Asbestos containing vinyl asbestos floor tilesRemediation Methods for Asbestos Tile Mastics, Cutback Adhesive, or Roofing Sealants & Mastics

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Suggestions for covering or remediating asbestos-suspect floor adhesive or mastic.

This article points out that while most mastics and adhesives are not friable thus not easily airborne, there may be reasons to cover up such materials to reduce possible future indoor airborne asbestos exposure.

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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Asbestos-Suspect Floor Tile Mastic Remediation - Cover-Up

Reader Question: has this asbestos-containing flooring adhesive mastic been properly covered and is it safe?

Asbestos-suspect floor tile mastic cleanup job (C) InspectAPedia RFHi, I came across your site while looking into asbestos and hoped you could answer a question.

[Click to enlarge any image]

We took possession of a property which had some asbestos removal and cleaning done to it. We were told that there was bitumen adhesive in the bathroom but that it had been covered to make it safe.

Can you tell from the picture I have included if a covering has been put on [effectively]? Thanks R.F. - United Kingdom, 10 September 2013


Normally I'm reluctant to make a firm promise or diagnostic about building conditions from a simple email or a photo or two. We know that an onsite expert will virtually always see important clues or even more dangerous conditions than those that might be reported by a normal homeowner or occupant.

That apologia made, if you click-to-enlarge the photo at above left - that you provided in nice detail, one can see that a tan floor tile mastic remains in place and even looks a bit fragile in some areas (photo right side).

I also see what looks like pinkish paper-like material that may have been red rosin paper or more likely, the backer of sheet or tile flooring that was removed from the area shown.

In my OPINION we are looking at a sloppy, amateur floor covering removal that left old materials in place.

As you can read beginning at MASTIC, CUTBACK ADHESIVE, FLASHING CEMENT ASBESTOS, some floor adhesives contain asbestos, others don't. If your floor was installed prior to 1985, it would be prudent to treat the flooring as well as its adhesive as "PACM" or presumed-asbestos-containing material. Where costs to remove, clean, or cover-over such a floor are not a major expense I'm not sure that testing is warranted.

The EPA and other expert sources explain that the presence of asbestos in buildings does not necessarily warrant its removal, stating:

... not all asbestos-containing products are dangerous. A health risk exists only when asbestos fibers are released from a product [into the air where they are inhaled for example]. Products that are friable (easily crumbled or made into dust that is easily airborne) are more dangerous than products in which binders immobilize the asbestos fibers.

EPA also indicates that not everyone exposed to asbestos will develop an asbestos-related illness or disease. Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos do not develop asbestos-related health problems. Cigarette smokers are at much higher risk of asbestos-related disease. [1][2][3][4][5]

It is usually reasonable to cover over an asbestos-suspect floor, thereby significantly reducing the risk of sending asbestos fragments or particles of flooring or floor adhesive into the air at detectable levels. And by leaving the flooring material in place you actually expose the building to less asbestos hazard risk than by removing it (in most cases).

For a sloppy job such as the floor in your photo, I would consider the following:


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