Asbestos was used in all kinds of building materials and products, including carpets.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used in construction and manufacturing since the early 20th century. Asbestos has many potential uses, but was renowned for its strength, resiliency, and heat-resistant properties. Builders put asbestos in everything from wall insulation to vinyl floor tiles

Today, the dangers of asbestos are well-known. Scientists have found that asbestos exposure is associated with serious respiratory disorders, including mesothelioma and different kinds of cancer. Since so many homes were built using this deadly substance, many states and cities offer free asbestos testing services and registries of licensed asbestos removal companies. However, many homes may still harbor asbestos in an unexpected place: underneath occupants’ feet, both in carpets and carpet underlays.

The Dangers of Asbestos 

Asbestos is the name given to several different types of fibrous mineral, which can be broken down into small threads. Since asbestos threads are resistant to heat, fire, and electricity, they were used to reinforce many different industrial products. 

However, asbestos fibers’ resiliency can also make them dangerous. When people inhale asbestos, the fibers could become embedded in their lungs, remaining there for decades. Over time, asbestos fibers can accumulate, causing scarring, inflammation, and severe respiratory disorders

Asbestos exposure is also associated with fatal diseases, including: 

  • Asbestosis 
  • Mesothelioma 
  • Cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovary 
  • Cancers of the stomach, pharynx, and colorectum 

Most people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers were exposed to asbestos in the workplace

However, people who lived with asbestos workers, or resided in asbestos-affected homes, could also develop serious health concerns. 

Asbestos in Carpets and Other Flooring Materials

Asbestos was used in floor tiles and carpets for many years. While the federal government banned the manufacture, import, and sale of most asbestos products in 1989, many older buildings still contain asbestos-contaminated materials.

Although most carpets do not contain asbestos, carpet underlays—the material that is placed underneath carpets before they are laid down—often do. In Australia, for instance, many carpet underlays were made from old hessian bags. These bags were often shipped in from overseas. They were produced using different combinations of asbestos, wool, and jute

When the dangers of asbestos started to become common knowledge, these bags were broken down, shredded, and cleaned. However, there is still a small chance that carpet underlays could contain asbestos. 

How to Identify Asbestos in Carpet Underlay 

Asbestos can be difficult to identify if you have not been trained to spot the presence of asbestos. Most of the time, however, asbestos-based underlay is a brown-colored material that looks like a woven sack

Carpet and Floor Components That Could Contain Asbestos 

However, carpet underlays are not the only potential source of asbestos contamination. According to the University of Connecticut, the following floor components are “likely” to contain asbestos: 

  • Older 12”x12” floor tiles 
  • Older 9”x9” floor tiles 
  • Floor tile mosaics 
  • Different carpet glues 
  • Cove bases 
  • Adhesives used for carpets, tile, and other flooring 1 

If your home was constructed before 1981,2 you should presume that asbestos is present in: 

  • Vinyl Asbestos Tiles: Asbestos was mixed into vinyl flooring to increase tensile strength. These tiles could be found anywhere in a home.
  • Linoleum or Vinyl Sheet Flooring: Sheet flooring could have asbestos in its felt backing. While asbestos-contaminated linoleum and vinyl is not necessarily dangerous, the felt could be damaged during removal or renovations. When asbestos-containing felt is damaged, asbestos fibers can be released into the air. 
  • Adhesives and Mastics: Asbestos was sometimes added into floor adhesives and mastics so that they would flow better underneath flooring. 

The Dangers of Asbestos Based Carpeting and Carpet Underlays 

If your house was constructed before 1989, there is a real chance your carpet underlay, and other flooring materials, could contain asbestos. 

Health researchers like the National Cancer Institute states that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. However, asbestos is not necessarily dangerous when it is left undisturbed. Most asbestos-based carpet underlays are still safe for everyday use. Walking on carpets with asbestos-based underlays, or vacuuming, will not cause asbestos fibres to: 

While asbestos-based carpets might be safe for everyday use, you should exercise extreme caution when removing asbestos containing carpets and underlays. You should: 

  • Wear a secure, tight-fitting face mask; 
  • Wear disposable clothing, such as overalls; and 
  • Handle any potentially asbestos-contaminated materials gently, taking care to minimize the release of dust from rolled up or folded underlays. 

If you believe you may have disturbed asbestos in a home, office, or other structure, you should immediately contact your local health authority. Most states and cities offer asbestos testing services and maintain public lists of licensed asbestos removal companies. 

Some businesses will also be able to conduct air quality tests to see if the asbestos fibers have scattered to or contaminated any surrounding sites. 

If you believe that you were exposed to asbestos, you could be entitled to significant compensation—money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being. 

If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos illness, you may qualify for compensation without filing a lawsuit. is your comprehensive resource for all things asbestos. We hope this information helps you. If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, including testing for exposure or how to file a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], us or call or text us at (206) 455-9190.

1 Petworld Online, Asbestos In Carpet Glue.
2 Washington State Dept. of Labor and Industries, DOSH Hazard Alert, Asbestos and Carpet: What’s The Connection?.