Construction Pollution

What Is Construction Pollution and What Can We Do About It?

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Construction projects are vital for the growth and development of our cities and towns, as well as for our overall economy. But with all the concrete, steel and mortar activity, environmental pollution challenges are inevitable at construction sites. 

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the various types of construction pollution, like air, water, noise and soil pollution, that are created during construction activities. And we’ll explore ways that construction professionals can find new ways to tackle this environmental dilemma.

What Is Construction Pollution?

Construction pollution is generally described as the adverse effects on humans, wildlife and the overall environment from a building construction project. 

The Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction reported in its 2022 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction report that total energy consumption and CO2 emissions increased in 2021 above pre-pandemic levels. Another report showed that the building and construction industry accounted for nearly 40% of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

This is why engineering and construction professionals are increasingly being asked to take precautions and seek out environmental air quality solutions to reduce the harmful impact of the emissions their work activities produce. 

Air Pollution

Air pollution is a top contender for the king of construction pollution. Air pollution is mostly caused by diesel engines that power vehicles and heavy machinery, like breakers, bulldozers, dumpers, plans, and excavators. These diesel engines release pollutants like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons into the air. 

Other machines like land clearing and demolition equipment can also contribute to air pollution by generating high levels of dust from particulate matter. These small particles of construction dust from cement, concrete, silica, and wood contain sulfates and silicates. Though these dust specks are smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter, these particles contribute significantly to air pollution in construction zones. 

Emissions from hazardous chemicals like paints, glues, oils, thinners, and plastics may also contribute to air pollution at a construction project site, depending on the scope of the project.

Water Pollution

Water pollution from construction sites can also be a damaging factor for the local environment. Water pollution can be harmful to humans, while also poisoning aquatic life, destroying natural habitats, and disrupting ecosystems. 

Excavation, demolition, drilling, and other construction-related activities can release pollutants into the environment that cause water pollution. These pollutants can contaminate water bodies, such as rivers, lakes, and streams. 

If local water becomes polluted due to work-related activities at construction project sites, health officials may shut down active swimming, fishing, and boating in rivers, waterways and lakes. This is to prevent possible health problems for people, including skin rashes, gastrointestinal illnesses, and respiratory problems. 

Different types of water pollution include chemical pollution, when improperly disposed materials like paints, solvents, and adhesives flow into nearby waters; and sediment pollution, when rain after a storm washes construction-site soil, sand, and other debris into the waterways. Both types of pollution can severely reduce water quality and disrupt aquatic ecosystems. 

Noise Pollution

If you’ve ever been around a large construction site, you know how challenging it is to endure the teeth-rattling sounds from drilling, excavating, and other heavy machinery. Some of this construction noise pollution is continuous and can go on for days without ceasing. 

There are also random or impulsive loud sounds, such as when a heavy piece of machinery drops something, and low-frequency noise, which could be the incessant sound of a concrete barrel or moving chain sounds. 

Noise pollution is of serious concern at a construction site. All of these noisy sounds may induce hearing loss, stress, high blood pressure, sleep disturbances and other conditions. Noise pollution can even scare off local wildlife, leading to environmental habitat impacts. 

For these reasons, site engineers and managers may use noise barriers or technology tools to limit the types of noise pollution. 

Soil Pollution

Soil pollution occurs when contaminants are released into the ground from some construction activities, possibly during soil excavation and removal or from a spill of hazardous materials. 

Soil contaminants negatively impact plant and animal life and pose a health risk to humans. Biological pollution from construction work can also disrupt natural habitats and ecosystems, impacting the larger nature area. 

Additionally,  physical pollution from a construction site can result in weakened soil compaction, erosion, or destabilization. These activities can cause soil to lose its structure and ability to retain water, leading to soil degradation and increased susceptibility to erosion.

Using sediment control measures, and minimizing soil disturbance during construction activities, are some measures that can help reduce soil pollution. Regular soil testing and monitoring can help to identify and address any contamination issues before they become more severe.

The Effects of Construction Pollution on the Public

Construction pollution can have a range of negative effects on the general public; we’ve mentioned a few areas above. Exposure to construction pollution could produce breathing issues like asthma and bronchitis, or skin irritation. Water pollution can cause internal illnesses in humans and animals who come into contact with contaminated water.

Of course, there’s also the environmental damage that construction pollution causes, as well as aesthetic damage to a local community. All of these areas can impact humans’ health and well-being, as well as their overall quality of life.  

What Can Be Done To Prevent It?

Construction pollution can have a negative environmental impact, as well as a negative human health impact. Therefore, it's important for construction supervisors and field engineers to limit onsite pollution. 

Developing a comprehensive pollution mitigation plan should be an integral part of construction industry work. It would help identify potential sources of pollution and set forth requirements for limiting its effects. This plan would establish goals and practical steps for reducing pollution, as well as for monitoring and reporting pollution levels throughout the project.

Solid water management and waste management directives should be in place for the construction site as well. By taking these preventive measures, construction supervisors and field engineers can significantly reduce or eliminate construction pollution at project sites.

Our Solution? Air Quality Monitoring for Construction Sites

For those construction managers who oversee construction air pollution and need onsite air quality monitoring, Attune can help. Formerly called Senseware, a leader in IoT with 50 patents, the new Attune brings new levels of indoor air quality awareness to construction projects. 

It provides real-time assurance in critical areas such as indoor air quality, outdoor air quality, energy consumption, risk of water leaks, equipment status, and more. Attune is the only customizable indoor air quality monitoring solution on the market. To learn more visit:

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