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Changing construction materials come with risks. Construction materials have changed, as have the furnishings we put in our homes. They may burn more quickly and off-gas dangerous chemicals. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Remember the good old days when our homes were built with only lumber, dry wall, and roofing? Me neither. However, we talk about ‘modern’ construction materials like this is a new phenomenon. The truth is ‘modern’ construction materials started sneaking into homes over 50 years ago. It’s not only construction materials that have changed: a century ago, we furnished our houses with wood, cloth, metal and glass. Today, it’s plastics, foams, and coatings.

Why does this matter? Well, in addition to behaving differently as they burn (rate of consumption, temperature, etc.), these materials have the potential to create different compounds than the typical products of combustion. Wood is primarily cellulose, which comprises carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. When it burns to completion, it forms CO2 (carbon dioxide) and water vapor. Granted, incomplete combustion of wood will form CO (carbon monoxide, which is a deadly toxin), but that is the case for every carbon-containing compound on the planet!

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