Are Roofing Materials Toxic?

Are Roofing Materials Toxic?
Image credit: Done Rite Roofing

Sometimes, customers approach us with concerns about toxins they may have to deal with when we install a new asphalt roof. Some customers also want to engage in some rainwater harvesting, and they are concerned about the impact the shingles will have on their rainwater collection efforts.

We wanted to set your mind at ease.

For the most part, asphalt only releases fumes which could harm humans when it is heated.

Asphalt is a petroleum product, so obviously you don’t want to eat it, or inhale deep breaths of hot asphalt fumes. But asphalt is also inert when it’s cool. There is nothing to breathe in. You’d have to handle the shingle, then lick your hands, in order to suffer any ill effects.

Some commercial roofing processes do require the application of hot asphalt. Most residential applications, however, do not. This means you’re unlikely to see any problems while we’re installing a roof on your own home.

As it stands, even if you were exposed to asphalt fumes while we were doing a commercial job you’d typically only suffer from a few short-term symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and eye troubles. We don’t recommend you stick around while those symptoms are raging or anything, but you shouldn’t suffer from any long-term effects.

Owens-Corning has produced an in-depth Q&A about asphalt hazards and asphalt safety. You can view their take on this topic here.

Asphalt can have an impact on rainwater collection.

If you are collecting rain water then yes, you need to take some precautions. Keep in mind most rainwater collection systems are not designed to create a new source of drinking water. Instead, rainwater collection produces “grey” water, which can safely be used to water plants or flush toilets. Obviously you’re still conserving water when you use grey water, so it’s still worth doing.

If you are hoping to harvest rain water and then filter it down enough to make it potable again you’d want to plan ahead by choosing a metal or tile roof, which would reduce the number of toxins you could potentially be exposed to.

If you are interested in rainwater collection a local gutter company serving residents here in Clearwater has written about this topic a great deal.

Are asphalt shingles bad for the environment?

No. In fact, asphalt shingles can be recycled. Usually they’re used for roads. We always recycle roofing shingles whenever we pull them off of homes.

Bottom line? Asphalt is a safe choice.

It’s not for nothing that asphalt remains the most commonly-used roofing material. If asphalt were really dangerous, roofers would have stopped offering it as it would have posed too much of a liability. If you’re interested in a new asphalt roof you can be comfortable ordering one from us.