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You lay flooring for a living. The process of installing or removing squares, sheets and tiles sometimes exposes you to asbestos.
Asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma. Your risk of developing mesothelioma because of your job is moderate to high.
Asbestos shows up in the materials with which you work. Typically these include:
From the 1920s until about 1980, asbestos was an extremely popular additive to flooring. Manufacturers loved it because it increased product strength, durability and beauty. An asbestos-containing floor would still look good and not be torn or chipped years after installation.
Asbestos also boosted the fire-safety characteristics of products. This was a huge selling point for vinyl flooring used in kitchens and laundry rooms. After the 1980s, government regulations forced manufacturers to adopt alternatives to achieving strength and fire-resistance. Asbestos use in flooring materials all but vanished.
However, inventories of asbestos-containing flooring remained in distribution warehouses and retail stockrooms for years after producers stopped making the materials. For that reason, you can assume that any project involving the removal of flooring in a structure erected before the mind-1990s probably poses an asbestos hazard.
Basically, you inhale particles of asbestos in the air and they then lodge at the bottom of your lungs. Over a span of decades, those particles work to corrupt the cells they encounter.
Somehow, the cells most vulnerable to being corrupted are those that line the outside of your lungs and form a lubricated cushion between that organ and the inner wall of your chest.
The asbestos particles get into the air as a result of the work you do.
For example, you release asbestos fibers every time you cut up a sheet of asbestos-containing vinyl. You release asbestos fibers every time you punch a chisel into grout and inadvertently chip the edges of the adjoining ceramic tile. You release asbestos fibers every time you scrape old mastic from aging backerboard.
Once the asbestos is in the air, it stays there for hours or even days. It eventually settles. But it’s very easy to stir it back up into the air.
As a flooring installer, you may belong to a union. The main one for your trade is the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
The UBC played a pivotal role in setting up a program for its flooring-industry members to help you be safe around asbestos. The program is called INSTALL. This stands for International Standards & Training Alliance. INSTALL operates in most major U.S. cities and is supported by every big flooring manufacturer on the continent.
UBC also helps its members obtain great medical insurance coverage. Medical insurance is vital if you have mesothelioma because treating the disease is very, very expensive. Medical insurance is also important because it is your ticket to a low-cost examination that can reveal whether or not you have mesothelioma.
This disease is so dangerous that you will not want to be caught off guard by it. See a doctor as soon as possible to give yourself peace of mind.