Prior to 1980, asbestos was commonly used in the manufacturing of a variety of building materials, including floor tile and floor adhesives. In fact, it can still be found in many building materials used today. As such, departments need to consider the potential disturbance of asbestos-containing building materials in the planning of carpet removal and installation projects. This procedure has been developed to assist departments in the planning process.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that, due to its physical properties, was used extensively in building materials since the early 1900's. It was used to increase resiliency of the building materials and help them to last longer. It was also used as thermal systems insulation, and provided fire resistance, chemical resistance and acoustical absorption.
May Present-Day Flooring Materials Contain Asbestos?
Yes, floor tiles, mastics and adhesives are included in the list of building materials that may contain asbestos. At the University of Connecticut new or recently installed floor tiles should not contain asbestos but our older 12" x 12" floor tile, 9" x 9" floor tile, floor tile mastics, carpet glues, cove bases and adhesives will likely contain asbestos.
Is It Safe to Remove or Perform Maintenance on Asbestos-containing Flooring Material?
Several adverse health effects, primarily respiratory, have been found to be associated with exposure to asbestos. The mere presence of asbestos-containing materials in a building does not in itself pose a threat to health. Exposure to asbestos can occur, however, when the material is disturbed or damaged by activities that cause asbestos fibers to become airborne. Consequently, special procedures and controls are required for the maintenance and removal of asbestos-containing materials. University and contractor employees involved in the maintenance of asbestos-containing flooring material are required to receive asbestos-awareness training annually. Removal of asbestos-containing materials may only be conducted by licensed asbestos abatement personnel. Please refer to the Floor Tile Management procedures for more information.
What Are the Regulatory Requirements Regarding Carpet Removal Projects?
Following EPA and CT Department of Public Health regulations, prior to any renovation or demolition of building materials, including removal of carpets, an inspection for asbestos-containing materials must be conducted by a licensed asbestos inspector. Removal of asbestos-containing materials must be done following strict regulations by licensed asbestos abatement personnel.
So What Does this Mean for Carpet Removals/Replacements?
An inspection for asbestos materials must be done prior to the carpet removal. Should asbestos materials be found under the carpet, there are several options:
- Leave the carpet in place or cover over the existing carpet
- Plan and budget for an asbestos abatement to remove the carpet and asbestos flooring materials
- If the carpet glue is negative for asbestos, but floor tile and/or mastic are positive, conduct a 'test pull' to determine the likelihood of the floor tile remaining intact or being disturbed during the actual carpet removal.
What Happens If the "Test Pull" Looks Good And No Floor Tile Pulls Up?
If the 'test pull' looks good, that is, no floor tile is pulling up with the carpet, floor tile appears to be in good condition, solidly attached to the floor under the carpet (no bubbling or crunching is noted under the carpet), carpet removal may proceed, but should be carried out slowly and in small sections at a time.
What Happens if the "Test Pull" Does Not Go Well and Floor Tile Starts to Come Up With the Carpet?
If the 'test pull' is not good and floor tile starts to pull up with the carpet, your department can either:
- Keep the existing carpet.
- Pay for an asbestos abatement contractor to remove carpet and flooring materials.
- Cover over the existing carpet, if possible.
What Happens if Tile Starts to Pull Up During the Carpet Removal?
If floor tile starts to pull up during the project, activity must cease immediately and EH&S must be contacted. The immediate concern is to prevent exposure of building occupants to asbestos fibers from damaged floor tile or glues. Clean-up actions will be required by an asbestos abatement contractor, the scope of which will be determined by the size of the disturbance, and may require containments and air monitoring. Any further removal activities must be completed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. Please be aware that any emergency clean-up will increase the cost of the project and extend project completion dates.
What if I Hire an Outside Contractor to Remove/Replace the Carpet?
It's important to note that these requirements are not specific to the University, but are state and federal requirements. Thus, all outside contractors conducting this type of work must follow the same regulations. It is up to the requesting department to notify outside contractors of the presence of asbestos. It is up to the outside contractors to be familiar with and abide by state and federal regulations.