Is Asbestos Linoleum Harmful?
Most houses built in the 20th century probably contain some asbestos products either in the walls, ceiling, or vinyl sheets and floor tiles (linoleum). This asbestos is exposed during renovation, repairs or demolition causing a grave effect on the health of the occupants and the neighbors’ as well.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which contains millions of fine fibers that are resistant to heat, chemical and electrical damages. On its own is not harmful but when these microscopic fibers are released into the air, it becomes dangerous to anyone within its vicinity. Before now, it was known as a ‘magic mineral’ and highly valued in the society but this mineral has been found to pose as health menace in our society.
It is usually of two types. Friable and non-friable. The friable type is mainly used as backings for vinyl flooring. They are very dangerous because they are loosely bound. Thus, the fibers can be released at any anytime. Non-friable asbestos is well bonded, but becomes friable if it is damaged or weathered. This type is usually found in building materials.
Asbestos has a lifespan of 25 to 50 years as such could be in the house for a long time without your knowledge of its presence.
Why is it Dangerous?
If the released fibers are inhaled, it could lead to incurable disease like heart diseases, mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
Asbestosis is a chronic disease characterized by fibrosis of the lungs which ultimately leads to long-term respiratory complications. While mesothelioma is a cancer of the tissues which lines the stomach, heart, lungs, and other organs.
Types of Flooring Industry Products that Contains Asbestos
- Linoleum tiles and sheets
- Backing paper
- Vinyl tiles and sheets
How to Identify Flooring Containing Asbestos
Not all vinyl sheet flooring or linoleum tiles have asbestos in them. To confirm, you could submit a flooring sample for laboratory analysis. You can also identify them through these steps below.
- Get information about the age of the building, the year flooring was installed and the number of layers and materials used.
- Check the floor tile size and pattern. Asbestos floor tiles are known for their wide range of thickness. They were usually made in three dimensions, 9 x 9 inches, 12 x 12 inches, and 18 x 18 inches and usually of a particular pattern.
- The dominant color of the floor tile can also be used to confirm the age, style, and manufacturer.
- The main ingredient in asbestos tiles is asphalt and oil from asphalt tends to leak out thus, discoloring the tiles. So, if your tiles or flooring shows oily discoloration then you can say it contains asbestos.
- Look for flooring pattern name, brand, style and number if possible. Sometimes, extra pieces of the floor tiles are stored in the basement or garage for future repairs. If you find such, then check for any markings or stampings that can help you find the brand.
Tips on DIY Removal
Removing the asbestos should be your last resort as it is very dangerous. Alternatives exist such as covering the floor or laying one-fourth underlayment on the existing flooring then laying new flooring on top of it. It is advisable to hire asbestos abatement contractors to do the job as removing it yourself poses some level of risk to your health and it is time-consuming and physically demanding too. As a result, there are legal issues involved during removal and disposal. Therefore, the law forbids you from hiring a non-certified asbestos abatement contractor to assist you during removal. You must dispose the debris at licensed disposal sites or transfer stations only.
You might find these tips helpful if you decide to remove it yourself.
- The work area should be properly closed to prevent dust from being spread across the neighborhood.
- Put on protective equipment and clothing such as gloves, respirator, disposable coveralls, rubber boots, and goggles.
- The floor space must be kept wet throughout the removal process.
- A flat shovel or a floor scrapper can be used to pry asbestos tiles from the subfloor.
- After removal, place the asbestos debris in the appropriate bagging and be sure they are taped closed.
- The floor should be mopped thoroughly after removal.
It is the duty of employers to provide a safe working environment for their employees. Being involved in an occupation which exposes you to asbestos is dangerous. Often times, these workers are misled by their employers. The leading cause of mesothelioma cancer has been proven to be occupational exposure to asbestos. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry estimated a total of 27 million workers who were exposed between the year 1940 and 1979. This is why the OSHA enacted laws that confine the levels at any job site to 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter. Although laws exist which regulates its exposure, it is not banned and still found in some of our products in this time and age.
Occupations Associated With Exposure
- Construction workers
- Industrial workers
- Asbestos mine workers
- Power plant workers
- Shipyard workers
- Aerospace and missile production workers
- Laboratory analysts and technicians
- Sheet metal workers
- Refinery workers
Compensation for Asbestos-Related Diseases
Employees who developed any related diseases are eligible for legal compensation.
- VA claims
- Settlements from lawsuits
- Trust fund claims
- Workers’ compensation