Last edited 04 May 2021

Deleterious materials in construction

The term 'deleterious materials' is a broad one, encompassing not only materials that are dangerous to health or which are the causes of failures in buildings, but increasingly, materials which are environmentally damaging. Lists of deleterious materials may be prohibited in appointment documents or construction contracts.

It should be noted however that all materials can be considered deleterious under the wrong circumstances (for example, water can be very damaging and can cause extensive pollution), and whatever materials are selected for use, it is vitally important that the manufacturer's instructions are followed.

The following materials are commonly considered to be either harmful to human health or to be the cause of long-term failure in buildings. While some of these materials may now be considered to be 'banned', they can still be found in our historic building stock.

The list of deleterious materials has always remained fluid because as technology advances new products come onto the market and medical research establishes new risks to health.

Clauses in contracts and appointment documents often refer to compliance with 'Good Practice in the selection of construction materials'. Originally published in 1997 by Ove Arup, and sponsored by the British Council of Offices (BCO) and the British Property Federation (BPF), it was an attempt to standardise a chaotic situation where contracts included long lists of prohibited materials that were often not deleterious, or were not enforced.

Now in its 2011 edition, 'Good Practice in the selection of construction materials' has been updated to reflect changing standards in materials specification and the growing importance of environmental concerns.


The following is a more detailed list of components where the use of asbestos might be detected (ref. list published by Greenhalgh & Co, Chartered Surveyors):

See Asbestos for more information.

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Brick slips are NOT a deleterious material (unless they are made from deleterious materials)

(Thanks, now amended. Ed.)

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