Ceramic floor tile - asbestos containing (C) D Friedman Asbestos & Lead Content in Ceramic Floor Tile or Ceramic Wall Tile?

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Do or did ceramic wall or floor tiles contain asbestos or lead?

Do or did tile grout, tile bedding compounds, thin-set mortars, or tile mastic used with ceramic tiles contain asbestos or lead ?

We explain the ingredients in ceramic floor tiles, cite authoritative research on the presence or absence of asbestos in these ceramic tile, or its absence, and we point to sources of confusion about the question of which ceramic products (tiles, pottery, filters) contain or ever contained asbestos as a filler or as a fiber strengthen

We include research citations indicating various hazards in the production of some tile products.

We report on an international survey of certified asbestos testing laboratories who were asked for their experience in receiving ceramic tile samples or mortar/grout samples and testing them for asbestos content.

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.

Does Ceramic Floor Tile or Ceramic Wall Tile Contain Asbestos?

Ceramic floor tile - asbestos containing (C) D Friedman

Is asbestos found non-resilient flooring such as ceramic floor tiles?

Our page top photo illustrates a fragment-section of old ceramic floor tile. At left we show a side-view or cross-section of how this old ceramic floor tile was installed by bedding it directly into concrete. We would not expect to find evidence of asbestos in this tile installation.

[Click to enlarge any image]

This example was found in a pile of demolition debris left at a building renovation site. The tile was set into and well bonded to concrete, and was removed under wet conditions.

The short answer for now appears to be "yes and no" depending on the tile and tile grout age and source, as follows:

Antique ceramic tile, Barcelona, Spain (C) D Friedman

Details, including authoritative citations and an ongoing survey of the results of tile testing at asbestos testing labs in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Korea, the U. K. and other locales are provided below.

OPINION: researching this question we find that the dominant opinion among experts and amateurs is that ceramic tiles are made of clay subjected to high temperatures and finished with a hard glazed surface. Not asbestos.

If there are some ceramic tiles whose clay source included asbestos or to which asbestos was added [a topic of ongoing research that we report and update below] the tiles are nevertheless a non-friable material that would not normally be a hazardous source of asbestos in buildings.

Non-friable materials are hard and do not easily release particles into the indoor environment.

Watch out: grinding, tile-saw cutting, sanding or similar activities performed on ceramic tiles of any composition could produce fine dust and debris that should be controlled and treated as a respiratory hazard, asbestos-containing or not.


Question: does this [ceramic] floor tile contain asbestos?

Ceramic floor tile  asbestos question (C) InspectApedia EP

My husband & I are planning on replacing the floor tile in our entryway. I'm trying to research to see if it could contain asbestos as we have two young children. Our home was built in 1965 in a Pittsburgh suburb.

Could you take a look at this picture and let me know what you think? Thank you! - anonymous by private email, 2016/07/15


From your photo this looks like ceramic floor tile. If it is a modern, U.S.-made product it probably does not contain asbestos. However some mastic adhesives did contain asbestos so care in removing that material would be appropriate.


If you cannot remove the flooring without making a dusty mess, it may be worth having a sample of tile and more-likely the adhesive mastic tested.


If you do decide to have the materials tested let us know the result as that may help other readers.

Do Ceramic Floor or Wall Tiles Contain Dangerous Levels of Asbestos or Not ? - research question status

Antique ceramic flooring in Barcelona Spain (C) D Friedman

Deliberate Inclusion of Asbestos as an Add-in to Ceramic Tiles?

Asbestos could have been included in some ceramic floor tile formulas into the 1970's as a filler or in fiber form as a strengthener.

At least one asbestos testing lab director reports that asbestos is found in ceramic tiles made in some parts of the world such as the Mediterranean area and in unglazed terrazzo (non-ceramic) tiles.[44]

Below at CHINESE CERAMIC TILE ASBESTOS we discuss reports of asbestos in some recent Chinese ceramic tile and flooring products.

Don't Confuse Asphalt-based or Vinyl-based Asbestos-containing Floor Tiles with Ceramic Tile Products

In our flooring photograph at left, the floor and stair tiles may be vinyl-asphalt or vinyl-asbestos floor tiles but they are not a ceramic product. For information about asbestos-containing vinyl or asphalt-based floor tiles, see ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION.

Certainly as we see in Rosato [23], the asbestos industry was constantly looking for uses of asbestos mining waste products that included granular asbestos dust and short asbestos fibers.

Although we cite field and lab reports and research in this article, we have not yet located an authoritative reference source (text, journal article, government document) that documents the deliberate or accidental inclusion of asbestos material added to modern (20th century and later) ceramic floor or wall tiles made in North America. Please contact us if you have such information.

In contrast, it is certain asbestos was used in those forms in vinyl-asbestos flooring (a different material from ceramic tiles). And as we document below, asbestos was used in mixture with ceramic fibers (for certain products such as filters) and in ancient pottery applications.

Our photo above illustrates a floor tile installation in Barcelona, Spain. These floor tiles are estimated at more than 50 years old.

Question: will I release dangerous asbestos if I clean these black and white ceramic floor tiles from a 1948 home in Georgia?

Black and white ceramic bath tile floor in a 1948 Georgia home - does it contain dangerous asbestos, and can we clean it? (C) B.C. 2018/05/06 Brittney said:

I’m wondering if you are able tell/may know if these floors contain asbestos just by looking at them?

My husband and I just purchased this house built in 1948 in Georgia. And I hadn’t thought much about asbestos in floors until finding this website and now I’m concerned. (See attached pic).

Do you think scrubbing the floors/grout should be safe ?

This question and reply were posted originally at ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION


It appears to me you're asking about a ceramic tile floor.

If That's the case, even if the style contained asbestos, which would be quite uncommon, the asbestos risk is beneath the limits of detection unless you're grinding chopping or sawing the material.

Cleaning the floor in your photos is not going to produce a measurable hazard even if there was asbestos in the tile or its grout - a situation that would be quite uncommon - as the materials are very hard and not at all friable.

Typically we need to use a liquid cleaner that includes mild bleaching agent to whiten the floor tile grout.

Question: do new ceramic tiles from China contain asbestos?

The ceramic tile that we purchased for our bathroom wall was made in China. What are the chances that it would contain asbestos? - Anon by private email 2017/03/24

Reply: maybe yes

A quick search for "Asbestos in Tile from China" intended to collect results on asbestos in ceramic tile made in China found these interesting and suggestive results, giving a definite possibility that your Chinese-made ceramic tiles could contain asbestos.

The most strongly-worded material comes from news reports, after which I cite some more-scholarly research on asbestos in Chinese ceramic tiles used on walls and floors.

Ceramic tile is not friable - if your particular tile contains asbestos, the measurable asbestos risk would come with cutting, grinding, chopping, demolishing the building material to create an asbestos-containing dust hazard.

Reader follow-up: I don't want the Chinese ceramic tile in my home: plans to remove Chinese Ceramic Tile

Well the flooring says made in PRC.....that means People's Republic of China.

Ii realize where the "measurable risk" comes from but since my now deceased husband died of mesothelioma, from supposed MINIMAL exposure to asbestos I don't want ANYTHING containing asbestos in my home.

Unfortunately the ceramic tile has already been installed and that involved lots of cutting. The flooring has not so I will be returning it. I have contacted the company from which I purchased the material but have not yet heard back from them.

Reply: minimize the risk of installed Chinese asbestos-suspect ceramic tile

I don't blame you for taking these things seriously, and I'm cautious too about products from China - there have been enough disasters already.

What I meant by measurable risk is that installed ceramic tile is not going to release asbestos at detectable levels in a building unless it's disturbed.

While it's a different product (flooring) the US EPA advice on minimizing asbestos hazards in the home emphasizes that unless the asbestos-containing but non-friable material is damaged or being disturbed, the lowest risk to occupants is to leave it alone, or perhaps cover it over. Removing it will expose you and the building and its occupants to a much greater risk, even if you hired a professional remediator who used negative air, containment, etc. (you're looking also at a very big cost).

OPINION: My advice is to leave the tile in place, or if it's going to make you worry - which is itself bad for us - you could consider laminating over the existing tile with a second layer of new material in which you have confidence. That may at most require some adjustments at the tub/shower controls to bring them forward.

What is the Composition of Ceramic Tiles?

Is there Accidental Inclusion of Asbestos in Clays Mined for Use in Producing Traditional Ceramic Tiles?

The term "clay" refers to both a particle size (smaller than 2-4mm) and a type of rock or mineral comprised of fine-grained sheet silicates.[48] The fine-grained clays used to manufacture ceramic tiles include basically compounds of silica, alumina, and varying amounts of metallic oxides and other impurities. [32]

Ceramic tiles are made from natural clay [such as Cretaceous clays [30] (not asbestos)] or porcelain, and are glazed or un-glazed.

Typical ceramic tile composition (in more detail) includes 33% refractory clay, 20% quartz, 45% sodium feldspar. Other sources list common tile ingredients including aluminum oxide, zirconium oxide, and quartz (silicon dioxide). Other ceramics have more complex formulas.

Ceramic tiles are made of clay (predominantly feldspar), water, and some mineral additives, processed with high heat to solidify the product and whose top or exposed surface is sealed with a glaze.

Porcelain tiles are a harder ceramic tile made of kaolin mixed with china stone, or in other sources, by using ground sand. Porcelain is heated to a higher temperature than other ceramics (more than 2000 degF) and is more dense than ceramic materials made of clay.

Many other materials have been included in clays used in making various ceramic products since the Stone Age (pottery) and continue to be added to give special properties or colors to modern ceramic tiles, including perlite, fly ash, granite stone grinding and cutting waste, etc. Indeed expert sources date the oldest known ceramics date to 27,000 BCE.

The oldest known ceramics made by humans are figurines found in the former Czechoslovakia that are thought to date from around 27,000 B.C.E.

It was determined that the figurines were made by mixing clay with bone, animal fat, earth, and bone ash (the ash that results when animal bones are heated to a high temperature), molding the mixture into a desired shape, and heating it in a domed pit. T

he manufacture of functional objects such as pots, dishes, and storage vessels, was developed in ancient Greece and Egypt during the period 9000 to 6000 B.C.E. [33]

We have not found a citation that includes asbestos among these. Contact us if you have related information.

List of Authoritative sources reporting the use of [or absence of] asbestos in any form of ceramic floor tiles

Do ceramic tiles risk releasing harmful particles into indoor air?

Ceramic floor or wall tiles of any formula, if in good condition have a low, most likely negligible risk of releasing harmful particles or fibers into indoor air. And a ceramic tile that comes loose intact or with a single break is also unlikely to release a measurable amount of dust or particulates into the building.

Watch out: Phillip A. Peterson Vice President Fibertec Industrial Hygiene Services, Inc.[49] advises that Although the tile themselves are unlikely to contain asbestos, the grout and bedding may well contain asbestos and the demolition of the tile will likely create an exposure hazard when the grout and/or bedding are disturbed.

Ceramic floor tiles that are being demolished, ground, sanded, or cut with a tile saw, if they are old enough to have been installed when asbestos was in common use in grout, tile bedding, or (in newer homes) thin set or tile mastic, could be hazardous and should be handled appropriately.

If you are considering demolition of old ceramic floor tiles or similar materials, or are using a sander, grinder or tile saw on such materials, there could indeed be an asbestos hazard and you should follow appropriate handling, dust control, personal protection, and cleanup procedures.

If you have a segment of floor tile (or any material) tested for asbestos the test should be performed by a certified asbestos testing laboratory.

In Any Case, Better to Leave Asbestos-Containing Floor Tiles In Place

As with known or suspected asbestos-containing floor tiles (such as asphalt or vinyl-asphalt asbestos floor tiles), when it's feasible expert sources recommend leaving the original floor tile material in place and covering it over with new flooring.

Leaving asbestos-suspect flooring in place, even if you need to level the floor before it is covered with new material, is not only less costly than a professional asbestos abatement project, it also is likely to be the course with the lowest risk of asbestos dust or fiber release and contamination in the building. According to the US EPA {discussing asbestos abatement in schools] :

... In addition, abatement activities may create more of a hazard than would normally exist if the ACM were simply protected and maintained in good condition as is the case for ceramic floor tiles. ...[3]

Similar sources indicate that simple deconstruction of a building with appropriately careful disassembly of its parts may not require asbestos abatement. [4]

Details about covering-over asbestos-containing floor tiles or other ACM flooring such as resilient sheet flooring are

Special thank-you to reader A.H. who suggested clarification about the risk that ceramic wall tiles or ceramic floor tiles might contain asbestos. - Ed.

Contaminants & Health Hazards Ceramic Tile & of Other Ceramics: Clays, Pottery, Art Studios

For potential health hazards associated with exposure to artists materials for those working with ceramics, such as clays, glazing compounds, and pigments, see our "ARTS & CRAFTS MATERIAL HAZARDS & TOXICITY entry included at ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS - INSPECT, TEST, REMEDY and references at the end of this article. [51][52][53]

Also, as ingredients used in the manufacture of some ceramic tiles or in tile glazing may contain surprising contaminants of a wide variety, including heavy metals, lead, possibly arsenic, and radioactive materials, see

Survey of Accredited Laboratories for Asbestos Fiber Analysis

Beginning in March 2012, and using the U.S. NIST directory of accredited laboratories certified for asbestos fiber analysis, [42] we polled at least one laboratory in each U.S. state, Puerto Rico, two Canadian Provinces, and laboratories in Japan and Korea, asking each if their laboratory had ever received ceramic tiles for asbestos testing and whether or not their lab had ever detected asbestos in ceramic tiles used on walls, floors, or other building services. Results will be included here.

We asked: "Can you tell us if your laboratory has ever received samples of ceramic wall or floor tile to test for asbestos, tell us if you have encountered asbestos in ceramic tiles used on walls or floors, and/or can you provide a reference to a paper, study, book, or expert who can tell us whether or not asbestos in any form was used in the production of ceramic wall tile or floor tile, or in terra-cotta or similar tile products." and we invited technical review of this article.

Table of Asbestos Test Labs Reporting Finding Asbestos in Ceramic Materials or Tiles

Respondents to Date

(n=55) (r=6)

(R = 5 - 40)
Asbestos Detected in Ceramic Floor/Wall
Tile Samples
(R = 4 - 40)
Asbestos Detected in
Tile Grout,
Estimated 3
Grout Samples Tested 3
Date: 4/23/12(1)

Never - 84%

Common - 16% (2)

540 10

Never - 25 %
Rare - 50%
Common - 25%


(1) Survey initiated 3/8/2012

(2) Asbestos reported as extensive in ceramic tiles made out of North America, particularly in the Mediterranean area[44]

(3) Our calculated estimate of total number of actual lab samples processed by laboratories responding to the survey. Based on correspondence, e.g. P. P. to D.F. 3/14/12[49] estimated less than 150" tile samples over 20 years of ceramic tile, & 200 grout & bedding samples over 8 years of testing. We estimated 6 tile samples per year or 25 grout samples per year per responding lab, and and multiplied that by known or estimated number of years of lab testing of tiles or grout. [E.g. 200 samples/8 yrs = 25 grout samples/year. 25 x 6(labs) x 10 yrs) =1500]

(4) In every case the asbestos mineral has been chrysotile asbestos and the concentration of asbestos has exceeded 2 percent (making them asbestos containing materials by definition).49]

Watch out: while asbestos may be absent from your ceramic tile found on walls or floors, it may be present in joint compound used on drywall behind the tile or in some tile adhesive mastics. Also some ceramic tiles may contain lead.


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