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Do asphalt-impregnated paper-acked floor tiles contain asbestos?
Thin bituminous-impregnated paper-backed floor tiles are similar in composition to sheet flooring used in many countries in the 1940's and 1950's, perhaps later. Cut into 9x9" squares and adhered to a subfloor the tiles shown here were later painted to form a "rug" pattern desing.
Rosato described use of a felt underlayment to produce flooring materials:
Another application of asbestos with vinyl tile involves the use of asphalt saturated asbestos felt applied under 1/8 inch thick tile. This felt underlay provides for smoother finished flooring.
It is possible that this development is what led to continuous-sheet asbestos-felt-underlayment backed sheet flooring. But we point out that continuous sheet flooring and asphalt tile flooring has an older history.
[Click to enlarge any image]
The original resilient floor covering, linoleum, was used as a floor decking on British naval ships. Asphalt tile was first made as a mastic type of floor covering. The mastic was troweled on as a deck covering over wood. The original mixes included asphaltic binders, with fillers of asbestos; mixing was done on a rubber mill.- Rosato cited at the references section of this page.
But here the 9"x9" square asphalt-impregnated paper-backed tile flooring material was pre-cut into regular gray-colored squares installed as glued-down floor tiles in a U.S. home built in 1953. Our second photo above sports green lines showing (roughly) the positions of the original, now painted-over, floor tiles.
The homeowner who asked about this flooring explained about these painted, 9x9-inch asphalt-paper-backed floor tiles, painted-over here with a more-traditional sheet flooring "rug" pattern:
I am hoping you may be able to give some direction based on the photos attached. There are different tiles throughout the house but this room has damaged tiles from heavy furniture and some from water.
I am worried that they may contain asbestos as they are exposed now. I cannot identify much about the tiles as they have been painted about twenty years ago. They were all grey with a design of all green tiles around the middle of the room.
One photo shows the grey tile where water has removed the added paint but because the tiles are significantly cracked I cannot tell if they were plain grey or had any variations of grey in them. The other photo shows where furniture has worn through the tile. The added paint is multi colored but the green on the edges was the tile and I was hoping the black interior of the tile might give you some clue. They were installed in the house when it was built in 1953.
The entire floor was painted, the burgundy and floral pattern are acrylic paint covered with water based varnish that has been there about 20 years. It is difficult to see the lines separating the individal floor tiles because of the paint on top but the tiles are 9 x9 inches.
The [original, think 9x9 felt paper-backed floor ] tiles themselves were actually all grey with a square in the middle of the floor of all green tiles.
I will probably cover the floor as is but I have a few concerns about whether the fact that the tile is breaking will make for an unstable base, it is bulging in areas from the weight of furniture or even a computer chair. I don't know if it deterioration due to age.
Also whether there is room to fit new flooring, probably wood flooring, under the old radiators or would it be too difficult to lift them after all of these years. In an old house with low ceilings every inch of height counts, and I don't know if some sort of subfloor would be needed under new wood flooring to make it stable or safe.
In the meantime I have just covered the newly discovered areas where the tile is broken through with clear tape in the hopes that might keep any dangerous particles in place.
- Anonymous by private email 2017/05/07
These look like a very early floor tile made using the same process as sheet flooring comprised of a color layer and an asphalt-impregnated paper backer - that was a successor to true linoleum.
While your 9x9" felt-paper backed floor tiles may in fact be asbestos-free, knowing their age (ca 1953) and that some asphalt-impregnated paper backers contain asbestos you'll want to avoid a dusty demolition; we would not know for sure about the asbestos content of your asphalt-paper-backed floor tiles without a lab test. If you do not damage the tiles nor create a dusty mess the potential asbestos exposure hazard is likely to be below the limits of detection.
Your third photo, shown here with a tear in the flooring, shows a green component in the painted floor surface and the thin asphalt-impregnated paper (felt paper) backing of the floor tiles. The paper, impregnated with a bituminous compond or simply thinned asphalt, imparted both a moisture resistance to the flooring and a strength to the paper backer.
See ASPHALT-ASBESTOS FELT FLOORING for sheet flooring that was quite similar in composition and where we point out that asbestos was used in bituminous-impregnated building papers and flooring underlayments in some products.
ADVICE: For buildings with floor tiles or sheet flooring that can be assumed to have been installed in North America before 1986 it would be prudent to treat the flooring as "PACM" or "Presumed Asbestos Containing Material".
The presence of known or assumed asbestsos-containing flooring does not mean we should panic nor that we must undertake an expensive and dangerous asbestos removal project.
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.
Generally the safest approach is to leave such flooring alone and to cover it over with a coating or with another layer of flooring. There are some thin real-wood laminate products that are quite nice, durable, and that do not add as much thickness to the finished floor as full 3/4" thick wood flooring.
Continue reading at FLOOR TILE HISTORY & INGREDIENTS for a guide to floor tile identification, history & composition, or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
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Question: I removed some 6" ceramic tiles that I estimate were from the late 70's or early 80's - would these ceramic tiles contain asbestos?
A few years ago I removed an area of ceramic tiles from the floor of my house. They were about 6inches square and 0.5 inches deep and were ceramic or possibly concrete. I am unsure of there age but estimate late 70s early 80s
Would it have been likely that these tiles contained asbestos or were asbestos containing tiles restricted to the vinyl type? If it makes any difference our location is England.
Any information you could give would be gratefully received
Thanks - A.H.
PS - your website is great and really useful
Reply: asbestos-ceramic tile risks, history in the UK, recommendations
From the age you give, and considering that the ceramic tiles could have been in stock for some time before they were installed, having been thus made in the 1970's, they indeed could have contained asbestos, but we have been unable to find an authoritative source that confirms that asbestos was ever used as a component of ceramic floor tiles or wall tiles.
Watch out: A more likely asbestos hazard one might encounter when removing ceramic floor or wall tiles would be an asbestos-containing tile mastic - the glue that was used to secure ceramic tiles on walls and floors in a thin-set installation methods. You would not expect to find asbestos below ceramic tiles at an older installation at which the tiles were bedded directly into cement - the "thick set" method for tile installation.
The history of asbestos use and regulation in the UK could have permitted your ceramic tiles, installed in the 1980's, to contain asbestos.
A brief-history of asbestos usage and asbestos regulation in the UK
A documented asbestos-related death in the UK occurred as early as 1906. Asbestos regulation began in the UK in 1931, and in 1965 mesothelioma had been documented there. Imports of asbestos into the U. K. peaked in 1967.
By 1970 the UK had banned the import of raw crocidolite and amosite asbestos was banned (voluntary ban) in 1980.
More strict licensing regarding asbestos handling and remediation did not begin in the UK until 1980s. And the first licensing regulations date from 1983, while in the U. k. asbestos-containing product prohibitions date from 1985 with UK asbestos material regulation amendments in 1988, 1992, 1994 and onwards to a final "comprehensive ban" in 1999. Silverdell, 
The actual hazard of their removal would have depended on their condition, how they were removed, and the quantity. Generally the asbestos released from ceramic tiles removed relatively intact should be quite low.
Please take a look at CERAMIC TILE, ASBESTOS / LEAD? , where we discuss ceramic floor tiles that may contain asbestos, the hazards and some recommendations.
At References at the end of this article we cite authoritative sources for that information.
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Questions & answers or comments about the history and production of asbestos-containing flooring and floor tiles
Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
 EPA, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Asbestos in Your Home, web search 08/31/2011, original source: www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/ashome.html
 EPA Guidance for Controlling Asbestos-Containing Materials in buildings, NIAST, National Institute on Abatement Sciences & Technology, [republishing EPA public documents] 1985 ed., Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
 EPA: "Asbestos Management", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 7, original author: Todd H. Dresser, Environmental Engineer,
Burlington Board of Health, 29 Center Street, Burlington, MA 01803, web search 3/4/2012 original source: epa.gov/region07/education_resources/teachers/ehsstudy/ehs2.htm, [copy on file as: /hazmat/Asbestos Management _ Region 7 _ US EPA.pdf ]
 "Deconstruction - Building Disassembly and Material Salvage - the Riverdale Case Study", U.S. EPA, web search 3/4/12, original source: epa.gov/wastes/conserve/rrr/imr/cdm/pubs/river.pdf, [copy on file as: /hazmat/Deconstruction_Riverdale_EPA.pdf]
 "Toxics Information Series - Asbestos", U.S. EPA, April 1980, [copy on file as /hazmat/Asbestos_Toxics_EPA_1980.pdf]
 EVER WEAR TILE CO is currently (2009) in the Terrazzo, Tile, Marble, and Mosaic Work industry in Fallon, NV. 775) 423-6221. [We do not know the company history nor whether there is an association with EverWear vinyl asbestos floor tiles discussed in this article.]
 History of Asbestos in the UK - the story so far ..., Silverdell PLC, 14 Buckingham St., London WC2N 6DF TelP 0207 389 6906, email: email@example.com website: www.silverdell.plc.uk. Web search 3/4/12, original source: issuu.com/silverdell_plc/docs/silverdell_history_of_asbestos_article, [copy on file as /hazmat/Asberstos_UK_Silverdell.pdf ]
 Armstrong ® Residential Flooring - Website 05/15/2010 http://www.armstrong.com/ lists current flooring products provided by the Armstrong Corporation, including Armstrong's current vinyl floor tile products at http://www.armstrong.com/flooring/products/vinyl-floors
 Armstrong Corporation, Corporate History - http://www.armstrong.com/corporate/corporate-history.html - Web Search 05/19/2010
 Armstrong vinyl asbestos floor tiles: photos of asbestos floor tiles as catalog pages (PDF form) are at www.asbestosresource.com/asbestos/tile.html
 Thanks to Armstrong Corporation (800-356-9301) for providing information about the dates of manufacture of peel-and-stick floor tiles, email July 2010
 "Asbestos in your home or at work," Forsyth County Environmental Affairs Department, Winston-Salem NC
 "Asbestos Floor Tile Removal", the University of Minnesota's advice on removing VAT (vinyl asbestos or asphalt asbestos floor tile) can be read in detail at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/asbestos/floortile/index.html
 ASBESTOS IN YOUR HOME U.S. EPA, Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
 Resilient Floor Covering Institute, 1030 15th St. NW, suite 350, Washington D.C.
 Asbestos products and their history and use in various building materials such as asphalt and vinyl flooring includes discussion which draws on ASBESTOS, ITS INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS, ROSATO 1959, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 (out of print).
 LIFE Feb 14, 1955 p. 105, advertisement for Congoleum flooring products and listing of Gold Seal products by Congoleum.
 Rotterdam Convention PIC, see http://www.pic.int/home.php?type=s&id=77, and for a PDF on the composition of vinyl-asbestos flooring, see http://www.pic.int/en/DGDs/Alternatives/USA/American%20alternatives%20part%203.pdf
where PIC refers to Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade on 10 September 1998.
Major Provisions of the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent Procedure PIC
The Convention covers pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons by Parties and which have been notified by Parties for inclusion in the PIC procedure. One notification from each of two specified regions triggers consideration of addition of a chemical to Annex III of the Convention, Severely hazardous pesticide formulations that present a hazard under conditions of use in developing countries or countries with economies in transition may also be nominated for inclusion in Annex III.
There are 40 chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention and subject to the PIC procedure, including 25 pesticides, 4 severely hazardous pesticide formulations and 11 industrial chemicals. Many more chemicals are expected to be added in the future. The Conference of the Parties decides on the inclusion of new chemicals.
Once a chemical is included in Annex III, a "decision guidance document" (DGD) containing information concerning the chemical and the regulatory decisions to ban or severely restrict the chemical for health or environmental reasons, is circulated to all Parties.
Parties have nine months to prepare a response concerning the future import of the chemical. The response can consist of either a final decision (to allow import of the chemical, not to allow import, or to allow import subject to specified conditions) or an interim response. Decisions by an importing country must be trade neutral (i.e., apply equally to domestic production for domestic use as well as to imports from any source).
The import decisions are circulated and exporting country Parties are obligated under the Convention to take appropriate measure to ensure that exporters within its jurisdiction comply with the decisions.
 "Resource4Mesothelioma, Mesothelioma Information and Legal Guide", web search 3/6/2012, original source: resource4mesothelioma.com/topics/whatisasbestos.html [copy on file as /hazmat/Asbestos_Resource4_3Mar12.pdf ] and also
mesothelioma.com/asbestos-exposure/products/ceramic-tiles.htm [copy on file as
 Asbestos, Its Industrial Applications, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 [out of print, original copy, text and images on file at InspectAPedia.com offices].
 Microwave thermal inertisation of asbestos containing waste and its recycling in traditional ceramics.
Leonelli C, Veronesi P, Boccaccini DN, Rivasi MR, Barbieri L, Andreola F, Lancellotti I, Rabitti D, Pellacani GC.
Dipartimento di Ingegneria dei Materiali e dell'Ambiente, Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Via Vignolese 905, 41100 Modena, Italy. firstname.lastname@example.org Journal of Hazardous Materials 135 (1–3): 149–155 - Citation: J Hazard Mater. 2006 Jul 31;135(1-3):149-55. Epub 2006 Jan 10., web search 3/6/2012, original source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16406335
Asbestos was widely used as a building material prior to the 1970's. It is well known that asbestos is a health hazard and its progressive elimination is a priority for pollution prevention. Asbestos can be transformed to non-hazardous silicate phases by microwave thermal treatment. The aim of this investigation is to describe the microwave inertization process of asbestos containing waste (ACW) and its recycling in porcelain stoneware tiles, porous single-fired wall tiles and ceramic bricks following industrial manufacture procedure. Inertised asbestos powder was added in the percentages of 1, 3, and 5 wt.% to commercially available compositions and then fired following industrial thermal cycles. Water absorption and linear shrinkage of the obtained industrial products do not present significant variations with additions up to 5 wt.% of microwave inertised ACW.
 Asbestos-ceramic, Wikipedia, web search 3/6/2012, original source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asbestos-ceramic [copy on file as /hazmat/Asbestos-ceramic_Wik.pdf]
Asbestos Information Links: Asbestos Detection, Testing, Recognition, Hazards, Field Photos, and Information Sources, including
health-related links such as legal services and information about mesothelioma and other cancers.
Asbestos Identification and Testing References
Asbestos Identification, Walter C.McCrone, McCrone Research Institute, Chicago, IL.1987 ISBN 0-904962-11-3. Dr. McCrone literally "wrote the book" on asbestos identification procedures which formed
the basis for current work by asbestos identification laboratories.
Stanton, .F., et al., National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 506: 143-151
Pott, F., Staub-Reinhalf Luft 38, 486-490 (1978) cited by McCrone
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