Asbestos! It is a fire resistant fiber that was used extensively in the past for fire protection and insulation purposes. The problem is that it has these small, floating fibers that people can easily inhale or swallow. These harmful particles have been shown to cause a number of very serious diseases including asbestosis (which is a chronic disease of the lungs that makes breathing extremely difficult) and cancers. Therefore, it is no wonder why people worry when asbestos tiles are removed from older buildings.
Vinyl tiles contain asbestos (vinyl, asbestos tile – VAT) and should be handled with great care when removing. The first rule is to make sure the material is in a non-friable state. Asbestos is considered non-friable when the material CANNOT be reduced to powder by hand pressure. Non-friable asbestos can become friable if the tiles are damaged or broken, which could mean that these harmful fibers could be released.
Removing these tiles is not easy. To begin with, you will need to wear protective gear, such as a respirator and safety glasses, which will result in more difficult breathing and poorer vision. VAT removal must be done on whole pieces to keep the material in a non-friable state. This means that it is not safe to grind, saw, or drill to aid extraction.
In most states, asbestos should only be removed by licensed asbestos removal contractors who are fully equipped and trained in the safe removal and disposal of such materials. They will usually come armed with plastic sheeting to prevent the particles from moving freely. The IVAs are usually moistened as well, to prevent the particles from getting into the air during the removal process.
The safe disposal of asbestos tiles is serious business and they are usually placed in leak proof containers and clearly marked with a phrase similar to “MATERIALS CONTAINING HAZARDOUS ASBESTOS”.
Once removal has been achieved, the sealed containers are transported by the authorized agent to an EPA approved landfill where they are buried. There are paperwork and administrative procedures required to register the work in question, and the relevant authorities receive the relevant documents for filing upon completion.
It is NOT recommended that you try to remove VAT yourself and there are likely to be penalties if you try and discover it. Furthermore, the waste product must be disposed of in a safe manner and cannot simply be disposed of with the local garbage.
For more detailed information and procedures on the safe disposal of asbestos products, search online or contact your local authorities for an up-to-date fact sheet.