Temple University recently discovered that the tiles used in the fifth floor of its Center City building were asbestos tiles. The discovery occurred during a remodeling project. Crews immediately ceased work, relocated staff and students, and sealed the floor until a remediation team could arrive the following day. An unrelated contractor tested the air before, during, and after construction and found no fibers or risk to students or faculty.
During the heyday of asbestos in America, manufacturers found creative ways to incorporate the material into almost every building product there was. This was because asbestos is heat resistant. Construction engineers reasoned that using asbestos in building materials would create safer, more fire-resistant structures. Everything from wall board to insulation to ceiling and floor tiles used asbestos as a composite in manufacturing.
In most situations, the asbestos used is safe. For instance, the material used in the Temple University floor tiles was not “friable” meaning that any loose fibers are less prone to become airborne. In addition, asbestos composite construction materials only become a hazard under certain conditions.
The conditions necessary for composite asbestos construction materials to become hazardous include cutting, grinding, burning, sanding, scraping, and similar actions or the material becoming friable. With the exception of normal aging, asbestos in composite construction materials will remain safe unless disturbed. This is best seen in asbestos shingles which adorn many homes built between the 1950s and the 1970s.
Non-friable asbestos is firmly bonded to other materials for construction use. This asbestos is relatively safe if left undisturbed. However, time and wear can cause the material to become dry, flakey, chalk-like and easy to crumble with the fingers (i.e., friable).
When an asbestos composite material becomes friable, the fibers can readily enter the air and the lungs of anyone nearby. When this happens, the asbestos lays in wait, sometimes for decades and often results in mesothelioma or other lung diseases.
For good reason, asbestos should never be considered safe. Temple University rightly took the discovery of asbestos floor tiles seriously. They called in experts and sealed off the fifth floor to prevent even potential exposure. Homeowners planning to remove asbestos would be wise to follow this example.
If mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases have impacted you or someone you love, contact a Philadelphia Mesothelioma lawyer at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler. To set up an initial consultation, complete our online form or call 215-569-4000 or 800-369-0899.