Deadly Fibers and DIY Floor Removal: How to Protect Your Health, Family and Home

Thanks to a decrease in expendable income and a rise in the number of popular home improvement shows and do-it-yourself websites, doing it yourself is more popular (and trendier) than ever before. While it is perfectly ok to handle your own home improvement project, it is important to do it safely. Earlier this month, a report about the dangers of do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement projects warned homeowners that old flooring might contain asbestos.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on July 12, 1989, EPA issued a final rule banning most asbestos-containing products. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned this regulation in 1991. Because of the Court’s decision, the following specific asbestos-containing products remain banned: flooring felt, rollboard, and corrugated, commercial, or specialty paper. In addition, the regulation continues to ban the use of asbestos in products that have not historically contained asbestos, otherwise referred to as “new uses” of asbestos. If your home was recently built from the ground up, asbestos is likely not an issue. If you have an older home that was built when asbestos was still being used, there is no way to know for sure if your flooring contains it.

Fortunately, being able to recognize the different types of flooring and knowing when and where to seek professional help could be the difference between a successful DIY project and a health disaster. First, according to the Asbestos Division at EMSL Analytical, Inc. (one of North America’s largest asbestos testing laboratories), many types of flooring, including sheet vinyl, vinyl or asphalt floor tiles, and any associated paper-like backing, mastic, adhesive or glue, may contain asbestos. The EPA says the most common types of floor covering that may contain asbestos are linoleum flooring and vinyl asbestos tile (VAT). VAT is most commonly found in 9″x9″ or a 12″x12″ square size. The 9″x9″ VAT’s are normally found in older buildings because they were manufactured earlier than the 12″x12″ VAT’s, says the EPA. It is important to note that covering and sizes vary greatly, since many buildings have been re-tiled several times.

Both damaged flooring and flooring in good condition pose a threat. Damaged flooring may be friable, which can cause asbestos fibers to be released into the air. While undisturbed flooring in good condition may not cause fibers to be released into the air, removing it during your DIY project will. Experts agree that before you begin working on any DIY project, no matter how big or small, you should always check for asbestos.

There are two ways to test for asbestos. You can use an at-home testing kit or call an accredited professional. We understand that a professional service may cost more, but it may be well worth it to make sure the job is done right. This may also protect you and your family from any exposure to asbestos. To find an accredited professional in your area, look no further than the EPA. The EPA offers a list of accredited professionals by state here.

If you decide to use a kit, do your best to stick with trusted names in the industry. EMSL Analytical and Pro-Lab are just two accredited and certified options. For more information about asbestos and the dangers of asbestos in the home, watch this educational video provided by EMSL Analytical or visit the EPA website and review the section on asbestos and indoor air quality.

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