Asbestos containing vinyl asbestos floor tiles Asbestos Content in Floor Tile Mastics, Cutback Adhesive, or Roofing Sealants & Mastics

  • MASTIC, CUTBACK ADHESIVE, FLASHING CEMENT ASBESTOS - CONTENTS: Do or did asphalt cut-back adhesives used in flooring applications contain asbestos? ASBESTOS-CONTAINING ADHESIVES - What are the health hazards that may be encountered, asbestos or otherwise, when removing, demolishing, or repairing ceramic tile surfaces or working in art studios? Demolition or remodeling advice for old tile floors or for roofing flashings, sealants & mastics
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the asbestos content in cutback adhesives & roofing mastics
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This article series answers questions about floor tile, sheet flooring, or roofing cutback adhesives or mastics that may contain asbestos.Does or did roofing mastic products & sealants contain asbestos? What are the hazards of demolishing or working on floors or roofs where asphalt-based asbestos-containing mastics, cutback adhesives, or sealants were used? Page top photo of black mastic floor tile adhesive provided courtesy of reader G.M.

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When Did Cutback Adhesives, Tile Mastics, or Roofing Flashing Sealants & Mastics Contain Asbestos & What are the Hazards?

Mastic Adhesive Used with Floor Tiles

Black tile flooring, maybe not asphalt basedAs we introduced at FLOOR TILE HISTORY & INGREDIENTS, the earliest use of asphalt-based flooring reported by Rosato was as a troweled-on mastic applied as a deck covering for ships in the U.S. Navy in 1917.

Older nine-inch "thicker" vinyl or asphalt-based floor tiles, many more recent 12-inch floor tiles (1960 - 1980), and some more recent sheet linoleum as well as the mastic used to bed or glue down older flooring materials are likely to contain asbestos fibers and should not be disturbed by grinding, sanding, or demolition without taking the appropriate precautions.

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Rosato described use asphalt-containing mastics and flooring materials including both troweled-on mastic floor coverings (first used on ships) and also a felt underlayment to produce flooring materials:

Another application of asbestos with vinyl tile involves the use of asphalt saturated asbestos felt applied under 1/8 inch thick tile. This felt underlay provides for smoother finished flooring. [18][23]

It is possible that this development is what led to continuous-sheet asbestos-felt-underlayment backed sheet flooring. But we point out that continuous sheet flooring and asphalt tile flooring has an older history.

The original resilient floor covering, linoleum, was used as a floor decking on British naval ships. Asphalt tile was first made as a mastic type of floor covering. The mastic was troweled on as a deck covering over wood. The original mixes included asphaltic binders, with fillers of asbestos; mixing was done on a rubber mill. [18][23]

Asbestos content in other flooring is described

We discuss the inspection, diagnosis, and repair of various flooring products

Watch out: grinding, tile-saw cutting, sanding or similar activities performed on asphalt asbestos, vinyl asbestos, flooring underlayment, or subflooring coated with asphalt-asbestos mastics or cutback adhesive could produce fine dust and debris that should be controlled and treated as a respiratory hazard, asbestos-containing or not.
See ASBESTOS REMOVAL, Wetting Guidelines.

Watch out: Leaving asbestos-suspect flooring in place, even if you need to level the floor before it is covered with new material, is not only less costly than a professional asbestos abatement project, it also is likely to be the course with the lowest risk of asbestos dust or fiber release and contamination in the building. According to the US EPA {discussing asbestos abatement in schools] :

... In addition, abatement activities may create more of a hazard than would normally exist if the ACM were simply protected and maintained in good condition as is the case for ceramic floor tiles. ...[3]

Similar sources indicate that simple deconstruction of a building with appropriately careful disassembly of its parts may not require asbestos abatement. [4]

Special thank-you to reader A.H. who suggested clarification about the risk that ceramic wall tiles or ceramic floor tiles might contain asbestos. - Ed.


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