Tile Installers

Asbestos was a common component used to make floor tiles, specifically before the 1980s. Installers worked with these tiles in a wide variety of buildings and projects, meaning they were often at risk of exposure to dangerous asbestos fibers.

While the risk of exposure is thought to be relatively low, some tile installers workers may still be at risk of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

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Tile Installers and Asbestos Exposure

The majority of tiles before the 1980s were made from vinyl, a reliable yet flexible mixture that was durable and inexpensive. However, asbestos was often added to the other materials for fireproofing in commercial buildings.

Asbestos tiles were widely used from the 1920s until the 1980s and were a popular choice due to their resilience and value for money.

Did You Know?

A study published in 2005 looked at the likelihood of asbestos-containing floor tiles causing asbestos-related diseases and concluded that there was a minimal risk to tile installers themselves. While the tiles do contain asbestos, there is little airborne exposure, even with cutting or sanding as the asbestos remains part of a flexible substance that isn’t easily friable.

Asbestos in products tends to become more friable over time. In the case of tiles, it seems that the fibers mostly remain intact and pose a lower threat to installers. Asphalt and vinyl floor tiles generally contained around 15-20% asbestos.

Because they were mixed and bonded with the other materials, there’s a low risk of tile installers inhaling toxic asbestos.

Risks of Tile Removal

Another study in 2002 looked at the risk of asbestos exposure when removing tiles. It found that while there is a risk of older asbestos fibers becoming airborne, the amount was well below the occupational exposure standards.

Despite the results of these studies, there have been historical records of tile installers developing mesothelioma.

Did You Know?

Two men in 1970 were diagnosed with mesothelioma. Both admitted to frequently sanding down vinyl tiles for work. An investigation found that there would have been dust concentrations of 1.3 fibers per ml and that fibers were so thin that they could easily pass through the membrane filter that installers wore.

The legal occupational exposure standard is 1.0 fibers per ml, meaning that tile sanding could expose workers to high levels of asbestos and put them at risk of developing mesothelioma.

Today, tiles made with asbestos are generally being phased out in the United States. Old asbestos tiles are legal to remain in buildings as long as they stay in good condition.

On the other hand, damaged or decomposing tiles run the risk of releasing asbestos fibers into the air. At this point, the asbestos-containing tiles can become highly dangerous.

Tile Installers Roles and Responsibilities

It’s the role of a tile installer to physically lay tiles. While they’re not involved in making the tiles themselves, they are responsible for cutting tiles to size and filing edges.

Tile installation usually involves shaping, sanding, and fitting tiles. In the past when tiles were made with asbestos, these activities disturbed asbestos fibers, releasing them into the air.

Once airborne, asbestos fibers are easily inhaled and can pose serious health risks.

Tile installers were generally given mesh face guards to use when performing dangerous tasks such as sanding, which would create a lot of excess dust. These were designed to protect workers but were not mandatory. They were likely ineffective at keeping out the smallest of dust particles.

Tile Installers and Mesothelioma

Asbestos fibers become friable over time and can be easily inhaled. Once inside the body, these fibers attach themselves to the lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen.

Over time, asbestos fibers irritate healthy tissues, mutating them into cancerous tumors called mesothelioma.

There have been historical cases of tile installers contracting mesothelioma through work, such as when cutting and sanding tiles containing asbestos fibers.

Compensation for Tile Installers

If you worked as a tile installer and you’ve since developed mesothelioma, the cause may be asbestos-containing tiles. Workers who develop mesothelioma as a result of their employment may qualify for legal compensation to cover their treatment costs.

Our Legal Support Team can tell you more about legal compensation and medical treatments.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Stephanie KiddWritten by:


Stephanie Kidd grew up in a family of civil servants, blue-collar workers, and medical caregivers. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from Stetson University, she began her career specializing in worker safety regulations and communications. Now, a proud member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

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