The infrastructure industry and real estate sector have always been a necessary part of any civilization. We all need a place to live, study, or work in, but have you ever wondered what goes in while constructing these buildings? Concrete plays a huge role in construction. Along with bricks, sand, and water, concrete helps create thousands of buildings each day and keeps them up for a long time. While physical safety is well thought out, experts have failed to look after our health and environment. Is concrete toxic, and which ingredients and features of concrete have deleterious effects on the planet and people? Our guide has all the answers!
What Is Concrete?
Concrete, the world’s second-most-used material, consists of a coarse aggregate like gravel, sand, or crushed stone fused with water and cement. Aggregate is always a solid, non-moving particle that, in combination with a fluid cement, hardens over time and creates concrete.
Using the water-to-cement ratio in the concrete mix is crucial since it significantly affects the strength of concrete. For instance, too much water in the mixture will lead to creating a lot of voids in concrete, which would then be useless. It is also important to spread the concrete evenly and be sure no lumps or air bubbles are present. Finally, environmental conditions—like temperature and humidity—have a massive impact on concrete strength, and low temperatures can be particularly damaging.
Is Concrete Toxic?
As a final product, concrete is risk-free and safe; there is no evidence of carcinogenicity or toxicity. Wet concrete can produce burns, cause skin irritations, or lead to lung disorders in extreme cases. However, the reason why concrete is detrimental to the environment stems from its main ingredient—cement. The extraction of raw materials necessitates limestone, sand, or clay quarries, which often have a destructive influence on water and biodiversity.
So, concrete in itself is not toxic, but its production requires materials like cement, which is detrimental to our environment in the long run. Also, even though concrete is safe, individuals must take precautions and handle the materials carefully to avoid accidental inhalations, itchy eyes, burns, and other conditions.
Features of Concrete
To help you broaden your knowledge or deal with concrete, here are a few facts and features.
- Compressive Strength: The strength of concrete varies greatly depending on the concrete mix and its purpose. For instance, it is higher in commercial than in residential structures.
- Partial Safety Factor: The partial safety factor‘s value depends on the type of material and the type of limit state; it is 1.5 for concrete.
- Shrinkage Factor: The extent of concrete shrinkage varies according to many factors, including but not limited to aggregate content, water content, cement, humidity, and storage conditions.
- Grading: The most common concrete grades are M20 and M25, which are suitable for small-scale construction. Large structures or tough conditions require grades of M30 and above.
- Durability: The crucial property of concrete is its ability to resist diverse weather conditions, water, or chemical attacks. If builders create it and care for it properly, a concrete structure should remain intact for up to 100 years.
Harmful Effects of Concrete or Its Ingredients
Concrete often harms the topsoil, which is the most nutritious part of the land, and sometimes leads to soil erosion, pollution, and flooding. All of these are detrimental to our environment, the land, and its inhabitants, including either people or animals. Additionally, breathing in concrete dust may cause lung tissue damage or even cell necrosis. If a person is subject to silica crystals on a daily basis or in a large quantity, they can suffer from permanent lung damage.
Although essential for sustainable development, the cement industry has another non-eco-friendly impact—it produces carbon dioxide. Brief exposure to CO2 causes no long-term harm to humans, but prolonged exposure can result in various health issues; it can lead to headaches, increased heart rate, breathing difficulties, elevated blood pressure, and asphyxia.
Is Concrete Toxic: Conclusion
While constructing or before the concrete sets, it can be harmful to our skin or internal organs. Its dust also negatively impacts our lungs after prolonged exposure and inhalation. Once settled, concrete is no longer toxic, and it has no effects on our overall health. For these reasons, be cautious when dealing with concrete, and stay as far away from construction sites as possible.