Spanish Floor Tiles (C) Daniel FriedmanHow to Reduce the Hazard of Floor Tiles That May Contain Asbestos
     


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Asbestos floor tile hazard reduction guide:

This document assists building buyers, owners or occupants in reducing the risk of asbestos exposure from flooring that contains or is suspected to contain asbestos.

We provide photographs and descriptive text of asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing products to permit identification of definite, probable, or possible asbestos materials in buildings.

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Advice for Hazard Reduction for buildings with Vinyl Asbestos Floor Tiles

Spanish asbestos floor tiles (C) Daniel FriedmanQuestion on reducing asbestos floor tile health risks:

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.

I live in Spain, in a house built in 1967, and I'm quite worried because I suspect that the floors of my house may contain asbestos. I have a baby is 9 month old crawling around the house.

[Click to enlarge any image]

In several rooms I have a flaming ground, looking quite similar to many of the photos seen on your site. In some areas has deteriorated and has holes that emit or accumulate dust.

I'm not sure my flooring matches those shown on your site. I am sending photos (see image at left). if you are able to recognize or catalog. I really did not even know if this flooring vinyl or other material.

The floor tiles are quite thick (about 3 cm), with a thin layer of material seen (a few millimeters) and then a mortar or something similar. The asbestos-suspect floor tiles measure 25x25cm.

I hope you can advise me on the matter, think that contain asbestos? If so, what I can do at home? -- I.B., Spain

Answer:

We have not seen this exact tile pattern before, but from our records it looks a bit like some of the Kentile flooring made in the U.S. (though yours is unlikely to be Kentile and your material is much thicker). Quite possibly your flooring was produced by a European manufacturer and is none of the brands for which we have data.

Our opinion includes the consideration that while foremost it is important to avoid creating an asbestos hazard by improper handling, and while it is usually reasonable to cover over asbestos floor tiles with a new layer of flooring, it is also important that you proceed properly, with local expert advice, so as to avoid creating inappropriate fear on the part of other users of the building.

Friable Asbestos Particle Hazards from Asbestos-containing Floor Tiles or Sheet Flooring

Asbestos product identification label Johns Manville (C) Daniel FriedmanThe US EPA in their "Asbestos NESHAP Adequately Wet Guidance" defines "friable asbestos material" as

Friable asbestos material is any material containing more than 1 percent asbestos as determined using Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM), that, when dry, can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure.

Properly defined in plain english, "friable" asbestos means that one can easily produce powdered material, for example by rubbing asbestos pipe insulation between one's fingers to produce a crumbly dust. In this regard your floor tiles are a mix of asbestos and vinyl or asphalt, and are not readily friable.

The definition of friable asbestos is important, because non-friable asbestos-containing material is less likely to be an asbestos hazard in buildings, unless it is mechanically ground or pulverized.

What produces measurable airborne asbestos-dust is either running equipment that mechanically grinds or sands the tile surface (including some industrial floor polishers) over the floor surface, or using aggressive means of demolition that produce lots of small fragments of broken tiles during renovations.

Because asbestos is a harmless material if not airborne and breathed-in or ingested, it's not as if the floor tiles are "radioactive" or harmful just sitting there, or better still, if covered the tiles will be protected from wear, damage, and future asbestos particle release.

Leaving Asbestos Floor Tiles in Place: Advice About Covering or Sealing Asbestos Floor Tiles

Unidentified floor tiles possibly rubber or vinyl asbestos (C) InspectApediaReader Question: How do I Determine if this 1930's Flooring Contains Asbestos & Can the Floor be Retained?

I am trying to find out what my floor is made of (photo at left). Also if it contains asbestos. It was installed in 1935 when the house was built. Thank you so much.

I have had a hard time keeping a protective finish on it. It hates water and will turn opaque where water gets on it as you can see from the picture in the foreground. - S.T. 2/17/2014

Reply:

I can't say for sure from just the photo but the colors make me think of a cork floor product; Can you send me some sharp photos giving a closer look at the floor surfaces?

Reader follow-up:

You bet!! The measured the depth of the floor is 3/16 of an inch. The material is solid color throughout. (pictures 3,4,5) There is no backing, just solid material. (see picture #6)

The chocolate brown is in 2 pieces for each square. The pieces are 18" by 36” and 10” by 36” for a total size of 28 X 36. There are approximately 77 squares.

Rubber or vinyl flooring for identification (C) InspetApedia.com ST Rubber or vinyl flooring for identification (C) InspetApedia.com ST

The copper color measures 3” by 36” and the blonde is 1” by 6 ft (largest piece I could find)

This is a large room about 20 X 40ft.

This house was built in 1935 by my great grandmother and has a lot of art deco elements. I have a lot of the original receipts but nothing I recognize as flooring.

I have a piece of the flooring and took pictures (2,3,4,5) with my cell phone.

I have trolled online looking for information but it seems to be very hard to determine the material. I don’t believe it is cork. I think it is solid vinyl.

The other floors in this house are 9” chocolate brown linoleum. I was unable to save those floors because they shattered when I tried to remove the carpet tack strips my parents used with wall to wall carpet in the 1970’s. The linoleum was much less flexible than this floor. With this floor material I was able to carefully remove the tack strips. It is actually flexible. It will break if bent too far but it will bend a little. This picture was taken right after finish was still drying. Shows the 2 pieces of the chocolate brown.

Comments:

About all I can guess from just photographs and without lab testing (which I'm not sure is justified) is:

Photo at above left looks like solid something - vinyl most likely from the color. See my comment below about rubber floor tiles;

Photo at above right looks like cork in cross section. If the floor is in good shape and you don't want to ruin its look by an epoxy paint, if you have not already completed applying a hard clear surface sealant (which I suspect you have) I'd look at liquid wax stripping and cleaning followed by coating with a clear sealant like the ones I discuss in this article series. If the floor surface is sealed and un-damaged it's not going to be a particle source.

Rubber Floor Tiles?

There were also some rubber flooring products but the ones I'm familiar with were red or black in cross section; Rubber flooring would be more flexible; usually older asphalt-asbestos or even vinyl asbestos (excluding the self-adhesive lines) are by now quite brittle and would break rather than bend unless heated.

I would be to preserve what can be preserved, sealing the top surface with a clear coat; and for any cleanup of damaged flooring follow the safe procedures like wetting & HEPA vacuuming discussed at ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE

Curiously some of my references assert that even rubber-based floor tiles up to the late 1970's or very early 80's contained asbestos filler.

Guidelines for Removing Asbestos-Containing Floor Tile (Vinyl-Asbestos Tile / Asphalt-Asbestos Tile)

Is Asbestos-Containing Floor Tile Removal Necessary?

We begin by suggesting that you should not remove asbestos-containing floor tile unless it is really necessary. As with asbestos-containing products in general, the asbestos hazard at a building may be greater from disturbing asbestos-containing materials (ACM) than if they were left alone or covered up. But in some cases, particularly during certain building renovations or when asbestos-containing flooring is in poor condition and cannot easily be left in place, removal may be necessary.

As we point out at ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION, 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.

Here is what the University of Minnesota has to say about the hazards of this type of asbestos-containing floor tiles:

Flooring that contains asbestos, when intact and in good condition, is generally considered nonfriable and is not hazardous.

Heat, water, weathering or aging can weaken flooring to the point where it is considered friable. Friable flooring includes any material containing more than 1 percent asbestos that can be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder with hand pressure.

This includes previously nonfriable flooring material which has been damaged to the extent that it may be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder by hand pressure. Flooring can also be made friable during its removal. Friable materials can release asbestos fibers into the air. Once in the air, asbestos fibers present a health hazard to people who inhale those fibers.

 

Advice on Removing Asbestos-containing Asphalt or Vinyl Floor Tiles

Details for this topic are found at ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE. Excerpts are below.

First, here is the US EPA's general Asbestos Advice for Homeowners, quoting from Asbestos in Your Home, U.S. EPA

Asbestos Do's And Don'ts for the Homeowner

  • Do keep activities to a minimum in any areas having damaged material that may contain asbestos.
  • Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos material.
  • Do have removal and major repair done by people trained and qualified in handling asbestos. It is highly recommended that sampling and minor repair also be done by asbestos professionals.
  • Don't dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
  • Don't saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos materials.
  • Don't use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use a power stripper on a dry floor.
  • Don't sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing, install new floor covering over it, if possible.
  • Don't track material that could contain asbestos through the house. If you cannot avoid walking through the area, have it cleaned with a wet mop. If the material is from a damaged area, or if a large area must be cleaned, call an asbestos professional.

Please see complete details at ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE

Here are some general OPNIONS that can help reduce the risk of a floor-tile related asbestos particle risk in the building:

Asbestos Advice for Building & School Building Operators (may apply to other public buildings such as churches)

A good introductory explanation to the possible risk of asbestos in schools and similar buildings is at The ABCs of Asbestos in Schools (August 2003), U.S. EPA, Web search 08/17/2010, original source: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/abcsfinal.pdf - aqui se encuenta la misma documenta escrito en Espan~ol: El ABC del Asbestos en las Escuelas, (copy on file as /sickhouse/EPA_Asbestos_ABCs_Schools.pdf ) fuente original: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/spanishabcs.pdf

Quoting from that document:

In general, as with cigarette smoking, the more asbestos fibers a person inhales, the greater the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease. The most severe health problems from asbestos exposure have been experienced by some workers who held jobs in industries such as shipbuilding, where they were exposed to very high levels of asbestos in the air. These employees worked directly with asbestos materials on a regular basis as a part of their jobs. Much uncertainty surrounds the risk from exposure to low levels of asbestos fibers.

Nevertheless, the risk of school children being exposed to even low levels of asbestos is a concern. Acting on this concern, Congress passed the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) in 1986 to protect school children and school employees from exposure to asbestos in school buildings. This pamphlet describes key parts of these federal asbestos requirements for schools.

Operators of schools and other public buildings should see the U.S. EPA's Asbestos regulations for schools (the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, "AHERA") (PDF) (96 pp, 589k), web search 08/17/2010, original source: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/2003pt763.pdf, require that an accredited inspector reinspect school buildings at least once every three years to reassess the condition of ACM.

Also see

  • How to Manage Asbestos in School buildings, AHERA Designated Person Self Study Guide, U.S. EPA 910-B-96-001, January 1996, web search 08/17/2010, original source: http://www.epa.gov/region2/ahera/e23.pdf
  • Asbestos in buildings: Guidance for Service and Maintenance Personnel ("Custodial Brochure") (July 1985) - available by telephone from the TCSA
  • Guidance for Controlling Asbestos Containing Material in buildings ("Purple Book") (June 1985)   - available by telephone from the TCSA
  • Fact Sheet/Press Release--EPA Releases Asbestos-in-Public-buildings Study and Recommendations to Congress: Extent and condition of asbestos containing materials in public and commercial buildings (February 1988) - available by telephone from the TCSA

 

Continue reading at ASBESTOS FLOORING LEFT IN PLACE for more detailed procedures & products suggested for keeping an intact asphalt asbestos floor or vinyl asbestos floor in place or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

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ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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