Red & black Armstrong vinyl asbestos floor tiles 1950's (C) InspectApedia.comAsbestos Flooring Damage Hazard Assessment
Hazard level if asbestos-containing floor tiles are damaged

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Asbestos exposure risk from minor vs. significant damage to an asbestos-containing floor covering:

What is the actual risk level from various types of damage to asphalt asbestos floor tiles, vinyl asbestos floor tiles, or asbestos-backed sheet flooring?

How much or what sort of asbestos-flooring damage require special cleaning, testing, or remediation?

This article series describes the probable risks of asbestos exposure from asbestos-containing floor tiles or sheet flooring as depending on the condition, covering, and location of the floor. Page top photo: many loose asbestos-containing floor tiles in an area like the one we show mean that there is a risk of harmful airborne asbestos that is sufficient that proper cleanup is needed. But a minor cut or scratch on a floor is a very different situation.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Level of Asbestos Hazard from Minor vs Seriously-Damaged Flooring

Spanish asbestos floor tiles (C) Daniel FriedmanA small nick or scratch on intact, secure, otherwise un-damaged asbestos suspect flooring such as shown in our photo does not require expensive nor scary "asbestos abatement" procedures.

Asbestos is safe and legal to remain in homes or public buildings as long as the asbestos materials are in good condition and the asbestos can not be released into the air. - US EPA

[Click to enlarge any image]

Reader Question: What should I have done when I accidentally cut into an asbestos-suspect floor tile?

2017-08-15 George said:

Remodeling a house it was built in 1957 and it has the green tile I was cutting a piece of drywall and I didn't have a piece of wood under the drywall therefore it was a 4-inch 4ft piece that I trimmed lightly and I hit the asbestos tile the supposedly asbestos tile I'm not sure if they are or not anyway

I vacated the premises wet down the area took a shower and got rid of my clothes I'm not sure if this is too extreme but

I wasn't sure exactly what to do in the situation what is your recommendation for appearing or showing up to this residence in the future here

This question and answer were posted originally at posted originally at ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION PHOTOS 1949-1959

Reply: What are the risks of minor damage to an asbestos-suspect floor tile or sheet flooring covering?


Thank you for asking an important question that for other readers I re-phrase as

What is the level of risk from asbestos-suspect flooring that suffers a scratch or similar minor damage, and what should I do about such flooring.

There is no reasonable chance that a scratch or cut into the surface of asbestos-suspect floor tile or sheet flooring using a smooth sharp-edged blade like a drywall knife is going to create a measurable level of airborne asbestos in the building, much less a hazardous level of airborne asbestos.

Asbestos is safe and legal to remain in homes or public buildings as long as the asbestos materials are in good condition and the asbestos can not be released into the air. - US EPA

It is more than a concern that very frightening articles about asbestos-hazards can lead to great fear over situations that present no hazard. For that case there are both monetary costs and stress from worry that can be both harmful and unnecessary.

The fear of asbestos is exacerbated both by the normal worry that arises about something we think is dangerous and that we cannot see (so we fear it is beyond our control and that it sneaks up on us) and also by the preying on public fear by some companies who reap profit by providing testing or “asbestos spill cleanup” services that in some cases were not appropriate.

So what should you do if you slice into an asbestos-suspect floor surface with a drywall knife?

  1. Wipe up dust: Damp wipe the scratch with a damp paper towel or rag, then throw that into the trash.
  2. Seal: When the floor is dry, you might elect to apply a light coating of spray or other shellac (I’ve also used a cotton swab) to seal the scratch and make the floor look smooth and shiny again.

Experts advise that the safest way to stop potential asbestos hazards from an asbestos containing or asbestos-suspect floor tile or sheet flooring covering is to leave the existing floor in place, covering it over with a new layer of flooring.

Asbestos is not like radioactive materials: it does not and cannot send up harmful materials through a layer that covers the floor surface.

For situations where you must defer installing a new layer of flooring over an intact, essentially un-damaged asbestos-suspect floor tile or sheet flooring, I’ve described a successful approach using an epoxy floor sealant covered with a clear-coat to provide a durable walking surface that cannot release particles from the floor below.


Or see ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION for a description of all of the approaches to preventing a hazard form asbestos-containing floor coverings.

Where or When are there More Serious Asbestos Flooring Risks in Buildings?

Messy demolition of asbestos-suspect flooring - DON"T DO THIS (C) InspectApediaWhere an asbestos-suspect floor hazard does indeed exist in a private home as well as in other buildings is when

and potentially when

Studies of Hazard Levels from Asbestos Containing Flooring - Private Homes, Schools, Shipyards

Researching indoor airborne asbestos hazards from building floors does not find scholarly, expert reports that a private home’s kitchen or den un-disturbed (that is not ground, chopped, etc) asbestos-floor covering in good condition produces measurable levels of airborne asbestos.

Both research and my own anecdotal evidence from having spoken with people who worked in shipyards or industry where high levels of asbestos exposure occurred describe a work atmosphere that was sometimes so thick with airborne dust including asbestos that the air became opaque.

The most frequent and serious asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma occurred in workers from industry where the exposure was very high or sometimes in their homes into which workers un-knowingly imported high levels of asbestos-dust on their clothing.

Beyond those industrial settings, research found potential asbestos hazards in schools that merited regulation of in-place asbestos flooring, most likely because of the situation I described above, high risk population (children spending lots of time in the building), and floors whose surface was abraded by foot traffic or by cleaning methods. is an independent publisher of building, environmental, and forensic inspection, diagnosis, and repair information for the public - we have no business nor financial connection with any manufacturer or service provider discussed at our website.


Continue reading at ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD LEVEL ASSESSMENT or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.


Or see ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION - things you can do to minimize asbestos particle or fiber release from an existing asphalt asbestos or vinyl asbestos floor: tiles or sheet flooring

Or see ASBESTOS FLOORING LEFT IN PLACE - steps to avoid an asbestos hazard

Or see ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE - how to remove asbestos-containing flooring while minimizing the asbestos release or exposure hazard

Or see ASBESTOS TESTING LAB LIST - if you need to have flooring a sample tested

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ASBESTOS FLOORING DAMAGE HAZARDS at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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