ASBESTOS in Flooring
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber mined from the earth. It is heat and chemical resistant, and is easily formed into just about any shape or product. It was used in more than 3,000 different construction materials and manufactured products, including many found in homes.
Can flooring contain asbestos?
Flooring, including sheet vinyl, vinyl or asphalt floor tiles and any associated paper-like underlayment backing, mastic, and asphaltic (cut-back) adhesive manufactured prior to 1985 may contain asbestos. In the past, asbestos fibers were added during the production of flooring materials to strengthen the flooring and to increase its durability and flame resistance. Most flooring products manufactured after 1985 do not contain asbestos. Products purchased after 1985 could contain asbestos if they came from previously manufactured inventories.
How do I find out if it’s asbestos?
You can check for asbestos markings on the material or its original packaging if available. Or, you can hire a certified asbestos inspector to sample the material or perform an asbestos inspection. Companies that perform sampling and inspections are listed in the Yellow Pages under “Asbestos Consulting and Testing”.
Where can samples of a building material be tested for asbestos?
RFCI recommends that samples be submitted to an analytical laboratory that is accredited by the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) through the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) or which successfully participates in the asbestos bulk analysis program of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). A list can be found by state at the following link: http://ts.nist.gov/Standards/scopes/plmtm.htm
If you have asbestos in your home…
Leave it alone
Asbestos is only a problem if asbestos fibers are released into the air. If the asbestos material is in good condition and if it is not being disturbed (sanding, dry scraping, drilling, bead blasting, mechanical chipping, pulverizing, etc.) then it will not release asbestos fibers. The safest and least costly option may be to leave the asbestos material in place. Many new resilient flooring products can be successfully installed over the existing flooring. Check the manufacturer’s installation guidelines before proceeding.
Removing the asbestos material may be the best option if the asbestos material is extensively damaged or if it will be disturbed by renovation or other activities.
Homeowners may legally remove asbestos materials themselves from the single-family home they own and occupy. However, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) strongly recommends using a licensed contractor familiar and trained in doing this work. All work should be performed in accordance with the RFCI Recommended Work Practices For the Removal of Resilient Flooring.
When is the removal of flooring hazardous?
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 may present a health hazard to people who inhale those fibers.
Can I remove asbestos flooring myself?
Removing resilient floor coverings is a common occurrence during home remodeling projects. Resilient floor coverings include linoleum, rubber, cork and sheet vinyl and vinyl floor tiles. Options for dealing with asbestos-containing flooring include removal or installing new flooring over it. Removal of in-place resilient flooring should be considered the final alternative.
If removal of a resilient floor is required, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) recommends using a licensed contractor who has completed the RFCI training program: Recommended Work Practices for The Removal of Resilient Flooring. (unless state or local laws require other measures). However, the information in this document will assist the homeowner who decides to remove the asbestos-containing flooring themselves do the work in a safe manner. It is important for the health and safety of you and your family that you perform the work correctly. Using the proper equipment, preparation, removal procedures and clean up are important in reducing exposure to asbestos fibers.
Is just having asbestos-containing flooring materials in my home or building a health risk?
No. Just having asbestos-containing flooring or adhesive in a home or building is not a health risk if the materials are in good condition.
Are there federal and state regulations regarding the removal of asbestos containing resilient flooring in non-residential/commercial buildings?
Yes. At the federal level both OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration and EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) regulate the removal of asbestos containing materials. EPA also regulates the disposal of asbestos containing materials. Additionally, some state and local authorities have established requirements for the removal and disposal of asbestos containing materials.
Can my in-house maintenance staff remove asbestos containing resilient flooring?
In limited cases in-house employees can remove some types of asbestos containing materials but only after they have received the required training. There are federal, state and local regulations which apply to in-house employees removing asbestos containing materials.