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Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Worried sick over asbestos exposure
A few years ago I removed an old carpet in my basement and there were 9x9 tiles underneath. I Did not realize it at the time but the tiles contained 5.2 % asbestos. I had them tested after the fact. Anyway I removed the entire basement full of tiles. Many tiles popped up intact but there was some breakage. I did not notice significant dust. I am worried sick because my young kids were near where I was pulling up these tiles. What is the risk of me or a family member developing a disease from this level of exposure?
Hi - I know this kind of situation is troubling, especially since your knowledge of the asbestos content of the tiles came after the fact. I have pasted a link to a web site offered by the Minnesota Health Department that covers many of the issues surrounding these tiles. See the link below.
Let me first say that the biggest risk from asbestos has been to people who worked on a regular basis with it. We saw WWII-era shipbuilders who went into confined spaces with asbestos insulation that were especially at risk, but others in construction and demolition work, and now, people who abate asbestos-containing structures may be at risk. I think what you and your children have been exposed to is very small by comparison to those intense levels of exposure experienced by workers. Still, I know you're concerned with any level of exposure.
Among the questions I would ask are:
1. Roughly, what percentage of the tiles broke? If you look at the photographs at the web site you can get a feel for how crumbly the tiles were (and thus how likely it was that asbestos fibers were released into the air). It doesn't sound like you noticed much dust, but the degree of breakage is important.
2. How did you dispose of the tiles? Did you use a vacuum cleaner (that can stir up whatever fibers are there)?
3. How long were the kids with you while you worked (the whole time, half the time, intermittantly)?
4. Did you or you children notice any effects on your breathing after the work was done (asbestos fibers can also cause effects on the lung similar to silica dust)?
I would say it's unlikely you and your children received a very high dose of fibers, but if you have lingering concerns, you may want to consider calling an occupational health physician, explaining what you did, and finding out what she or he might recommend with respect to health follow-up.
J Mac Crawford, PhD, RN
Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
College of Public Health
The Ohio State University