Floor tiles that contain asbestos are very prevalent in homes that were constructed before the 1970’s. Asbestos containing floor tiles became popular because of their low cost as compared to other types of floor covering such as wood and marble.
Asbestos floor tiles can be a health risk. If the tiles are worn, or damaged the asbestos fibers can become friable or air born. If the floor tiles are water damaged they are equally a problem. Foot traffic can cause mechanical damage to these floor tiles. Sanding or removal of the floor tiles can also cause the asbestos fibers to get into the air.
When asbestos fibers enter the air, they can cause a number of illnesses and health issues, including lung cancer, as well as other diseases. Asbestos-related illnesses are dangerous and can be fatal. These types of asbestos caused diseases may take several years or longer before presenting symptoms.
Asbestos floor tiles should be removed by a reputable asbestos abatement company. The contractor will take the steps necessary in order to avoid asbestos being released into the air.
Another less but less desirable method to deal with the asbestos is to cover it with another floor covering. This will not cure the underlying problem of having the asbestos tiles but is a way to protect the tiles from being damaged. Carpeting is a good choice because it is installed with a pad. The pad along with the carpeting will help keep the asbestos tiles from mechanical damage. Just be sure not to damage the floor tiles while installing the carpeting. Linoleum and vinyl are other options to cover asbestos containing tiles.
The existence of asbestos floor tiles should be disclosed to any potential purchasers of your home. It is not ethical not to disclose the presence because if the buyer decides to remove the floor covering installed over the asbestos, the asbestos floor tiles can become damaged. As home inspectors it is next to impossible for us to determine the type of materials that are under the new floor.
Another place that asbestos was used is on the siding of homes. Asbestos cement is a hard siding and is composed of a mixture of Portland cement and asbestos fibers. The siding was banned in the country in the mid 1970’s.
Asbestos siding became popular because in 1920 a major fire prevention organization recommended the siding because of its fire resistant properties. The agency was recommending the replacement of highly flammable wood siding with the asbestos siding which is very fire resistant. The use of asbestos siding really became prominent in the 1940’s and this is the decade in which many homes have this type of siding.
In 1970 the health risks associated with asbestos exposures grew and became more prominent. As the anti asbestos sentiments took hold the US federal government stepped in and banned asbestos from building products in 1973.
It has been well established that asbestos can cause serious health problems if it is inhaled. Asbestos can cause two major types of cancer asbestosis and Mesothlioma. Both of these cancers can be fatal in the majority of instances. However, asbestos siding if it is in good condition does not present a health hazard. This is due to the cement component that is in the shingle. The cement binds the asbestos fibers and prevents the fibers from becoming air born. The EPA has established that asbestos is a health hazard when it is in a friable or in an air born state. The only way that the asbestos fibers can get into the air is for them to be damaged mechanically.
Asbestos cement building products such as siding are not considered hazardous unless they are disturbed. If the siding is damaged by chipping, sawing, grinding or sanding this will allow fibers to enter the air. Then the asbestos is considered in a friable state and a health hazard. Deterioration or wearing of the siding can also lead to particles becoming airborne and potentially dangerous.
Proper care of asbestos cement siding is very important in order to avoid damage and deterioration. Asbestos cement siding is very brittle and cracks very easily which can cause asbestos particles to become airborne. A professional siding contractor can replace the damaged siding with fiber cement siding that does not contain asbestos. Specific fiber cement materials have been manufactured for repairs that are intended to look like asbestos cement siding. All asbestos containing materials must be discarded properly. In some states you can take the damaged siding to a landfill that can handle asbestos. In other states specific waste disposal facilities need to be used.
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