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.