Like most homeowners, you've never considered the danger of having asbestos flooring until it's too late. And that's risky because asbestos can be a serious health hazard if not treated properly.
Asbestos is a dangerous material that was once commonly used in flooring but is still present in many homes across the country. Why? In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at asbestos flooring and explain why it's important to get it removed if you find it in your home.
A Step Back in Time When Asbestos Was Popular
Flooring companies have used asbestos for almost four decades to produce vinyl floor tiles. Asbestos is a mineral composed of six natural fibrous silicates:
This flooring material is resistant to heat and chemicals. With its durability and fireproof features, many homeowners are drawn to its hand-crafted stone-chip design. This explains why many floor manufacturers like American Biltrite and Amtico Floors used this mineral in infrastructures, not just in flooring but ceilings too in the 1980s.
In 1989, the US Environmental Protection Agency banned the new use of asbestos due to conclusive health risks. Since then, several lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers regarding personal injury and wrongful death by victims of this mineral. Unfortunately, despite knowing the dangers, manufacturers continued to use it anyway. Thus, the US courts found them guilty and liable for using this toxic material.
Dangers of Having Asbestos Floor Tiles
Many old buildings still have asbestos mixed into their ceiling and flooring. When the asbestos floor tiles are disturbed, this fibrous mineral becomes dust, making people sick when inhaled.
You can't digest or dissolve asbestos. When you inhale asbestos, it's stuck inside your body forever. It builds up in your tissues which can cause serious diseases like:
- Ovarian cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Lung cancer
Friable vs. Non-friable Asbestos Flooring
If you have asbestos flooring, don't panic! There are two categories to determine how dangerous they are:
- Non-friable asbestos: It is durable and well-contained. If the asbestos flooring is in good condition, you're safe from exposure.
- Friable asbestos: It comes from broken or brittle materials, which are deadlier when released into the air. So any crumbling asbestos floor tiles are considered friable.
In truth, asbestos vinyl sheet flooring is more dangerous than asbestos tiles or wallpaper since it is cut to the size of the room, which means you're exposed to more asbestos when the flooring is disturbed or damaged from natural wear and tear.
Are you exposed to asbestos particles? Consult a pulmonologist as soon as possible and request a chest X-ray. X-rays screen you for any diseases caused by asbestos so you can treat them early.
People who are likely to have been exposed to asbestos in flooring and other rooms areas are:
- Demolition crews
- Maintenance workers
- Vinyl factory workers
- Floor installers
- Do-it-yourself renovators
- Construction workers
Signs That You Have Asbestos Flooring in Your Home
Are you unsure whether you have asbestos flooring or not? Here are signs that your floor tiles may contain this toxic material.
When The Place Was Built
Is your home an antique model? Was it built pre-1980 or installed around 1920 to 1960? If yes, then there's a good chance your house has asbestos floor tiles since many companies use asbestos as a building material. But if your house was built between 1960 and 1980, there are fewer chances that your flooring has asbestos installed.
Where It Is Located
Due to their durability, asbestos tiles are often found in high-traffic spaces such as hallways and kitchens. But don't just check for your flooring. Asbestos is also used in walls and ceilings, so inspect those areas, too.
Floor tiles are not imprinted with their brand names, so you need to check the files left by installers or the previous owners of the house. You could also look for extra tiles stored in basements and attics to see its branding underneath the tile.
These are some of the vinyl floor brands that used asbestos in the past:
- American Biltrite
- Amtico Floors
- Armstrong World Industries
- Everwear Inc.
- GAF Corporation
- Kentile Floors
- Montgomery Ward
What It Looks Like
Flooring tiles containing asbestos range from nine to eighteen squares. Aside from its stone-chip design, the tiles appear oily or stained due to asphalt, another main ingredient in asbestos flooring. Lastly, if you see black adhesive underneath your tiles, it's mostly likely black mastic, a cutback adhesive that contains asbestos.
DIY Asbestos Removal and Treatment
Whether you have friable or non-friable asbestos floors, you're at risk when you remove or treat them yourself. It's safer to let professionals handle asbestos removals. They’re equipped with special safety gear and follow specific procedures to avoid spreading asbestos in the area. Plus, if you have commercial buildings, the law requires you to hire professionals to perform asbestos removal.
Some states allow private homeowners to DIY asbestos removal, but it is never recommended. We highly advise you to check your city's regulations regarding asbestos abatement to avoid putting yourself and your family at risk.
Asbestos Removal Safety Equipment
Remember, once the asbestos goes into your body, you can't remove it, and it causes extreme damage to your system. So take extra precautions when handling this toxic building material.
- Plastic sheets: To contain asbestos, workers must cover every possible escape route with plastic. Ventilation and heating units must be turned off to stop air circulation in the affected area.
- Sealable plastic bags: Many cities require labeled trash bags designed specifically for asbestos removal. In addition, due to its hazardous composition, it's illegal to throw away this material with regular trash. Instead, there are trash-pickup services or landfills for asbestos where you can dispose of them properly.
- Respirator with HEPA filter: Surgical or entry-level dust masks isn’t enough to protect you from asbestos-containing materials. Workers must opt for high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered masks to avoid inhaling toxic chemicals.
- Air purifier with HEPA filter: As for the area, professionals can use a HEPA-filtered air purifier to reduce asbestos contamination in the air.
- Disposable coveralls and gloves: Due to its wool-like consistency, removing this microscopic mineral from your regular clothes is quite hard. Workers are advised to wear PPEs for easy disposal after use.
- Pump sprayer with water: When you keep asbestos floor tiles or materials wet, it prevents them from becoming airborne. That's why workers spray the flooring or black mastic to keep it damp during the removal.
- HEPA vacuum or wet wipes: Besides a pump sprayer, workers use wet wipes to avoid stirring the mineral up while dismantling the tiles. There are special HEPA vacuums as well that traps dry asbestos dust.
Asbestos flooring may have been popular once, but because prolonged exposure causes health complications, including death, it is no longer recommended for building materials. However, as it is often difficult to tell whether or not you have this material in your floor tiles, it is important to take the necessary precautions and remove it safely. Be sure to read our other guides for more helpful tips on keeping your family safe from potential dangers in your home.