Vinyl composition tile (VCT), also commonly referred to as vinyl asbestos floor tile, is a finished flooring material used very widely in both residential and commercial buildings from the early 1950s into the early 1980s
Modern vinyl floor tiles and sheet flooring and versions of those products sold since the early 1980s do not containasbestos. Tiles are composed of colored polyvinyl chloride (PVC) chips formed into solid sheets of varying thicknesses (1/8" is most common) by heat and pressure. Floor tiles are cut into 9" or 12" squares. In installation the floor tiles or sheet flooring are applied to a smooth, leveled sub-floor using a specially formulated vinyl adhesive or tile mastic that remains pliable. In commercial applications some tiles are typically waxed and buffed using special materials and equipment.
Modern vinyl floor tile is frequently chosen for high-traffic areas because of its low cost, durability, and ease of maintenance. Vinyl tiles have high resilience to abrasion and impact damage and can be repeatedly refinished with chemical strippers and mechanical buffing equipment. If properly installed, tiles can be easily removed and replaced when damaged. Tiles are available in a variety of colors from several major flooring manufacturers. Some manufacturers have created vinyl tiles that very closely resemble wood, stone, terrazzo, and concrete and literally hundreds of varying patterns.
Vinyl composition tiles that do not contain asbestos took the place of vinyl asbestos and asphalt asbestos floor tiles, which were widely used in all types of buildings into the early 1980s. Use of tiles, sheet flooring and adhesives containing asbestos were discontinued when asbestos materials were determined to be hazardous.
Floor tiles and sheet flooring that contain asbestos can sometimes can be determined by a combination of the product age and its pattern or appearance.
Floor tiles or sheet flooring that are free of asbestos cannot be distinguished by size or pattern alone since some patterns continued to be produced in non-asbestos variations after their asbestos-bearing versions were discontinued. Not all 9-inch square vinyl tiles manufactured before 1980 contain asbestos, and asbestos tiles were created in a variety sizes including metric dimensions.Mastics and adhesives containing varying concentrations of asbestos were used into the late 1970s and may be hazardous as well if improperly removed so as to create loose dust and debris.
In the debate over the "greenness" of building materials, vinyl has become a divisive topic. Burning the material can releasedioxins and other hazardous chemicals. Harmful additives such as phthalates and heavy metals can leach out of the roughly 1.5 million tons (1.4 million metric tons) of vinyl discarded each year just in the United States.
While there may be an asbestos hazard if asphalt asbestos or vinyl asbestos floor tiles or sheet flooring are disturbed in ways that create dust and debris, the chief health concerns most sources cite for contemporary PVC building products such as vinyl floor tiles or vinyl building siding, trim and windows appear to be health risks to the workers during production (dioxin, the most powerful carcinogenic substance known), and health risks later (HCL and dioxin) if the material is burned - say as waste or in a house fire. Dioxin is almost certainly released at harmful levels in those cases.