in your home, make sure it remains undisturbed. If it is damaged, get it removed by accredited professionals.

Fibreglass and other synthetic mineral fibre products can release fibres when trimmed, cut or sanded. Larger fibres could irritate your nose and throat. If you discover fibreglass in your home, do not disturb it. If you come into contact with it, wear a mask and protective clothing.

Building materials can also contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These include roofing and flooring materials, insulation, cement, coating materials, heating equipment, soundproofing, plastics, glue and plywood.

Which are the safest building materials?

You might consider using building materials with low emissions. Look for products and materials that show they are environmentally friendly and low in pollutants and emissions. You can find sustainable products at www.natureplus.org or on the website of The Alliance for Sustainable Building Products

If you - or people working in your home - use materials that you believe trigger your symptoms, keep your home well ventilated during the building work and for a few days afterwards. You might want to move out while the work is going on.

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Last medically reviewed: September 2015. Due for review: September 2018

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.