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Interim Guidelines for Stripping Vinyl Asbestos-Containing Floors

In November of 1989, WRC-TV News 4, the NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C. produced and aired a three-part series on the “dangers” involved in stripping asbestos floor tiles. The series implied that the stripping process may increase the asbestos exposure of school maintenance personnel and school children.

Numerous telephone calls by concerned parents and custodial workers were placed to EPA Headquarters and their ten regional offices.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), after consulting with asbestos control professionals, flooring manufacturing companies and floor care product manufacturing companies, has recommended the following “Interim Guidelines for Stripping Vinyl Asbestos Containing Floors.”

Avoid Stripping Floors: Stripping of floors should be done as infrequently as possible – perhaps once or twice a year depending on circumstances. The frequency should be carefully considered as floor maintenance schedules or contracts are written or renewed.

Properly Train Staff: Custodial or maintenance staff who strip floors should be trained to properly and safely operate the cleaning equipment, including machines, pads and floor care chemicals used at the facility.

Follow Appropriate Work Practice: Custodial or maintenance staff who strip floors should follow appropriate work practices, such as those recommended here, under informed supervision. Directions from floor tile and floor wax product manufacturers on proper maintenance procedures should be consulted.

Strip Floor While Wet: The floor should be kept adequately wet during the stripping operations. DO NOT perform dry stripping. Prior to machine operation, an emulsion of chemical stripper in water is commonly applied to the floor with a mop to soften the wax. The floor should be thoroughly cleaned while wet.

Run Machine At Slow Speed: If the machine used to remove the wax or finish coat has variable speeds, it should be run at slow speed (about 175 – 190 RPM’s) during the stripping operation.

Select The Least Abrasive Pad Possible: EPA recommends that the machine be equipped with the least abrasive pad possible to strip wax or finish coat from asbestos-containing floors.

Do Not Over-Strip Floors: Stop stripping when the old surface coat is removed. Over-stripping can damage the floor and may cause the release of asbestos fibers. DO NOT operate a floor machine with an abrasive pad on un-waxed or unfinished floors.

Remember: Improperly removing asbestos-containing floor covering could result in the release of high levels of asbestos. EPA recommends that you leave asbestos-containing floor covering in place, provided the material is in good condition. However, proper maintenance procedures and the correct janitorial equipment, such as those outlined above, should always be followed.

It has been a common practice for many years to buff the floor after stripping. If there is ANY possibility that the floor tile contains asbestos, do not buff the bare tile! Apply a coat of seal and/or finish and then buff the seal or finish, if that is your standard procedure.

You want to encapsulate the asbestos tile in a coat of seal and/or finish. If the tile is worn and porous, apply several coats of seal and/or finish before ANY buffing occurs.



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