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Asbestos flooring hazard levels: what is the actual risk level from asphalt asbestos floor tiles, vinyl asbestos floor tiles, or asbestos-backed sheet flooring? This article summarizes the probable risk of asbestos exposure from asbestos-containing floor tiles or sheet flooring as depending on the condition, covering, and location of the floor.
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The US EPA points out in Adequately Wet Guidance, EPA340/1-90-019 that asbestos-containing floor tiles are considered non-friable materials but the materials can become friable with age or by grinding, sanding, demolition, etc.
The risk of asbestos particle release and thus asbestos exposure from asbestos-containing flooring depends on several variables that we list here.
Details about asbestos-flooring product removal are at ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE; excerpts are below.
This sheet flooring covering backed with burlap fabric is probably more than a century old.
The material has not been tested for asbestos fibers, but where we see what is obviously a jute backing it's not likely that the product contained asbestos..
The possible origin of this product is discussed at Asphalt & Vinyl Floor Tile History - history, dates, and description of the production process and ingredients in asphalt floor tiles, asphalt-asbestos floor tiles, & vinyl-asbestos floor tiles 1900 to present.
Asbestos-containing flooring was sold in both individual floor tiles and in rolls of sheet flooring. But just as with vinyl or plastic floor tiles, not all flooring contains asbestos. LINOLEUM & Other Sheet Flooring includes examples of sheet flooring that often did not contain asbestos.
To treat floor coverings in asphalt-based floor tiles or sheet flooring, or vinyl (plastic)-based floor tiles or sheet flooring, it is reasonable to treat flooring sold even into the early 1980's as PACM (Presumed Asbestos Containing Material). Also the mastic or adhesive used to install flooring may also contain asbestos. Keep in mind also that very often it is not necessary nor even recommended to remove PACM floor coverings. But if conditions require that it be removed, see ASBESTOS REMOVAL GUIDE, FLOORING.
The following advice for disposal of vinyl-asbestos or asphalt asbestos floor tiles is adapted from the Minnesota State Department of Health:
State health departments typically recommend that all asbestos debris and waste is disposed of in a landfill that accepts asbestos-containing waste. There are three methods of disposing of asbestos waste and they are:
Watch out: if you are disposing of asbestos-containing waste yourself, you should contact your local state health department for detailed instructions. For example, while a landfill may accept asbestos-containing-material (ACM) (as the material may be buried and thence non-hazardous, special requirements may apply to protect workers and buildings from asbestos dust during collection, bagging, removal, and transportation.
- Ref: MN DPH
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: Possible asbestos-containing floor tiles in a school, questions about proper handling
Hi. I have a question about asbestos in floor tile and its removal. I work at a public school and the school had a contractor come in to remove some flooring that was starting to "buckle up" in some areas due to water seeping underneath it. When the contractor came I happened to be around and I asked him before he started if the tile could be asbestos (the school was built in 1952). He looked at it and said it wasn't 9x9 inch, and he was'nt sure what was underneath it yet, so he could'nt say for sure. When I started at the school I was made aware by my boss that there is asbestos tile underneath the carpet in the classrooms, but he didn't mention the hallways, where this work was going to be done.
I kept a watch on the contractors as they were removing the tile flooring, (I stayed a safe distance from them...like outside the building through a window). I noticed they used no masks and there was no plastic barriers put up inside the building. They were breaking the tile up though because I noticed them shoveling it up and putting it in the big 55 gallon plastic barrels used for garbage. They stayed for about 2 days doing this. When they were done they left these filled barrels of the tile for us to dump! I didn't want to be involved at all in their dumping! My boss came though and he said he needed my help in dumping the barrels in the outside container for garbage. I REALLY wanted nothing to do with this and I panicked inside. I was afraid though to ask about its safety. When we went outside to dump them I kept my distance as much as possible.
When we dumped the first barrel I held my breath and we dumped it quickly and a HUGE bunch of dust went into the air. I stepped far away and let the dust clear. I then asked if he had any kind of face mask. He did, but only the N95 kind. I put two on and some goggles. We then dumped the rest. My question is, what are the chances that the flooring contained asbestos, and if it did, would'nt the contractor and our head supervisor that ordered the work know about the flooring? - Mike 8/22/11
Question: floor tiles below asbestos in a 1950's house may contain asbestos
I was pulling up some carpet in my basement today and found that there is tile on the floor beneath it. That didn't seem like a problem to me except in one corner the tile came up with the carpet and there is a green tile beneath that. The house was built in 1950. should I be concerned that the green tile has asbesto in it?
Don from the age of materials you describe it's a good chance you have one or more layers of asbestos containing floor tiles, though of course I can only speculate with so little information.
Question: dealing with unknown floor tiles
I purchased a co-op built in the 1950's. I need to put down a new floor. The last layer of flooring is green 9x9 vinyl tiles. The pattern looks close to seneca white but the background is light green with dark green pattern. There is black tarry stuff underneath. The tiles are extremely thin. I ripped out the tiles and the plywood underneath them in the corner about 18" square. The super told me to leave it alone as it might be asbestos, but all the contractors who have seen them, seem not to be worried about ripping up the tiles. I would feel better to play it safe and just floor over them. How do I e-mail a picture to you? - Jeanie in Queens NY 11/13/2011
I have a early 60's home with both bathrooms having what appears to be a solid surface material poured over a greenish felt. The flooring is tan with colored flecks in it throughout. I have looked for the material but haven't found any info. Does anyone know what it is? Is it possible that this material contains asbestos? - Dan 1/10/12
the tile in the place I work appears to be asbestos tile. there are some squares that are damaged, and appear to be chipped out. there are small particles, chunks, etc. in the place where the tiles are missing. is this a danger to us? - Lynn 1/12/12
I want to renovate this ranch soon and am not sure what the tile is and who do I call? I want to renovate this ranch soon and am not sure what the tile is and who do I call?Ceiling tile is from 1940 - Jo 2/7/2012
I have an old ranch home w/ sheet lino.x2 layers, over OSB board, over another type of flooring over old hardwood. From what I can see so far. The hardwood has blunt square ends, and is about 3-4" wide and appears to have paint on it. I know there is some rot in that area and would need replacing from reclaimed wood. My question is what is the best way to remove all the lino and OSB and floor below that to get to the hardwood? I know it's going to be labor intensive but not sure how to go about it. - Tracey 2/13/2012
Utility room floor installed 1971 is Armstrong Excelon vinyl asbestos place and press tiles. Some of the tiles are loose. they are whole..just loose. Please recommend what glue to use to re-install them. - Anne 2/13/2012
I work at a Petland Discounts location that's over 20 years old. I've gotten severe breathing problems at this store. The floor polishing company comes in and polishes the floor every month and there is this thick dust in the air and then it gets all over the products. I am concerned that it contains asbestos. There are also many broken tiles in the store. - Despina 5/22/2012
In my kitchen we have a sub floor, then asbestos tiles, then another sub floor and then a layer of linoleum flooring down. We want to lay another floor down but our floor is already up an inch with everything on it. We want to removed the whole flooring but have no clue how we should go about doing this without getting the asbestos in the air. It is also laid in our hallway and our whole basement. Thank you so much for any help you can provide. - Gigi - 6/11/2012
I was going to put new ceramic tiles in the kitchen floor, but when I removed the transition between the wood floor and ceramic tiles I saw vinyl tiles under the kitchen floor. My question is how I would know that the vinyl tiles are asbestos or not? - Mike 7/10/2012
i removed floor tiles by hand that look very similar to some of the ones you have pictured on your web site about 9 years ago. basically i used an old grill spatula to peel them up off of the cement floor. i did use a dust mask but i was unaware at the time that some older floor tiles contain asbestos. do i have anything to worry about? - Joe 8/1/2012
Hello I scraped up a tile floor in my house and I now fear that it was asbestos. The backing is black not white. It did not grind to dust, but it came off in pieces. The floor is covered in the black backing still and I don't know how I should remove this. Should I be concerned about removing this part? Also I suspect these tiles continue into another room under a rug. I would like to remove them eventually if possible. What do you recommend? - Mandy 10/29/2012
My husband and his family were doing some remodeling on a home we just bought (built in the 1930's). When I stopped by the house i saw that they had ripped out the old flooring in the kitchen and bathroom. Underneath the old carpet and flooring were 9x9 squares that were on top of the original hardwoods. I freaked out because i remembered hearing something about 9x9 tiles and asbestos on hgtv. These squares are black, but they are flexible, almost like a thick paper or a cardboard rather than a hard tile. We arent sure if it is just some sort of backing, or an asphalt asbestos tile. They had already spent the weekend tearing most of it up and it is all over the place right now. any info/suggestions etc would be very greatly appreciated. - Jennifer 10/29/2012
Asbestos-containing flooring in good condition does not have to be removed from a building, and worse, inept removal can create a much greater hazard than leaving most asbestos materials in place.
Asbestos was widely used as a filler in both asphalt-based and some vinyl based floor tiles of varying thicknesses, and extending to some thin, flexible self-adhesive backed tiles as well as some sheet flooring.
See ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE PHOTO ID GUIDE for an extensive photo guide to asbestos-containing flooring materials.
We recommend taking a look at the suggestions found at ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION
Comment from reader: anonymous:
Hey Joe there's always a "risk" when removing anything that has to do with Asbestos. I understand that you probably didn't take caution at all with the removal and you probably weren't wearing the proper protection. There's two things that could be red flags. 1. I'd be worried if you were a constant to heavy smoker. 2. I'd also be worried if you've done this type of removal many times before or after without protection. The only way to know for certain if true damage has been done is tell your Doctor or care provider about this incident and ask for their advice.
Questions & answers or comments about how to identify asbestos-containing flooring materials and what to do when asbestos-containing floor tiles or sheet flooring are found in a building.
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