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Dear Dale:

Removal of Asbestos in Older Houses Is Job for Professionals

January 12, 1986|DALE BALDWIN

Question: On Oct.20, your article contained a statement about tampering with old asphalt tile and health problems. My husband and I are currently renovating a house that was built in 1922, and we have been removing old carpet and, underneath that, old tile, which seems to be asphalt. I did not realize it was a health hazard and am very concerned about the problem. Please elaborate on your statement.

Answer: The reason for the statement is because asphalt tiles contain asbestos, and asbestos has been found to cause asbestosis, a chronic lung disease characterized by scars on the lung and serious respiratory problems. This can occur when asbestos fibers, which are invisible to the naked eye, are inhaled and damage lung tissue. I always advise readers to just let the asphalt tiles lie if at all possible, because that's what I would do.

However, of all the products that contain asbestos, Dr. David J. Campisi, an internist and specialist in pulmonary diseases, who has lectured on asbestosis, says that asphalt tiles are probably the least dangerous and not too much of a problem because the microscopic asbestos fibers are in bonded form.

But as long as you've brought up the question, let this be a reminder to those of you who are remodeling older houses and possibly tearing out old asbestos ceiling tiles or furnace ducts that could be insulated with asbestos.

Before you tackle either of those projects, it would be best to contact a professional asbestos-removal firm. (Check the Yellow Pages or a neighborhood directory.)

Q: I live in a rented apartment. I'd like to wallpaper my kitchen, but the landlord says that I absolutely can't do it and that if I go ahead anyway, he will hold me responsible for removing it when I move.

Is there some kind of easy-to-remove wallpaper that I could use and remove before I move?

A: No one has ever discovered an instant on-and-off wallpaper. Why don't you settle for using just a border of wallpaper with your painted walls. It could be applied just below the ceiling in traditional fashion or you can get creative with it and border the doorway and windows. I've seen it used in geometric patterns even in the center of painted walls, and, depending upon the pattern, borders can sometimes be applied vertically.

If your landlord says no to this as well, ask if you might paint a stenciled design on the walls. This would be longer lasting than wallpaper. Yet, when you move, it would require only a light sanding and repainting of the walls.

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