How dangerous is asbestos in floor tiles?

Written by heidi maines
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Are you remodelling a home with asbestos floor tiles or working a job where asbestos floor tiles need to be removed? Then you need to know the risks associated with handling and removing asbestos floor tiles. Asbestos, when airborne, can be very detrimental to your health if inhaled. It is important to take certain precautions when working with objects that contain this dangerous mineral.

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Identification

According to Kevin Mathias from buzzle.com, asbestos "is a group of minerals that occur naturally as thin separable fibres." Asbestos has many unique features that separate it from other materials. Mathias explains that asbestos is "resistant to heat, resistant to fire, a very good non-conductor of electricity, extremely durable and has a good chemical resistance and sound absorbing properties." Since these qualities were important to many in past decades, asbestos was used in many things, including floor tiles.

History

Mathias explains that nearly all floor tiles produced until the mid-1980s contained asbestos. Manufacturers preferred using asbestos in floor tiles rather than other materials because it made the production process easier, was durable and was very cost-effective. These tiles, according to Mathias, "usually consisted of a mixture of limestone, asbestos, plasticiser, stabiliser, binder and pigment. The mixture was usually heated to temperatures of 148 degrees C and fed into a roller to be pressed to the desired thickness. They were then pressed through cylinders to gain uniform thickness, after which pigmenting and surface designs were done while the tiles were still hot and soft. The tiles were then cooled by immersion in water, water-spraying, or placed in a cooling unit. They were then cut into appropriate size and waxed, ready for the market."

Effects

Asbestos fibres in tiles gave them properties that were very important to many contractors and homeowners looking to tile their floors. Mathias states that asbestos made the tiles "resistant to abrasion, moisture, oil, grease, heat, acids and alkalis." It also "gave them extra strength and durability and added flexibility to them," explains Mathias. The tiles could withstand many extreme conditions, which was good not only for the manufacturer, but also the user.

Dangers

As Mathias tells us, living in homes that contain asbestos floor tiles does not mean that you are immediately at risk. But, he warns that if these tiles were to be broken when removed, that asbestos could easily become airborne. If you want to remove these tiles, Mathias states that power tools should be avoided. The tiles will need to be removed by hand, and very carefully. Placing new flooring down can be very dangerous, since the glue from the tiles contains asbestos and will need to be sanded, explains Mathias. Of course, when you sand any material, dust will be involved. With asbestos tiles, this can be very dangerous to your health, so precautions must be taken.

Considerations

To prevent asbestos from contaminating the air while removing these tiles, Mathias explains that you must keep many things in mind. First, do not use any power tools that can damage the tiles and put asbestos in the air. Second, do not sand these tiles or sand off the glue from the tiles. Be sure to soak these tiles with water so that the particles become to heavy to float up. Also, Mathias says to never vacuum the dust (if there is dust) from the tiles while removing them, as the asbestos particles will be trapped within the vacuum. And most importantly, get rid of the asbestos tiles as quickly and safely as possible. As with any risky procedures, consult a professional before removing asbestos floor tiles. If not properly removed, asbestos can lead to many devastating disorders and diseases.

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