Is There Asbestos In Your Floor?
A couple of years ago, I went to replace a vinyl floor in a basement level bathroom of my house. As I lifted up the old flooring I found the mastic was white with a fibrous look to it. Because my house was built over 20 years ago, I was concerned that I might have uncovered a source of asbestos in my home and just exposed myself to a risk of mesothelioma cancer.
I stopped my project and did some further research. Prior to the 1970's many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. I used to watch my father, a private contractor, and I remember him using asbestos insulation for a heating pipe inside a wall. That was a long time ago, but the research I've done shows that this stuff is still very much with us as it is often more harmful to have it removed than to simply leave it alone.
I found a local agency that does asbestos testing and gave them a call. I was told that usually the best thing is to leave asbestos material alone, if it is in good condition. This is because material that is more or less "stable" will not release asbestos fibers which means you don't have a significant expose risk. In this situation the risk is actually greater if you try to remove it. Asbestos isn't like radioactive material and isn't going to harm you just sitting there. You need to breathe in the fibers to be at risk.
However, if the asbestos material shows signs of wear or damage which includes tearing, abrasion, or water damage. Or if it is exposed to abrasion, extreme vibration or air flow you should have it repaired or removed by a professional as it may be "ejecting" fibers into the air.
So there I am with a half torn up vinyl floor and the worry that I have just very much disturbed so-called asbestos material.
My choices were now to have this tested, and if it did have asbestos fibers I would need it removed and possibly have my house decontaminated as well. If material on the EPA's "Sample List of Suspect Asbestos-Containing Materials Exit Ecology" was manufactured with asbestos in the past, it is safe to assume that it contains asbestos. In this case, I had no idea. I wasn't certain when these materials were manufactured and had no way to find out. Unless testing, the date of manufacture, the label, or the manufacturer verifies that the material is asbestos free, the material may be presumed to have asbestos and treated as though it contained asbestos without being tested or surveyed.
It turns out there are many asbestos testing and Abatement Contractors. Some are listed locally in the Yellow Pages and many others can be found online. I called someone and we discussed all of the information I could find on my house. I had my floor tested and it turned out to be fine. I didn't need to have any asbestos removal or decontamination.
Perhaps I was a little paranoid, but I've seen the effects of mesothelioma and I would just as soon not wait 30 to 50 years before finding out that something that I thought wasn't exposure actually was. If you live in a new home, you should nothing to worry about but many people live in fine older homes that were construction, repaired and renovated during times when asbestos-based materials were commonly used. A bit of testing if you think there's a possible risk is far less expensive that what could be in store further down the road.
About the Author: Adrian Zhu is an author writing for http://www.mybest-mesothelioma-pages.com