Wallpaper, sold in rolls and used to cover and decorate the interior walls of homes, offices and buildings has been popular since printed woodcuts were used to decorate the walls of homes Renaissance Europe that could not afford cloth tapestries. These wallpapers featured various designs, such as flowers, lifestyles, and scenes depicted on legends, and were either hung loose on the walls or pasted.
Modern wallpapers are diverse in shape, size, design and materials used. The most commonly used wall paper for residential purpose is the vinyl coated paper, since cloth-backed vinyl is fairly durable. Though vinyl by itself is a tough and flexible material, asbestos, a tiny fiber-like substance that can easily break apart and float in the air, was once added to vinyl to make it stronger and long lasting. These asbestos fibers are so tiny that they cannot be seen by the naked eye, yet they become incredibly dangerous when introduced into the lungs through inhalation. In the late 1970s, when it was made widely known how toxic asbestos was, vinyl wallpaper was no longer manufactured using asbestos, but products containing the deadly mineral continued to be sold through the 1980s. Older buildings may still have asbestos-containing wallpaper on their interior walls.
Research on the topic suggests that vinyl wall papers in good condition poses no threat whatsoever. It is only when the paper is damaged, altered or deteriorated due to age effect that the toxic fibers are released to the air. Unfortunately, the application and removal of wallpaper usually involve cutting it in some way, so anyone who has worked with vinyl wallpaper made prior to the late 1970s is at risk for developing asbestos-related conditions and diseases such as asbestosis, lung scarring, and mesothelioma.