Will health issues dominate the flat roofing market of the future?

Flat roofing repairs, particularly in confined spaces, have long been known to cause discomfort to operatives and those living or working nearby. Fumes, odours and vapours can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and lung irritation. They may also irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat.

These effects are usually mild and temporary. Although contractors and building occupants may experience short term problems, the fumes and vapours generally do not pose a health hazard and symptoms usually resolve within hours after exposure to the odour has ended.

Most of the problems from fumes seem to relate to asphalt which contains many chemicals and studies, mostly US based, have reported that these have potential long term risks for operatives.

Because of this some commentators are suggesting that this could be the beginning of the end for bitumen based products. Manufacturers of roofing materials have known about the problem for many years and have sought to develop more user friendly waterproofing system – and now it seems there has been a breakthrough which could see an end to high levels of discomfort caused by fumes and other noxious vapours.

Companies such as Proteus Waterproofing are leading the way with new Cold Melt systems which are high in solids such as recycled rubber crumb and other organically grown products making them virtually fume free and totally odourless.

It would also seem that quality and longevity have not been compromised as the new systems, which are PUR based, are claimed to last for the life of the building when correctly installed to the manufacturer’s specification.

Nevertheless, bitumen based waterproof membranes still account for the lion’s share of the flat roofing market and we are unlikely to see a major shift to new materials in the near future.

But there is clearly a detectable trend towards greener roofs which would suggest the PUR technology, although part chemical based, probably offers a good long term solution for flat roofing projects particularly in confined areas.

Cold Melt system are likely to increasingly dominate the market as more is known about potential health issues, but it is probably a little too early yet to say goodbye to bitumen – but it could be the start.