Asbestos is a dangerous mineral that was used widely for manufacturing purposes in the 1800s and 1900s until it was confirmed to cause cancer and was banned in the United States. One of the most common products created using asbestos was floor tiles. Today, new floor tiles in the U.S. cannot contain more than 1 percent asbestos. However, asbestos floor tiles can still be found in many homes and buildings that were built or renovated prior to the 1990s.
People who live or work in buildings with asbestos floor tiles could be at risk of exposure to asbestos and the potential to develop related illnesses, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one was diagnosed with a medical condition connected to asbestos exposure and suspect floor tiles to be the cause, contact Bailey & Glasser, LLP for a free case consultation. Our team of asbestos attorneys is committed to seeking justice for those who have been affected by asbestos.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of six naturally occurring silicate minerals. Prior to 1987, when the International Agency for Research on Cancer publicly announced that all six types of asbestos were carcinogenic (meaning they can cause cancer), asbestos was a popular ingredient for many building materials and consumer products.
The most commonly used type of asbestos was chrysotile, as these fibers are long, curly and can be woven together. The other type of asbestos is amphibole, which are thin and needle-like in appearance. Chrysotile asbestos is the most dangerous type. It is the main cause of malignant mesothelioma. Unfortunately, it accounts for about 95 percent of the asbestos used worldwide, according to the National Library of Medicine.
In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed federal laws banning and regulating the use of asbestos in the United States. The EPA’s final rule banned most asbestos-containing products. However, an appeal resulted in only a portion of these products remaining banned. Today, floor tiles and other products can be made as long as they contain 1 percent asbestos or less. Meanwhile, many other countries have completely banned asbestos.
The Health Risks of Asbestos
Asbestos has been connected to several kinds of cancer, including an aggressive and rare type of cancer known as mesothelioma. Asbestos can also cause lung and respiratory problems if inhaled. If asbestos is ingested by a victim, it can cause stomach and abdominal diseases. Sadly, many illnesses connected to asbestos are chronic or terminal, meaning there is no known cure for these conditions.
Illnesses that are related to exposure to asbestos include:
- Asbestosis – a chronic lung disease from inhaling asbestos dust over a significant period of time. Asbestos fibers can damage the lung tissue, resulting in scarring that can stiffen the tissue and restrict lung expansion.
- Asbestos lung cancer – changes to the DNA cells in the lung that result in the formation of lung cancer. Cancer cells can develop from irritation and inflammation of the lung tissues over the course of many years after asbestos fibers are inhaled.
- Other types of cancer – exposure to asbestos can also result in cancer cells or tumors developing in other parts of the body. Possibilities include ovarian cancer, laryngeal cancer, pharyngeal cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.
- Pleural effusion – a buildup of fluid between the two layers of the pleura, or the protective membrane that surrounds the lungs. This buildup can place pressure on the lungs, causing respiratory problems.
- Pleural plaques – irritation and inflammation caused by asbestos particles in the lungs can lead to the formation of hyalinized collagen fibers, or areas of thickening in the pleura. These plaques can be a precursor to mesothelioma.
- Pleural thickening – thickening and stiffening of the pleura can occur when pleural plaques become widespread and diffuse. This can compromise lung expansion in severe cases. Pleural thickening also increases the likelihood of mesothelioma.
According to the National Cancer Institute, no amount of asbestos exposure is “safe” for an individual. Coming into contact with even a small amount of asbestos or a single exposure event could cause related health problems. However, studies suggest that frequent or continuing contact with asbestos increases an individual’s risk of health problems. Living or working in a building that contains asbestos floor tiles, for example, can increase exposure risks.
Why Is Asbestos Present in Floor Tiles?
Vinyl, linoleum and other floor tiles – as well as many adhesives used to install these tiles – were manufactured using asbestos due to the mineral’s durability and fire-resistant properties. These traits made asbestos a popular ingredient for any building material that needed to be strong, long-lasting, flexible and flame-retardant. This includes ceiling tiles, wall tiles and floor tiles.
A building’s floor tiles are high-traffic areas. For this reason, they need to be strong and durable to stand up to wear and tear. The addition of asbestos to the makeup of floor tiles accomplished these goals. Asbestos also lent the added advantage of helping to fireproof the building. Many companies relied on asbestos to manufacture their floor tiles until this mineral was banned in the 1980s.
Even after the ban, floor tiles containing asbestos that had already been created were legally able to be purchased and installed. This means that any floor tiles that were manufactured up until the 1990s could contain asbestos. Asbestos floor tiles were most common from the 1920s to the 1970s; however, specific production dates change according to the manufacturer.
What Types of Floor Tiles Contain Asbestos?
Two main types of asbestos floor tiles were manufactured prior to the ban: vinyl and asphalt. These floor tiles could contain up to 70 percent asbestos by weight. Floor tiles made out of linoleum and cork may also be manufactured with asbestos as an additive.
Many manufacturing companies are known to have produced floor tiles that contain asbestos, including:
- American Biltrite
- American Olean Tile Company
- Amtico Floors
- Armstrong World Industries
- Congoleum Corporation
- Everwear Inc.
- Fibreboard Corporation
- Flintkote Company
- General Aniline and Film (GAF) Corporation
- Kentile Floors, Inc.
- Montgomery Ward
- Sears & Roebuck
In addition to the floor tiles themselves, any black mastic adhesives used to install floor tiles also may contain asbestos. Mastic is a black synthetic resin often used with vinyl floor tiles. Finally, sheet vinyl flooring commonly had asbestos backing. Peeling up these tiles could lead to asbestos exposure.
Should You Worry About Asbestos Floor Tiles?
If you believe that your home or workplace has asbestos floor tiles, your health may not be at risk. Asbestos only causes health problems when it is stirred up, such as if asbestos dust becomes airborne. In these situations, the particles and fibers can be inhaled or ingested. Otherwise, asbestos that is contained in a product will typically remain dormant. If you wish to renovate, remodel or demolish a building that has asbestos floor tiles, however, you will need to orchestrate safe asbestos removal.
How to Tell if Your Floor Tiles Have Asbestos
Asbestos floor tiles were a cheap and easy way to renovate or redesign a home prior to the ban, resulting in millions of properties with these tiles today. Since homeowners could install the tiles themselves, it was a popular method for updating kitchens, bathrooms, hallways and other high-traffic areas in particular.
Use these steps to determine if your floor tiles contain asbestos:
- If you can, figure out the date of installation. Look through old property records to determine when your current floor tiles were installed or renovated. This can give you an idea as to the manufacturing date. If the date is between 1920 and 1980, the tiles may contain asbestos.
- Assess the probability of asbestos contamination. Asbestos floor tiles are typically square or rectangular in shape. There are three main sizes of vinyl tiles: 9×9, 12×12 and 18×18 inches. Asphalt tiles typically came in 9×9 or 12×12 inches.
- Check the color. Asbestos floor tiles may be any color, but popular colors for vinyl tiles were light hues, such as white, cream, pink, green and blue. Asphalt tiles were typically dark in color since they used asphalt as a binder.
- Look for signs of asbestos tiles. Over time, asbestos floor tiles can show wear in the form of stains and discoloration. The tiles may also become grimy or oily in spots. If parts of the tiles have broken or come off and you see thick black adhesive underneath, this is a sign of an asphalt-based adhesive that may contain asbestos, as well.
If you have reason to believe that your floor tiles or the adhesive used to install them contain asbestos, call a licensed asbestos abatement professional to come test your floors. A professional will come collect a sample and send it to a lab for testing. A more cost-effective alternative is taking the sample yourself and mailing it to a lab; however, you must do so carefully using the proper protective gear to prevent asbestos exposure.
Removing Asbestos Floor Tiles Safely
Protect yourself from asbestos exposure by leaving floor tile removal to the professionals. Removing old floor tiles or linoleum flooring without a professional can come with many opportunities for asbestos exposure and the development of related diseases. Any type of removal or renovation project involving asbestos floor tiles could expose and release asbestos fibers that are present in the tile, glue or backing.
If possible, leave asbestos floor tiles intact and avoid removing them. You may be able to cover your floor tiles with new flooring or carpeting, for example, without removal. Leaving your floors alone can protect you from the risk of exposure to asbestos. If you sell your home, notify the real estate agent of the presence of asbestos in your floor tiles. If you wish to install new flooring by tearing out the tiles, hire a professional asbestos removal company.
An asbestos contractor will use special tools and techniques to remove asbestos floor tiles without releasing asbestos dust or particles into the air. This process involves emptying the room of people, pets and furniture, then using a sealant to prevent asbestos fibers from becoming airborne. The asbestos abatement professional will wear a respirator mask, goggles and special clothing. Pump sprayers, floor sprayers and asbestos disposal bags will then be used to safely get rid of the asbestos-containing materials.
Exposed to Asbestos in Floor Tiles? You May Be Eligible for Compensation
Floor tiles, ceiling tiles, adhesives and other products that contain asbestos can pose a serious health and safety threat to residents, workers and others in the area. If you were exposed to asbestos through floor tiles, you may be eligible for financial compensation for a related illness or disease. This includes if you lived in a home with old vinyl or asphalt floor tiles, you worked in a building with asbestos floor tiles, you worked for a construction or demolition company, or you worked for a floor tile manufacturer.
You may be entitled to financial compensation through one or more legal outlets. The compensation that could be available to you includes hospital bills, medical care, mesothelioma treatments, lost wages, pain and suffering, and wrongful death damages. If you wish to file a claim for asbestos floor tiles, you or your lawyer will first need to identify the cause of your asbestos exposure. This will determine your legal strategy.
If you were exposed to asbestos floor tiles while at work, for example, you may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim. These types of claims do not require you to prove that your employer was negligent in exposing you to asbestos floor tiles. You could also be eligible for an asbestos trust fund claim if your company has gone bankrupt due to asbestos litigation. Two other options are a personal injury claim or veterans claim. An attorney can help you choose the right legal strategy for your situation.
Contact Bailey & Glasser, LLP for a Free Consultation
At Bailey & Glasser, LLP, we can help you understand your rights and move forward after a devastating asbestos-related diagnosis. Our attorneys know how asbestos and mesothelioma claims work. We have the ability to handle even the most complicated asbestos floor tile cases. Most importantly, we can answer your questions during this difficult time and connect you to vital resources for greater peace of mind. We work relentlessly to help victims of asbestos exposure.
Learn more about your legal options during a free case consultation. Speak to an intake specialist today about a potential case by calling (866) 871-7971.