As a real estate developer, what building material containing asbestos is most likely
to be found in both commercial and residential properties?

Your Right! Flooring materials such as floor tile, vinyl floor sheeting and linoleum are the most frequently
found. Good News, removal of these materials only costs $2.00-$4.00 per square foot. Further, in most
cases, flooring materials in good condition and not disturbed by renovations can be left in-place or carpeted
over. Many states allow flooring materials to be left in-place during building demolition (do not require prior
removal). Ask your environmental consultant specifics regarding floor tile in your state.
OSHA’s Asbestos Construction Standard 29 CFR 1926.1101 requires building and facility owners to treatresilient flooring materials in buildings constructed prior to 1981 as asbestos-containing. Bulk sampling ofthese flooring materials by an accredited inspector (followed by PLM analysis) is the only approved methodto rebut the ACM designation. AET Experience: Exposed flooring materials are easily identified, but flooring materials are often covered
by carpeting or underlayments which limits identifying the exact location and quantities involved. Flooring
materials are also present in multiple layers and sampling must incorporate all layers down to the floor
substrate (wood, concrete, etc.). The extent of layering can vary from room to room and usually the bottom
layer (oldest tile) are most likely to contain asbestos.
Floor tiles differ in size; 9"x9" tile almost always contain asbestos, 12"x12" tile at least 50% of the timecontain asbestos. Asbestos is found in the paper backing of linoleum. Flooring materials containing asbestosusually contain 2-5% Chrysotile asbestos. For sampling purposes, flooring materials are classified as miscellaneous suspect materials by the EPA. TheEPA does not establish a minimum sampling requirement for miscellaneous materials to confirm negativeasbestos content but allow the building inspector to utilize his training/experience for this purpose. AETrecommends at least 2 samples of each type of flooring material be tested. Floor Tile Mastics: The adhesive mastic which adheres the flooring materials to the substrate also often
contains asbestos. Mastics can be asbestos containing regardless if the tile itself contains asbestos. Sufficient
mastic must be collected during sampling either on the back of the tile or by taking a separate mastic sample
to ensure proper identification. Mastic associated with sheet vinyl flooring or linoleum are typically cross
contaminated from the residual paper layer.
Non-friable Organically Bound (NOB) Materials: Flooring materials are NOBs and usually contain small
in length, thin in diameter, tightly bound Chrysotile asbestos fibers in an asphalt or vinyl matrix. PLM
analysis of NOBs does not provide consistently reliable results (false negatives occur). As such, AET
recommends and the states of NY, NJ and SC mandate TEM analysis of flooring material demonstrating
negative asbestos content by PLM.
Conclusion: If your building/residence was constructed prior to 1981, it is likely the flooring materials
contain asbestos. Bulk sampling of representative flooring materials is the only way to confirm/deny
asbestos content. Flooring materials in good condition do not require removal, but should be managed in-
place in your building’s Operations and Maintenance Asbestos Program. Consult your asbestos consultant
prior to disturbing flooring materials, building renovations, building demolition or where damaged flooring
materials are identified.
When you need professional help or advice, email Alan Sutherland, CIH, CHMM at
or call 610-891-0114. We provide nationwide services; phone consultations are
free. Check out the full range of environmental contracting/consulting services on our website


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