10:01AM | 05/18/04
Member Since: 05/17/04
2 lifetime posts
I have been working on an office building to get it ready to move my business into. Last Friday the owner of the building had the old carpet torn out. Underneath the carpet are two layers of old tile. Over half of these tiles came up when the carpet was torn out and some loose, cracked, and broken tiles remain. The carpet store that came out to do an estimate for new carpet is concerned that the tiles contain asbestos. I am concerned because on Saturday I spent 7-8 hours painting the office unit. Should I be concerned of any health risks or does it take more long term exposure for cancer or other lung diseases to develop from the asbestos. The owner of the building doesn't want to test the tiles because he says if they do contain asbestos then he has a problem with the entire building. He wants to just have the tiles removed and lay down the new carpet. This doesn't seem like a good move to me but I know very little on the topic. Is there any way to tell if the tiles contain asbestos without testing. I have heard that the size of the tiles can be an indicator. Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks In Advance,



10:48AM | 05/18/04
Member Since: 07/01/03
549 lifetime posts
Now we are talking about a commercial building as opposed to residential. So the regulatory environment changes quite a bit. Let me say that sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the problem, does not offer you any legal indemnity from prosecution in the event something illegal is done. Any owner or operator, leasee or contractor may be held liable for violations.

Under federal regulations, the building is what is known as a "facility", and it is necessary to determine whether Regulated Asbestos Containing Materials (RACM) are present. This is a two part process; first does a suspect material contain asbestos; and if so, is the material either Category I nonfriable ACM, Category II nonfriable ACM; or RACM.

Sounds complex, but it really isn't. A test to determine asbestos content costs about $35 at a local analytical lab. Ask for Polarized Light Microscopy. Now, if we find more than 1% asbestos is present, we need to determine the regulatory status of the material to be removed.

Vinyl asbestos floor tile is by definition, considered to be Category I non-friable asbestos, unless it has been rendered friable by sanding, cutting, abrading or pulverizing. So, even though asbestos is present, it is not regulated unless you screw up and handle it wrong!

The tiles can be safely removed by wetting to suppress dust, and collecting the tiles in as whole pieces as possible. Because the tiles bind asbestos fiber in a resiliant matrix, asbestos releases are usually neglible to low. Your being in the office the other night did not do any long-term harm.

So, you are most likely exempt from EPA regulations at 40 CFR Part 61 Subpart M. Now about those workers that have to remove the floor tile. The employer is required to comply with 29 CFR 1926.1101 to prevent exposures of asbestos fiber above the Permissible Exposure Level (0.1 fiber/cc air as 8-hour time weighted average). Removal floor tile is defined as Class II asbestos work. Now you have to demarcate a regulated area, limit access, determine the need for engineering controls or respirators, monitor worker exposures, and supervise the work with a competent person and follow approved work practice standards. Bummer, the job is regulated by OSHA unless the building owner, or you, do the work yourselves. No employees, no OSHA.

Well, thats the answer. You cannot avoid potential liability by ignoring the issue, and you, or the building owner can be liable for knowingly exposing workers to potential asbestos exposures or by hiring a contractor to do work and not disclosing the nature of the work. Hey, for starters, that $35 PLM test doesn't sound so bad. If you need some practical how-to, post back.


05:14PM | 05/18/04
Member Since: 08/27/03
254 lifetime posts
Perfect Tom...I am impressed........really.....


05:38PM | 05/18/04
Member Since: 07/01/03
549 lifetime posts
Believe it or not, I make my living doing industrial environmental regulatory consulting. Handyman is a byline.

Thanks for acknowledging. My hat is off to you for your capable flooring advice. Look for a new forum soon on Safety, Environmental and Hazardous Materials moderated by yours truely. (as soon as the BV lawyers can figure out an appropriate disclaimer).


06:15AM | 05/19/04
Member Since: 05/17/04
2 lifetime posts
Thankyou for the quick response. I guess the situation isn't all that serious as long as handled properly... I'm glad to hear that no long term health risks should be a problem. I was very concerned because these 'jack of all trade' guys came in and just ripped the carpet up. I'm sure it stirred up alot of dust and many of the tiles got pulled up and cracked. Just a bit scary cause I wasn't really sure how serious asbestos can be.



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