Flooring and Carpeting/Asbestos floor tiles
QUESTION: Hello, I hope you can help me. We are in the process of drying walls and carpet after a burst pipe. Carpet was lift up so the floor underneath could dry faster. We realised the tiles under the carpet could be thermoplastic tiles which could contain asbestos. (I was also told by the previous owner that the tiles could also be bitumen). The man who lift up the carpet then went on to remove the carpet grippers and as a result damaging the tiles, therefore releasing fibres. Another worry is that prior to lifting up the carpet we were using dehumidifiers and fan for two weeks and there are two small places of exposed 9x9 brownish orange tiles. I am waiting for a sample to be sent off. I am so worried, not for myself but my three daughters. We feel so unsafe in the house and I am losing sleep over it.
ANSWER: The only way you can ingest the asbestos is to inhale the loose particles. If the tiles are wet or damp then there is less of a chance of fibers becoming airborne, much less inhaling them. Also just because the 9 x 9 tiles are exposed does not mean they are releasing fibers. The tiles need to be abraded in some manner; scraped, sanded, etc., then the fibers can become airborne. In any event, you need prolonged exposure, and a quantitative amount of exposure AND a susceptibility to the type of cancer caused by the asbestos.
As I stated in a previous answer: Long term quantitative exposure to asbestos can be harmful. A limited exposure to asbestos is extremely unlikely to be the cause of any cancer. I was an installer for 10 years, from 1966-1976 and periodically ripped up flooring with asbestos. Back then there was no masks, no protective gear because we did not know of the dangers. This was when I was 18 till I was 28. I also worked in a retail store where we stocked and I physically stacked loose asbestos tiles. I am now 64 and have no history of cancer. Here's a link that might also make you feel more at ease: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/asbestos/asbestos/health_effects/
. It discusses the fact that asbestos related cancer occurs with repeated long term exposure.
Now, I am not trying to downplay the dangers of asbestos. But bottom line here is that no, I do not think you have to worry, and if I were you I would not lose sleep over it.
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QUESTION: Thank you for your quick reply. The exposed tiles are not damaged so I am reassured by your answer. But to clarify that removing a few carpet grippers on the tiles will not cause much harm? The carpet man knocked them slightly to remove them and the edges of some tiles are slightly damaged as a result. He did not use any precautions such as wetting the tiles. Also, would it be a concern if the dehumidifiers and fan were on whilst the wet tiles were covered by the carpet? The machines are now all switched off until the sample is tested. Thanks for reading my query.
The removal of the grippers should not be any problem. It would not have caused enough particles to worry about. Especially in such a short term situation. And this is even more true with tiles that are covered by carpet, regardless of the use of dehumidifiers, fans, etc.
You probably inhale more asbestos in you daily routine going in & out of old buildings. Many old buildings still have asbestos covered duct work and asbestos flooring or remnants thereof. And you don't hear about people dying from cancer from that. I would be more worried about things like second hand cigarette smoke and air pollutants.