Some school districts embrace the use of cinder blocks when building new facilities. The material is inexpensive compared to natural stone, but it offers almost the same product life as well as a structure safer than wood products for many weather concerns. But cinder blocks present health risks to those who come in contact with the cheap building product under certain conditions.
Buildings built prior to the middle of the '80s containing cinder block were made with asbestos, according to Asbestos.net website. Asbestos is a known carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the International Agency for Research on Cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Living in -- or working within -- homes or buildings made with cinder blocks made with asbestos is a potential cancer risk for you and your family.
Cinder blocks, also known as concrete blocks, may be an inexpensive home or basement building material, but when they are not properly sealed it can put you and your family's heath at risk. An unsealed cinder block is porous and absorbs moisture. Cinder blocks can't dispel moisture once they have it, resulting in mold growth, which can create allergies in people living in -- or visiting -- your home.
Cinder blocks that are damaged or have pores or cracks opening up in them are at risk of being a conduit between radon in your soil and you. Radon is odorless and exists in soil at differing levels, so the soil at your home could contain more than at a home further away. As radon naturally exits the soil, it enters the outdoor air but causes little concern due to dissipating fairly well outdoors. However, when it is able to enter the home environment, through failing or damaged cinder blocks, it becomes more concentrated. Your home traps the radon, which can cause lung cancer, according to the EPA.
The best way to avoid the health concerns of cinder block use is to eliminate the conditions that support it. First, you can reduce your presence in any home or building made of cinder block from the early '80s or before. Second, if you find out cinder blocks were not sealed at your home you can seek assistance in getting them sealed now -- or enclosed with other materials. Third, you can purchase a radon test kit and conduct your own home experiment to determine radon levels in your soil and home, taking corrective measures to if levels are high.