Dust Mitigation During Construction & Demolition
Contractor's Environmental Handbook
For project owners, designers, managers, forepeople, supervisors, contractors, and equipment operators interested in minimizing dust & particulate matter emissions at project sites.
Best Practices for the Reduction of Air Emissions from Construction and Demolition
This handbook outlines best practices for the reduction of fugitive dust emissions during construction and demolition activities. This content has been adapted from the document ‘Best Practices for the Reduction of Air Emissions From Construction and Demolition Activities’, March 2005, prepared for Environment Canada. Refer to this document when clarification or further detail is needed.
What are construction activities?
Any on-site activities preparatory to or related to the building, alteration, rehabilitation or improvement of property, including, but not limited to the following activities: grading, excavation, trenching, loading, vehicular travel, crushing, blasting, cutting, planning, shaping, breaking, equipment staging/storage areas, weed abatement activities or adding or removing bulk materials from storage piles.
What are demolition activities?
The wrecking or taking out of any load-supporting structural member of a structure or building and related handling operations.
Why should these best practices be used?
There are significant health and environmental effects associated with emissions of particulate matter (PM) and other criteria air contaminants. Small airborne particulates with a diameter less than 10 microns (PM10), can be inhaled into the upper respiratory tract where heart and lungs can be affected. Particulate matter with a diameter or less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) can be inhaled and absorbed into cells and reach the bloodstream. This can have various negative health effects, especially on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Particulate matter increases respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing. People with heart or lung disease, children and older adults are particularly sensitive to this pollutant.Particulate matter permitted to pollute the environment can harm plants and animals directly and can impair habitat, food and water in which they need to survive.
There are 11 designated substances prescribed by the Ontario Ministry of Labour
A designated substance is a biological, chemical or physical component or combination considered hazardous and can pose a risk to workers or occupants during a planned renovation, demolition, or restoration project. Designated substances are particularly hazardous, especially when adequate controls are not in place to protect workers or occupants. They can cause cancers, strong allergic reactions, liver and lung problems, and effects on the nervous system. Some projects may therefore be subject to additional regulatory requirements. Contact the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) office to inquire if additional permits are required.
Most common designated substances found in residential & other types of buildings:
- Coke Oven Emissions
- Ethylene Oxide
- Vinyl Chloride
Other materials or conditions that are considered as hazardous:
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
- Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI)
Designated Substances in common building materials or locations
|Designated Substance||Medium or Location Found in|
|ASBESTOS (other names include chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite)||Insulation (boiler, pipe, and sprayed on/fire-stop/fireproofing materials), Transite pipe or panels, Loose-fill vermiculite as attic or block insulation, Wallboard, Asphalt, Adhesives and caulking, Ceiling tiles, Vinyl floor tiles and sheet flooring, Gaskets, Drywall joint-filling compound, Plaster (smooth, texture, stipple), Roofing shingles and felts|
|LEAD||Old paint (homes built before 1960 and if built between 1960 and 1990, the exterior may contain lead-based paint), Old mortar, Old water pipes, Lead sheeting (radiation or sound control)|
|SILICA (other names include quartz, tridymite, cristobalite)||Brick/block, Granite, Abrasives used for blasting, Concrete, Sandstone, Cement, Mortar|
|ISOCYANATES||Fresh polyurethane spray foam insulation, Sealants, Rock support in underground mining, Paint shops and auto-body repair, Finishes, Adhesives|
|MERCURY||Fluorescent lights, Switches, Contamination in laboratory drains, Pressure gauges, Electrodes|
|ARSENIC||Wood preservatives, Smelters, Glass production|
|COKE OVEN EMISSIONS, BENZENE, ACRYLONITRILE, VINYL CHLORIDE, ETHYLENE OXIDE||Chemicals that are typically used in, or are by-products of, manufacturing facilities and health-care settings.|
Source: Infrastructure Health and Safety Association
Health risks and how to reduce your exposure to the most common designated substances
|Designated Substance||Health Risks||How to Reduce Risk of Exposure|
|ASBESTOS||Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause cancer and other diseases, such as: Asbestosis - a scarring of the lungs, which makes it difficult to breathe, Mesothelioma - a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity, Lung cancer - people who smoke can be at a greatly increased risk.||Hire a professional to test for asbestos when undertaking a home renovation, an addition or demolition. If asbestos is found, hire a qualified asbestos removal specialist to get rid of it before beginning work. Avoid disturbing asbestos material yourself.|
|LEAD||Exposure to lead is associated with harmful effects on the brain, heart, and kidneys, and to reproduction.||If you think the paint in your building may contain lead, have it tested. If you have lead-based paint in good condition, it is best to leave it alone, paint over it, or cover it with wallpaper, wallboard or paneling. If the lead-based paint is chipping, cracking, peeling or flaking, use a chemical paint stripper and don’t use sanders, heat guns or blowlaps to remove paint in older buildings.|
|SILICA||Inhaling crystalline silica can lead to serious, sometimes fatal illnesses including: Silicosis, Lung cancer, Tuberculosis (in those with silicosis) or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).||Prevent the dust from becoming airborne by using engineering controls to reduce exposures. Water can be used to suppress the dust and vacuums can be used to capture it at the source. When water or vacuums are not feasible, or if the exposures are still high even with these controls, a NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety) approved respirator should be used; however, respirators won’t protect those working close by. Other ways to reduce or eliminate exposures include using different materials, such as aluminum oxide instead of sand for abrasive blasting, or using work practices that help minimize dust.|
|MERCURY||Mercury can be absorbed through your skin as a liquid, or inhaled as a vapour. The health effects appear to be the same for both types of exposure. Repeated, long-term exposure to mercury can cause: Kidney damage, Central nervous system, problems (stupor, tremors, nervousness), Vision and hearing changes, Hearing loss or Cognitive and behavioral abnormalities||Use appropriate PPE such as chemical safety goggles, a face shield, protective clothing such as gloves, and a respirator. Do not use mercury where it could contact a hot surface and vaporize. Avoid inhaling mercury vapour. Put mercury waste in a special waste container, do not combine it with other wastes and do not dispose of it down a sink.|
Other benefits to reducing PM/dust and other pollutant emissions include:
- Improved health benefits for workers (i.e. reduced risk of developing respiratory illnesses, breathing problems, irritation of the nose and throat, and dermatitis)
- Dust control safeguards enhance efficiency with a cleaner, safer work environment thus increasing productivity
- Reduction in lost-time incidents for employees
- Improved corporate/company image
- Avoid involvement with regulators
- Development and transfer/sale of knowledge and technology
This handbook describes technologies and work practices that can reduce emissions associated with construction and demolition activities. Proponents should consider the economic, environmental and technical circumstances with an emphasis on worker safety when choosing the elements of this document that best suit the unique features of each project, with the goal of eliminating off-site dust emissions whenever possible.
Environmental Management Plan
Every construction and demolition project should have a site-specific environmental management plan (EMP) before work begins. The plan will organize and document features of the project as they relate to communities and ecosystems, and note baseline conditions and sensitive receptors
that need protection.