Hardwood and vinyl flooring have been a popular choice for flooring for decades, and many flooring products made of wood or vinyl before 1980 have asbestos mixed into them to increase their durability and heat resistance. This put hardwood and other flooring contractors at risk of asbestos exposure.
Vinyl is a plastic resin that is made from chlorine and ethylene that is frequently used in various types of flooring. The substance is flexible but sturdy, easy to wash, and inexpensive to install and replace. Also, vinyl flooring products can be made with almost any texture and color. This allows the hardwood flooring to have the appearance of stone, wood, and other similar building materials at a fraction of the cost.
Hardwood & Vinyl Flooring Contractors Fast Facts (BLS.gov)
- National Employment: 119,600
- Similar Occupations: Carpenters, electricians, glazers, construction workers, hazardous materials removal workers
- Previously Exposed: Yes
- Still Being Exposed: Yes
- Asbestos-Related Disease Risk: Medium
Hardwood & Vinyl Flooring Contractors Asbestos Exposure
During the last several decades, vinyl manufacturers often mixed asbestos into flooring for higher strength and insulation. Construction companies also liked materials that contained asbestos because of its fire resistance properties. Vinyl flooring and asbestos were inexpensive and easy for flooring contractors to work with, so asbestos vinyl flooring became common.
Common vinyl products for flooring that became common were:
- Vinyl floor tiles: Resilient and cheap, so they are a logical option for floors that need to withstand regular wear and tear in schools, businesses, and hospitals. Mixing asbestos into floor tiles made them more insulated and damage-resistant.
- Vinyl sheet flooring: Similar to floor tiles, vinyl sheet flooring is an economical and long-lasting material. It also offers many aesthetic options to suit many homeowners’ tastes. But vinyl sheet flooring with asbestos in it poses a serious asbestos exposure risk.
Asbestos in vinyl flooring products becomes hazardous when the tiny fibers of asbestos become airborne. If the material is in nefw condition, there usually is not much risk; the asbestos is contained in vinyl so the fibers cannot escape. Tile is considered nonfriable, which means the product cannot be easily broken.
But flooring contractors cut, sand or disturb the vinyl floor, asbestos can be released into the air. This can cause asbestosis and mesothelioma. The adhesives that are used to install the flooring may contain asbestos, although asbestos in adhesives is not as likely to be released into the air.
Asbestos vinyl sheet flooring poses a higher risk for asbestos exposure for contractors than those who work with floor tiles or wallpaper. Vinyl sheet flooring is in big pieces and is usually cut to the room size and laid down in one large piece. Flooring manufacturers would usually make this wood flooring with friable asbestos back. This meant that mineral fibers could be released in the air if the flooring was damaged or disturbed.
Hardwood & Vinyl Flooring Contractor Lawsuits
In the 1990s, flooring contractor Robert Ehret was found to have mesothelioma and filed a lawsuit against Congoleum Corporation, as well as several other flooring companies. Ehret got cancer after he was exposed to asbestos in the firm’s vinyl flooring products for decades. He passed away from the disease before the trial. However, the jury awarded the family $3.3 million for loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
The following products are known to contain asbestos:
- Flor-Ever Vinyl
- Fashionflor Cushioned Vinyl
- Gold Seal Vinyl Inlaids
- Gold Seal Vinyl Nairon Standard
Armstrong World Industries
- Excelon Vinyl Asbestos Tiles
- Solarian Vinyl Asbestos Tiles
- KenFlex Vinyl Floor Tiles
- Style House Vinyl Asbestos Flooring
- Vinyl Asbestos Floor Tiles
- Vinyl Asbestos Floor Tiles