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I am renovating a home built in 1979 which had ~100sqft of vinyl tiles from the ~90s in the kitchen. I didnt realize there was vinyl sheeting under the tiles and decided to cut the vinyl tile into ~2x2 squares with a circular saw for easier removal of the underlayment. After pulling up the entire floor I realized there was some vinyl sheeting underneath, so I decided to have it tested for asbestos to be safe. Testing revealed the sheeting did have (20%) Org.Bound/Fibrous Chrysotile. While I was wearing a KN95 mask, I see now that it doesnt provide much protection against fibrous asbestos. I thought asbestos flooring products were phased out in the early 70s. Should I be concerned for my health or am I over reacting. I was in the house for ~5hrs. If I should be a concerned, Id really like to know so I can share with my primary care physician.

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    This is usually an amount and time concern, the more is worst than the less. Limited cuts, plus wearing a decent mask, should limit exposure to almost safer amount. Let primary care physician know so they can make a note of it. Would not worry to much unless sanding floor without a mask. Remember all things are poison if enough of amount taken. Water is a poison also if you drink enough.
    – crip659
    Feb 23 at 23:35
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    You are WAY overreacting. It's asbestos not plutonium. While there is a remote chance that you could develop an asbestos-related condition in 20-30 years, it's unlikely. The danger from asbestos comes from continuous exposure over a long period of time.
    – jwh20
    Feb 24 at 0:53
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    I know (knew) some workers who are affected - they were playing “snowballs” during breaktimes with asbestos fibre insulation when insulating pipes and things when masks were rare or rarely worn even if available. Tell the Doc but don’t worry. You may be hit by a bus in 18 years before the asbestos exposure gets you (if it ever happens)...
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 24 at 4:44
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TL;DR Don't worry, be happy.

In my non-professional, non-government opinion, you are overreacting. The risk with asbestos (as with smoking, radon and many similar things) is repeated exposure. That doesn't mean a single exposure has no effect, but the big problem is with repeated exposure. Something like, tearing up a floor each day, 200 x a year for 20 years. Not "once". Plus, even though a KN95 mask may not be certified for asbestos, it will certainly help block the fibers. Certification is a tricky, and expensive, business. Especially in the past year, there are a lot of masks out there, of varying quality, that are not being certified for medical use or for asbestos or other specific things simply because any manufacturer right now, worldwide, can sell all the masks they can make as long as they meet some extremely basic design standards.

In general with asbestos, if you can cover it up, there is no danger. If there are other areas of the house (e.g., flooring in other rooms) that may have asbestos, you should probably get it tested first before working on it, or just cover it all up instead of rip & replace.

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What manassehkatz says.

Because of the tragedy of lifelong workers getting mesothelioma, and the government's ability to catch these companies with some assets, a number of mesothelioma trust funds were set up. Unfortunately cashing in requires a bit of legal legwork, so that gives a role for lawyers. But the success rate is much higher than a lawsuit, so it's "shooting fish in a barrel" for those lawyers.

That, plus the 1/3 "contingency fee" charged by those lawyers, has created a "feeding frenzy" of lawyers trying to score mesothelioma clients.

This, in turn, has created a staggering amount of advertising and PR messaging about the dangers of asbestos.

But these messages are false. They only care about connecting to that 1 person in 100,000 who might be eligible to make a claim against the trust funds, and convincing that person to give up 1/3 of what they are entitled to. They do not care if they give you the wrong impression about asbestos.

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Before you cast this incident off too quickly, consider 1) level of asbestos in your sample, 2) type of asbestos, 3) amount of exposure (now and in the future), AND possible contamination elsewhere in your house,

  1. Your test results came back with 20% crystalline. That is extremely high. The DOE recommends anything over 6% be removed or contained. So, while you were exposed for a relatively short time, it was at extremely high levels.

  2. There are several types of asbestos. Chrysotile is one of the more common types, but when it is cut it becomes “friable”. Friable is the MOST dangerous. That is to say, when asbestos tiles are scraped up from the floor and/or a corner is chipped off, there is very little asbestos floating around that you can breathe.

  3. Although the asbestos was cut and became friable in one room of your house, it doesn’t mean that it remained there. In fact, it’s in your hair, clothes, etc. and traveled wherever you went after the incident. It is now laying on the floor throughout your house and in your heating/air conditioning system and could be blowing around your house. In fact, it will continue being re-distributed every time you walk through the house and every time your forced air heating/air conditioning system comes on. (If you don’t have a forced air system, a radiant heating system can heat the particles up and they rise and then they can be blown around the house.)

I had a friend who had a similar experience and his insurance company paid him to live in a hotel until they got it cleaned up. They took everything out of every drawer, washed every piece of clothing/bedding etc., cleaned all ducts, washed walls, etc. The cost to clean was over $30,000 plus replacement of some items that couldn’t be cleaned, plus hotel costs, etc.

I visited his house during cleaning and I saw people wiping down books, picture frames, inside of cabinets where the drawer was, etc. It was overwhelming.

For your health now and in the future: I’d notify my doctor and request to see a pulmonologist. I’d have your pulmonologist do a breathing test to set a “Baseline” for future reference. Do a pulmonary function test and have an x-ray (digital) of your lungs completed for future reference.

I can guarantee you that you will feel fine now and in the immediate future... but 20-30 years from now it could be difficult to breath and you’ll have those baseline tests for reference.

Now for the really expensive item: reselling your house. There is a clause in the future sale of your house that says you’ll disclose everything about your house. If you don’t have your house cleaned or if you don’t disclose this incident to a future buyer, you’re liable. Proceed carefully.

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  • I'm generally in the "don't worry, be happy" camp (and have voted for the other answers that say that), but you bring up some very valid points. You note that your friend's insurance company paid for the hotel stay, did they also pay for the clean up?
    – FreeMan
    Feb 24 at 14:13
  • @FreeMan Yes, the insurance company acknowledged the problem and paid for everything, including cleaning ducts (replacing some), removing and cleaning switch plates and outlet covers, etc. Things that I would have never thought of....
    – Lee Sam
    Feb 24 at 15:37
  • That's good info! Personally, I'd be a bit torn between exposing myself to the potential for additional exposure and to $30k plus in out-of-pocket remediation expenses. I might attempt the cleaning myself (as a dedicated DIYer).
    – FreeMan
    Feb 24 at 15:40
  • @FreeMan I don’t think it takes any special talent to clean everything in your house, but I wouldn’t know where to begin. Do you vacuum first, clean ducts first, clean silverware and dishes first, wipe hardwood floors down first...all without contaminating the rest of the house. I’m not even sure where to buy the “moon suits” necessary to keep from contaminating my clothes, etc. I think I’d just pay my deductible and know that it’s done correctly and I’m not endangering my family and friends when they visit in the future.
    – Lee Sam
    Feb 24 at 16:58
  • Sorry, I was unclear: Knowing that insurance should cover the cleanup is an important bit of the puzzle. Otherwise, I'd be more inclined to do it myself and not have to pay the cleanup costs.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 24 at 17:05

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