Asbestos in Vinyl Products
If your home was constructed before 1980, you could have a vinyl floor in the kitchen, bath, or hallway that contains asbestos. Homes built between the 1920s and 1950s frequently had vinyl wallpaper with asbestos. Flooring and wall covering manufacturers frequently added asbestos to tiles, wallpaper sheet backing, and adhesives to make the flooring or wallpaper more durable. Asbestos was affordable, stainproof, fireproof, and added an interesting texture to the vinyl that appealed to customers.
Vinyl floor coverings were trendy in homes before the 1970s. Vinyl is waterproof, easy to clean, and durable. Vinyl floor coverings contained asbestos due to its strength and flexibility. Two types of vinyl floor coverings were popular: square vinyl ties and vinyl sheeting. Square tiles were manufactured with nearly 30 percent asbestos fibers as part of the mixture. Vinyl sheeting, which was attached to felt backings, was comprised of 80 percent or more asbestos.
While vinyl flooring is no longer used in home construction, it is still found in older homes and can present a health risk if it deteriorates, or attempts are made to remove it.
How Do You Know if Your Vinyl Wallpaper or Flooring Contains Asbestos?
You would not be able to tell by visual appearance alone whether a material contained asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral with microscopic fibers. The best way to be sure is to have it tested by professionals. The EPA maintains a list of certified asbestos abatement contractors who can test whether your flooring or wallpaper contains asbestos.
Dangers of Asbestos-Containing Materials
Asbestos breaks down into fibers up to 1,200 times thinner than human hair. Asbestos cannot be seen and can quickly circulate through your home if released into the air. When inhaled, these fibers become trapped in the lung and other soft organ tissue. Medical research tells us that asbestos exposure can cause lung diseases up to 30 or more years after inhalation. Asbestos fibers can cause:
- Lung cancer
There is no amount of asbestos exposure that is safe.
Should You Worry If You Have Vinyl Tiles or Wallpaper That Contain Asbestos?
Homeowners are often alarmed when they find out that their home contains asbestos-containing materials. The natural tendency is to want to remove vinyl flooring or wallpaper from your home. The best course of action is to leave the vinyl floor or wallpaper in place. Undisturbed asbestos materials generally do not present a health hazard, provided the materials are in good condition and are not crumbling, flaking, or otherwise deteriorating. Instead, you can install ceramic or porcelain tile, laminate flooring, and solid hardwood or engineered wood over asbestos vinyl tile, without removing the vinyl flooring. You can put up laminate or wood paneling or non-asbestos-containing wallpaper over the older wallpaper. This seals in the asbestos fibers and eliminates the danger.
Can Vinyl-Containing Asbestos Be Removed Safely?
There are no federal laws preventing homeowners from removing asbestos-containing materials. However, suppose you choose to remove asbestos yourself. In that case, you take on the legal liability of ensuring proper bagging and identification of asbestos debris, transporting the hazardous debris in a covered vehicle, and disposal at disposal sites.
The EPA recommends using an approved asbestos abatement contractor to remove and dispose of asbestos material.
Asbestos exposure not only causes mesothelioma cancer but several other cancerous and non-cancerous conditions. If you have been exposed, contact Goldberg, Persky & White today for a free consultation.