Home renovation - worried about asbestos and lead (after the fact ...)
June 25, 2014 1:39 AM   Subscribe

Well, I'm feeling quite stupid now because my partner and I just redid the floors and walls of our new apartment, a building that was built in the 1970s, and I am just now thinking of the possible hazards that didn't cross my mind before we did all the renovation work (yes, stupid, I know). How worried should I be? More details inside.

These are military lodgings so there are a lot of traffic in and out of them as most people only stay for a few years, therefore a lot of renovations as everyone redoes them to his/her taste (i.e. there is really no one keeping track of who does what in the apartments, such as whether the previous occupant decided to use paint with lead, etc.).

We found out after we had down the renovations that the original floors were vinyl-asbestos tiles (the thought never even crossed my mind). Some of the tiles were chipped and cracked. We vacuumed the tile, wiped them down with a wet sponged and then covered them with a new flooring once they were dry. In the bedroom and living room they were covered with a floating wood floor and in the entry way with PVC floor tiles. From the research I've done it seems like there shouldn't be too much to worry about here, but I am still feeling a little uneasy about it.

However, this makes me wonder if there could have also been hazardous materials in the plaster/stucco interior walls, such as asbestos or lead in the paint. My partner sanded them down so if there were, we breathed in a lot of whatever was in there. We wore dust masks, but only the basic level of protection so it would not have filtered out any toxins. And then clean up wise, we vacuums and then wiped down with sponges/cloths (and yes, now I now that vacuuming up all the dust may not have been a good idea as it spreads it in the air!). Again, how worried should I be about this?
posted by Blissful to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As a dis-embodied voice on the internet, (though belonging to someone who has done a lot of building/renovation work) I'm going to say you have likely zero to worry about.

The/any asbestos in floor tiles is essentially inert. It's classified as hazardous and etc because under the exactly right circumstances (which lie outside conceivable use or abuse of said material) the asbestos could become airborne. But the likelihood is minuscule.

Lead paint was primarily for frames of windows and doors, and the greatest danger to people is to children, who are most susceptible to the neuro damage it can inflicts.

Breathing in construction dust is not a good idea, but doing so for a couple months is most likely not going to lead to life-long disability. Do it for twenty years and then you have viable concerns.

So, all those caveats in hand, you should worry more that you won't like the colors you picked out, than that you'll be hurt from the work you did.

Enjoy your new place.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:54 AM on June 25, 2014 [8 favorites]

And, let me add, this is now water under the bridge. Even if you WERE exposed (but, as per From Bklyn's comment, that seems unlikely), there's nothing you can do about it at this point..

Put it out of your mind....
posted by HuronBob at 4:27 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are either of you pregnant? There are things that can affect babies and children that aren't nearly as big a deal for adults. If there are not kids or proto-kids involved, you should be okay.
posted by aimedwander at 5:12 AM on June 25, 2014

Thanks for the responses.

No, no kids involved. No pregnancy.
posted by Blissful at 6:34 AM on June 25, 2014

I did this while pregnant and having a baby at home. We simply didn't know at the time. We ran a hepa filter and didn't have the baby there when we were doing it. But we simply didn't know. Now I use an asbestos abatement team for renovations. There's nothing you can do now. Just know you won't do it again. Not every worker who worked with asbestos has asbestiosis, so you are probably okay.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:08 AM on June 25, 2014

You shouldn't keep your old vacuum.

The most you could do now is probably wash every surface.
posted by flimflam at 10:33 AM on June 25, 2014

Many houses of that era, until the late 1970s, had chysotile asbestos in the joint compound (mud), as I found when I had my drywall tested for it (my house is significantly older than yours).

However, the NCBI has mostly cleared joint compound of being a cause of respiratory-related diseases, even in drywallers from that era, who would have obviously had the most exposure.

As others have said, you are almost certainly fine in regards to your tiles, as there would be limited ability for the fibres to become airborne.

If it were me, I would wipe down surfaces pretty thoroughly just to be sure, but I don't think your exposure is going to lead to long-term health problems.
posted by liquado at 11:59 AM on June 25, 2014

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