What are Floor Tiles?
Resilient flooring refers to man-made, non-rigid floor coverings made from materials such as vinyl, linoleum and asphalt as distinct from woven carpet, wood, ceramic, or marble. It is available as sheet goods and as individual floor tiles, typically 9" or 12" square.
Historically, some types of floor tiles have contained asbestos. VAT, or vinyl asbestos tile is made from vinyl with asbestos fiber filler. Some floor tiles also have a thin layer of asbestos felt on the back, and tile adhesives, or mastics, may also contain asbestos.
Who Works with Floor Tiles?
Floor tiles are often installed during new construction or renovation projects. Floor tile installers may be trained specialists, or do-it-yourselfers. Supervisors, carpenters, drywall hangers and tapers and other trades may also be working nearby when floor tiles are being installed.
Demolition workers, workers who manufacture floor tiles, and janitorial and maintenance staff may also work directly or indirectly with floor tiles. Unfortunately these skilled workers were susceptible to developing mesothelioma, a form of cancer, as a result of exposure to the asbestos material found in the flooring materials.
Where are Floor Tiles Found?
Floor tiles may be used in any room of a house, but is most frequently found in kitchens and bathrooms. Floor tiles are also widely used in schools, municipal buildings, hospitals, commercial buildings, retail stores and other public buildings because it is relatively inexpensive and easier to clean and maintain than carpet or natural materials.
How Does Floor Tile Related Asbestos Exposure Occur?
Floor tile installers or homeowners could be exposed to asbestos fibers when laying down new asbestos-containing flooring. Back when it was common for floor tiles to contain asbestos, installers often had to cut, saw or break tiles to conform to the exact shape of the floor area being covered, exposing the asbestos in the tile or the felt backing. Sanding the rough edges could release additional fibers. Finally, some tile mastics and tile adhesives also contained asbestos. Scraping or sanding to remove excess dried mastic could cause additional asbestos exposure.
Vinyl asbestos flooring can deteriorate with age and use. Damaged or broken floor tiles or sheet flooring can be a source of asbestos fibers, and missing floor tiles can expose old, dried mastic. Old floor tiles can become brittle, causing them to break and crumble when removed. Demolition and renovation workers can be exposed when removing old floor tiles and sweeping up and disposing of debris.
Common Diseases Associated with Asbestos Exposure
The strong link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma cancer did not become common knowledge until the mid-1970's. Workers who have handled asbestos-containing floor tiles and mastics and other workers or supervisory personnel working in the general vicinity, may have inhaled airborne asbestos fibers while on the job, putting them at significant risk for developing one of the following types of asbestos related diseases: pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. In addition, workers often brought asbestos fibers home on their clothes which also put their family members (mostly women) at risk. This was one of the most significant risk factors for developing one of the above diseases.
Some Popular Brands of Floor Tiles and General Resilient Flooring Products
A wide variety of floor tile products and resilient flooring have been produced over the years. Listed below are some commonly used brands which have at times contained asbestos.
- BF Goodrich
- Mannington Mills