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close this bookBuilding Materials and Health (UNCHS/HABITAT; 1997; 74 pages)
View the documentABBREVIATIONS
View the documentFOREWORD
View the documentINTRODUCTION
Open this folder and view contentsI. HEALTH HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH BUILDING MATERIALS
View the documentII. CONTROLLING HEALTH HAZARDS: PROBLEMS AND ISSUES
close this folderIII. A STRATEGY FOR THE CONTROL OF HEALTH HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH BUILDING MATERIALS
View the documentA. Principles
View the documentB. The role of the building industry
View the documentC. The role of research and professional organizations
View the documentD. The role of national governments
View the documentE. International action
View the documentANNEX
View the documentREFERENCES
 

A. Principles

Health hazards associated with building materials are risks to good health as they adversely affect the “state of complete physical and mental, well-being” of an individual. Control of such hazards is a risk management exercise which involves: risk identification, which requires awareness of the existence of the hazard; risk analysis, which involves analysis of the hazard - the chances of it occurring, and the range of consequences which can result if the hazard should occur; and risk handling, which concerns what to do about the risk, and includes avoidance, prevention, protection, transfer (insurance), or just acceptance of the risk. Both hazard identification and risk analysis are mainly exercised through toxicological research and epidemiological research and are basically outside the domain of the key actors in the building industry. Manufacturers of building materials, architects, engineers, builders and contractors, and building users are recipients of information about health hazards - they are not the originators of such information per se. Their main area of influence is at the risk handling stage. It is not intended to propose, in this document, a specific approach for the control of each of the building materials-related health hazards discussed. The significance of the hazard in relation to other environmental and health hazards, the cost and availability of substitutes, the likely impact of the various means of control available, and the desirability of the proposed change will all vary from country to country, and these factors will influence the appropriate strategy to be adopted. However, the following general health risk handling approach is recommended:

 

• Avoidance: Hazardous materials and processes should be phased out in favour of safer alternatives;

• Prevention: In cases where phasing out is not possible and there are no safer options, then hazardous exposure levels should be contained through engineering measures;

• Protection: Those at risk should be protected by the use of protective equipment, application of safe work practices, provision of medical services and training programmes;

• Transfer: In certain circumstances, health insurance policies can be arranged to cover those at risk; and

• Acceptance: Where mitigation of risk is not feasible, the risk may have to be accepted and monitored.

The success of these measures require the coordinated action of the industry, governments, and international agencies to ensure that the problems of human health related to building materials and the built-environment are linked to the Global Strategy for Shelter within the framework of Sustainable Development. Possible lines of actions for different actors are hereinafter outlined.

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