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lung concern, re: harmful dust

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Old 06-29-2010, 02:55 PM   #1
scared dad
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Unhappy lung concern, re: harmful dust

***First of all, I am not sure if this is a “lung issue” or an “OCD issue.”***

My wife and I are trying to sell our house, and, as we are of limited financial means, I undertook to handle some updating (minor remodeling) myself. One of the projects was installing ceramic tile over a 20-square foot area. I removed 2 layers of older tile until I got down to the sub-flooring, which was covered with a layer of black adhesive.
There are 2 safety issues/concerns/potential hazards that have resulted from this.

1) I power-sawed a 40” x .0625” piece of cement board, which contained 25% respirable crystalline silica--which is a carcinogen—indoors with my two little girls in the adjacent room. This created a surprising amount of dust. (I didn’t realize that it was harmful until later in the afternoon after I researched it a bit).

2) One of the layers of tile that I removed was of the 1960’s vinyl-asbestos variety. From what I understand, while not as dangerous as pure asbestos or asbestos insulation, asbestos floor tiles present a potential health hazard. The black adhesive was also augmented with asbestos.

I went to the emergency room along with my daughters after the sawing incident, and the ER doctor said that there was no concern of any of us developing a long-term lung illness, such as cancer, from the cement dust. He said, “You’d get this amount of exposure just walking down the street.”

Also, after I realized that the tiles contained asbestos, I contacted my doctor and my daughters’ pediatrician. Both said that the exposure was insignificant, and “not to worry about it.”

I realize that asbestos and silica pose health risks mainly for people whose occupations involve daily exposure to them; however, I CANNOT stop worrying that we are all going to get sick.

I should say that I was diagnosed as having OCD/anxiety about 10-years ago, so it is hard for me to determine if my concern/paranoia is unfounded and irrational, or if it is legitimate. Part of the reason I think my concerns might be legitimate is because there was indeed harmful matter in the house—albeit a small amount—and because ER doctors, GP’s, and pediatricians are not pulmonologists. Maybe they were wrong.

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Old 06-29-2010, 03:36 PM   #2
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Re: lung concern, re: harmful dust

Unless you were breaking or crumbling those asbestos tiles, you probably didn't inhale much. And during the time they were sitting inside your wall untouched they were completely harmless.

Silica dust is more of an irritant than a carcinogen, meaning if you breathed in enough to hurt you, you probably would have been coughing, runny nose, etc.

If you are still worried, open all your windows, turn on a fan, and vacuum.

And, just as a general precaution, don't go ripping out any more 60-year old dubious construction materials unless you're wearing a respirator.

Old 06-29-2010, 03:49 PM   #3
scared dad
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Re: lung concern, re: harmful dust

Well, some of the asbestos tiles did break because I was ripping them out. But I used a "heat gun," which made them pliable and resilient, so there wasn't an excessive amount of dust. In fact, I'm asthmatic, so even an little bit of dust probably would have cued me to stop the removal. The heat made them rubbery and bendable--not brittle. Also, I didn't use any power tools to remove them--I manually scraped them up with a putty knife and razor scraper. Do you have any further comments based on this information?

I appreciate your response. May I ask how you know about silica and asbestos?

Last edited by scared dad; 06-29-2010 at 03:51 PM.

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