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Pollution From Construction

By: Jennifer Gray - Updated: 15 Nov 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Construction Pollution Particulate

The construction industry is a major source of pollution, responsible for around 4% of particulate emissions, more water pollution incidents than any other industry, and thousands of noise complaints every year. Although construction activities also pollute the soil, the main areas of concern are: air, water and noise pollution.

Air Pollution

Construction activities that contribute to air pollution include: land clearing, operation of diesel engines, demolition, burning, and working with toxic materials. All construction sites generate high levels of dust (typically from concrete, cement, wood, stone, silica) and this can carry for large distances over a long period of time. Construction dust is classified as PM10 - particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter, invisible to the naked eye.

Research has shown that PM10 penetrate deeply into the lungs and cause a wide range of health problems including respiratory illness, asthma, bronchitis and even cancer. Another major source of PM10 on construction sites comes from the diesel engine exhausts of vehicles and heavy equipment. This is known as diesel particulate matter (DPM) and consists of soot, sulphates and silicates, all of which readily combine with other toxins in the atmosphere, increasing the health risks of particle inhalation.

Diesel is also responsible for emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide. Noxious vapours from oils, glues, thinners, paints, treated woods, plastics, cleaners and other hazardous chemicals that are widely used on construction sites, also contribute to air pollution.

Water Pollution

Sources of water pollution on building sites include: diesel and oil; paint, solvents, cleaners and other harmful chemicals; and construction debris and dirt. When land is cleared it causes soil erosion that leads to silt-bearing run-off and sediment pollution. Silt and soil that runs into natural waterways turns them turbid, which restricts sunlight filtration and destroys aquatic life.

Surface water run-off also carries other pollutants from the site, such as diesel and oil, toxic chemicals, and building materials like cement. When these substances get into waterways they poison water life and any animal that drinks from them. Pollutants on construction sites can also soak into the groundwater, a source of human drinking water. Once contaminated, groundwater is much more difficult to treat than surface water.

Noise Pollution

Construction sites produce a lot of noise, mainly from vehicles, heavy equipment and machinery, but also from people shouting and radios turned up too loud. Excessive noise is not only annoying and distracting, but can lead to hearing loss, high blood pressure, sleep disturbance and extreme stress. Research has shown that high noise levels disturb the natural cycles of animals and reduces their usable habitat.

Measures to Prevent Pollution

Good construction site practice can help to control and prevent pollution. The first step is to prepare environmental risk assessments for all construction activities and materials likely to cause pollution. Specific measures can then be taken to mitigate these risks:
  • To prevent erosion and run-off, minimise land disturbance and leave maximum vegetation cover.
  • Control dust through fine water sprays used to dampen down the site.
  • Screen the whole site to stop dust spreading, or alternatively, place fine mesh screening close to the dust source.
  • Cover skips and trucks loaded with construction materials and continually damp down with low levels of water.
  • Cover piles of building materials like cement, sand and other powders, regularly inspect for spillages, and locate them where they will not be washed into waterways or drainage areas.
  • Use non-toxic paints, solvents and other hazardous materials wherever possible
  • Segregate, tightly cover and monitor toxic substances to prevent spills and possible site contamination.
  • Cover up and protect all drains on site .
  • Collect any wastewater generated from site activities in settlement tanks, screen, discharge the clean water, and dispose of remaining sludge according to environmental regulations.
  • Use low sulphur diesel oil in all vehicle and equipment engines, and incorporate the latest specifications of particulate filters and catalytic converters.
  • No burning of materials on site.
  • Reduce noise pollution through careful handling of materials; modern, quiet power tools, equipment and generators; low impact technologies; and wall structures as sound shields.

Pressure to Clean Up

The UK Environment Agency and other government bodies are putting increasing pressure on construction companies to reduce pollution and conform to environmental regulations. In the past the pollution fines have been low and environmental regulations slack, and it could have been perceived as cheaper to pollute than to prevent pollution. This situation is now changing, and enforcement of environmental regulations is not only very expensive but can be irreversibly damaging to the reputation of a firm. Measures to reduce and control pollution are relatively inexpensive and cost-effective, and the construction industry needs to incorporate these into an environmental management strategy. By employing these practices, the construction industry is well positioned to clean up its act. Find out more about ecofriendly construction methods.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi. Good day to the editor of Sustainable Build. Hope you're doing fine. I'm Romalyn. I'm a writer and I’m learning a lot from your site. Hope I can share insights to your audience. Can I send an article for guest posting? Hope you can consider. Sincerest of appreciation and all the best, Romalyn
Lyn - 15-Nov-18 @ 6:08 AM
Very useful information, but i would love to know the sources of the pollution rates information, shown at the begining. And what is the scope of these results... are global or only in UK, thank you!
Alessandro Aroni - 6-Nov-18 @ 4:04 AM
This site is so helpful. All this informations available here is so much clear and easily understandable. I came to know many new things from here. Thank you so much.
Gyandash - 15-Aug-18 @ 5:29 PM
Thanks i have got more in learning skill on pollution ,in this website .
doctor - 14-Mar-18 @ 10:46 AM
stop building it causes pollution and its damaging our earth
koa - 1-Mar-18 @ 8:53 PM
Ashwin - Your Question:
Hi,here I am sharing my story and asking for legal advice or remedy.I am presently living in flat on fourth floor and on rent in apartment.The building was constructed 6-7 years ago.But now, there is construction of flats is going on for 5th and 6th floor.I don't know whether it is legal or illegal.Some flat owners i.e residents gave permission to that.Actually, my family is facing trouble due to air pollution,lot of cement in air,penetration of water through the roof , noise pollution and what not.As we are living on the fourth floor,this construction troubles most to us only.The other flat owner residents do not say anything about this even the chairpersons also.As we have that flat on rent, we have no right to talk or to complaint against this.But if it hazards my family's health I need a legal advice.Plz provide it.(India)

Our Response:
Unfortunately our website is UK based and we can only comment on issues that relate to UK laws/regulations etc
SustainableBuild - 31-Jan-18 @ 12:47 PM
Hi,here I am sharing my story and asking for legal advice or remedy. I am presently living in flat on fourth floor and on rent in apartment.The building was constructed 6-7 years ago.But now, there is construction of flats is going onfor 5th and 6th floor.I don't know whether it is legal or illegal.Some flat owners i.e residents gave permission to that.Actually, my family is facing trouble due to air pollution,lot of cement in air,penetration of water through the roof , noise pollution and what not.As we are living on the fourth floor,this construction troubles most to us only.The other flat owner residents do not say anything about this even the chairpersons also.As we have that flat on rent, we have no right to talk or to complaint against this.But if it hazards my family's health I need a legal advice.Plz provide it.(India)
Ashwin - 30-Jan-18 @ 5:19 PM
Hi, I'm from Australia and have worked next to a concrete recycling plant who crushes and cover with dust and rocks every time for years -he has water but rarely uses it. -I have so much proof but EPA NSW doesn't seem to care and Council say it's not their department. -has anyone ever read of a case where something similar was happening and they found a resolution, i need a case study that proves human life is worth a lot more or am I making fuss over nothing. - eating and breathing concrete dust is not harmful. -we do wear hard hats for the chunks of concrete that come over the fence. Jenny
Jenny - 30-Jan-18 @ 8:47 AM
My neighbours built a large extension about 18 months ago .It took ages and created a lot of dust. Their kitchen isadjacent to our lounge room and sometimes I can smell cooking . Since they added the extension I have suffered with coughing and breathlessness . How can I getadvice to find out if their extensionmay be causing my health problemsand what if anything I can do about it ? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Francie - 6-Sep-17 @ 10:13 PM
I really loved this piece of information thanks
Punit - 15-May-17 @ 7:27 PM
Thanks for the information it increased my thinkings on this particular subject
Shreya - 15-May-17 @ 7:23 PM
my dads recently started a build and this will help me tell him about the different types of pollution as I want to protect the place I live thanks very much eoin.
ching - 23-Mar-17 @ 12:55 PM
thanks guys this website really helped my learning
ching - 23-Mar-17 @ 12:53 PM
Hey just wondering if there is any information about the author, Jennifer Gray, i'm sourcing this website as a good source but need information about the author to know if it's creditable or not. Thanks alot
Spenno - 16-Mar-17 @ 3:46 AM
I have done research and i can confirm that there is no such thing as global warming and pollution. Its all a lie.
Prof. Bartholemew - 28-Feb-17 @ 12:38 PM
Hi, I need some advice on how pollution can cause strokes to occur
Dawn 'Strokey Slack - 26-Jan-17 @ 9:15 AM
A housing development at the back of our garden is causing problems with site security lights shining right in to my faughterd bedroom at night. It is so bright that i dont need to turn the light on if i need to get up to go to the toilet. I have asked the site to do something butbthey have ignored our requests. Please can you offer some advice??
Tristan - 24-Jan-17 @ 6:51 PM
Fran - Your Question:
My neighbours have recently build a large extension on the back of their home.Work has been on going for five months now. There is a lot of dust and I have to keep my windows closed. Our houses are attached and I am worried that fumes from their house are now entering my house. My lounge room and their kitchen are just just opposite to each other. I can hear their voices through our wall.In the past few weeks I developed a persistent cough and breathlessness.An X-ray has shown lung infection and a shadow. My GP was surprised because I've never smoked or suffered any lung disease.I am very worried but don't know how to find out if pollution from their extensive building extension is causing my health problems.Any advice would be appreciated.

Our Response:
You will need to seek advice from a combination of your GP/consultant and also a health/safety professional who can investigate the likely fumes/dust emissions from the building work.
SustainableBuild - 21-Nov-16 @ 11:47 AM
My neighbours have recently build a large extension on the back of their home. Work has been on going for five months now. There is a lot of dust and I have to keep my windows closed. Our houses are attached and I am worried that fumes from their house are now enteringmy house. My lounge room and their kitchen are just just opposite to each other. I can hear their voices through our wall. In the past few weeks I developed a persistent cough and breathlessness. An X-ray has shown lung infection and a shadow. My GP was surprised because I've never smoked or suffered any lung disease. I am very worried but don't know how to find out if pollution from their extensive building extension is causing my health problems. Any advice would be appreciated.
Fran - 19-Nov-16 @ 1:16 AM
I am very much thank full to you for spreading this kind of information through the social networking site ... I got to leans many thing to prevent the pollution that is spreading overall the world.... thank you sooo much.... I expect many more information in future from your site.....
sakshu - 18-Nov-16 @ 1:25 PM
I have been inventing pollution containment product for over 20 years. This has lead me to write a simple free guide to pollution prevention. It is worrying just how little understanding there is regarding water pollution and the risk. Pollution is a crime, there is no excuse. Very few contractors understand that there insurance does not cover a prosecution via the regulator.
making pollution pre - 19-Nov-15 @ 4:53 PM
I personally don't believe pollution exists and its a load of rubbish
balls - 2-Nov-15 @ 9:45 AM
I WANT TO NOW ABOUT TOPIC AND SITES WHERE I COLLECT AMATTER ABOUT POLLUTION DUE TO CONTRUCTION. I MAKE A PROJECT ON THIS TOPIC.
JP - 10-Oct-15 @ 1:39 PM
@JustJo. Not everything in society can be regulated and this would probably be too difficult to police.
SustainableBuild - 11-Jun-15 @ 12:00 PM
It is now Sunday evening after a very dry weekend yet our cat has just returned from an evening wander looking as if he has sat then laid down in a puddle of cement.There are several redevelopment building sites close with skips, any one of which he might have got into.It concerns me that wet cement or waste water with cement is lying out somewhere for unsuspecting animals such as cats, wild birds, squirrels, foxes and endangered animals like hedgehogs could wander into.None of them have owner who can help clean them and could therefore suffer or die from having cement on the outside of their bodies and from ingesting it as they try to clean themselves.Surely there are regulations stating that any such substances should be covered up as a minimum, are there not? Your comments are appreciated.
JustJo - 7-Jun-15 @ 11:25 PM
@Sick of noise. You could try complaining Environmental Health about the nuisance. If the skip is directly in front of your window are they trespassing? You could get something done about that of course. Speak to you neighbour. Find out how long the work will take. If you have an end date it may be easier to tolerate for a while longer.
SustainableBuild - 6-May-15 @ 9:58 AM
What rights, if any do we have in respect of the noise, dust, mess and general disruption caused by my neighbour's builders works. We live in an attached Victorian house. For 10 years we enjoyed peace and quiet. Then the attached house next door was sold and we are now into our second year of extensive renovations to the next door property. There seems to be no attempt by the builders to control the dust. They have removed tonnes of stone and rubble from the house and placed it in a skip directly in front ofour family room window. The noise has been intolerable. My husband works from home and I have been trying to study, but the pneumatic drilling and banging continues throughout the day, with no notice from the builder as to when this is due to happen. The building site is a complete mess. I have never met such ignorant builders.
Sick of the noise an - 28-Apr-15 @ 12:18 PM
how do you prevent turbidity in urban areas?
sam - 22-Apr-15 @ 5:22 PM
@carly. Arrange a meeting with the council and the developers to negotiate some points over specific issues. You should get an end date from them, an agreement not to work weekends, or maybe if it suits you, to provide you with alternative accommodation at weekends etc.
SustainableBuild - 27-Jan-15 @ 10:41 AM
@Christine Brody. Your neighbour's building projects should not be affecting you/your garden in this way. Can you get someone from your housing team to help you address this? Really the neighbours should be helping or contributing to the restoration of your garden. Speak to a local councillor or MP, who may be able to put you in contact with an organisation that can help you with the garden or with recouping some of the costs.
SustainableBuild - 26-Jan-15 @ 10:57 AM
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