Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral fiber known for its commercial use in building projects because of its ability to help strengthen materials and provide heating insulation and fire resistance. However, for all of its benefits, many studies have also revealed the serious health problems that asbestos poses to those who inhale its fibers. In the 1900s, factory and shipyards workers were often exposed to these fibers on a daily basis, increasing their likelihood of suffering from asbestos-related diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis later in life. These dangerous discoveries led the EPA to ban the production of most asbestos-containing materials in 1989.
However, even today many older buildings still contain asbestos in their floor tiles, which means you or a loved one could be walking on asbestos flooring in your very own home or office. There are two main types of asbestos flooring – asphalt and vinyl = that contain the dangerous fibers in their sheet backing and adhesive. Asphalt asbestos floor tiles were popular from 1920 to 1960 and were produced in dark colors using a heavy asphalt binder and a very high percentage of asbestos filler fibers. It is rare to find these floors tiles in use today. On the other hand, vinyl asbestos floor tiles (12 x 12 dimension) are much easier to find today.
According to the EPA, flooring containing asbestos is generally considered non-friable and safe when it is intact and in good condition. However, the materials may become friable with age and weathering and break enough to release asbestos fibers into the air. Friable flooring includes any material having more than one percent asbestos that can be reduced to powder with hand pressure, therefore becoming easier to get released into the air.
While regular washing, stripping, waxing, and buffing of these tiles will not discharge dangerous levels of asbestos, it is important to take precautionary measures to avoid asbestos exposure:
- Do not sand asbestos floor tiles
- When stripping floors, use wet methods and low abrasion pads at speed less than 300 rpm
- Burnishing or dry buffing should be done only after the flooring has had enough of a finish so that the pad cannot come into contact with the asbestos-containing material.
- Broken or damaged floor tiles containing asbestos must also be removed by professional asbestos abatement workers.
- Report any damaged asbestos-containing materials to the Mechanical Trades Manager immediately. The debris of damaged asbestos must be removed and disposed of by licensed asbestos abatement workers.
- Do not attempt to clean up or fix the damaged asbestos floor tiles yourself! Try to upset the material as little as possible. Until the asbestos abatement crew arrives, it is important to take proper measures to prevent others from disturbing the spill.
- If you are a homeowner of a single-family residence, have a sample tile sent to the lab for asbestos testing. You can also find out how to properly enclose or remove your vinyl flooring online at the Puget Sound Clean Air or South West Clean Air agencies.
At Sokolove Law, we believe you should be protected and informed when it comes to your health, home repairs, and legal rights. By knowing how to identify asbestos flooring and taking measures not to disturb it, you can protect yourself and others from exposure to this hazardous substance. If you or a loved one may have been exposed to harmful asbestos flooring, call our law offices today for a free legal consultation. We can help you get the money you deserve.