Asbestos Adhesive – Safety Tips and General Information

Asbestos was combined with many other construction materials between the 1950s and 1990s and one of the most popular combinations was asbestos adhesive. In the below guide, I take a look at asbestos adhesive including its uses, how to identify it, and the potential dangers it causes. 

Understanding Asbestos Adhesive

Asbestos adhesive was a product where asbestos was added in limited quantities to other materials like synthetic glue. This created a product where you had the stickiness from the glue, and the fireproofing and durability of the asbestos. Examples of different types of asbestos adhesive included: 

  • Construction mastics.
  • Liquid construction mastics.
  • Gunning mixes (A type of adhesive spray)
  • Asbestos bitumen

It was generally used as a construction mastic – not for things like arts and crafts and was especially durable and applied more like a thick paste or cement as opposed to a fine glue. Asbestos adhesive saw use in conjunction with the follow construction products:

  • Floor tiles
  • Wallpaper
  • Wall panels
  • Interior fixtures
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Roofs
  • Air ducts
  • Pipes and heating systems

Floor tiles and ceiling tiles saw the largest use of asbestos adhesive – usually asbestos bitumen but it was also popular for interior fixtures like kitchen units and worktops, and piping systems as a form of sealant.

Why Was Asbestos Used to Create Adhesive?

Asbestos was easy to work with and could be combined with various other materials such as concrete and glue to provide a myriad of benefits. When combined with synthetic glue, it would make a fireproof adhesive that was especially durable and provided a long-lasting bond.

What Does Asbestos Adhesive Look Like?

Most commonly, asbestos adhesive would have a characteristic black appearance with small flecks of white and grey as it aged. Asbestos bitumen is the easiest to identify as this was exclusively black. Depending on what the asbestos was mixed with, it could have a white/grey coloration too.

It is typically found as a backing to items like floor and ceiling tiles, or as a thick bobbled coating applied to pipes within heating systems. Over time, the asbestos adhesive can deteriorate which results in the white and grey spots.

Is Asbestos Adhesive Still Common in the UK?

All types of asbestos have been banned in the UK since 1999 although blue and brown asbestos importation was banned earlier in 1985. Asbestos adhesive typically contained chrysotile asbestos which wasn’t banned until 1999. Therefore, if your property was built after 1999, it should not contain any traces of asbestos adhesive. 

If you property was built before this you have to take an analytical approach and think about the potential areas where asbestos adhesive could be. For example, if you have old floor tiles that have been in your house since it was built in the 1980s, they could have asbestos adhesive.

Similarly, if you have an old piping system dating back to earlier decades, it could have asbestos adhesive sealant. Use your common sense together with the fact that properties built before 1999 have a higher chance of containing ACM.

How Dangerous is Asbestos Adhesive? 

In most instances, asbestos adhesive is only dangerous if it is damaged or the individual fibres can get airborne. If you have a tiled floor, for example, that has asbestos adhesive, and its in a perfect condition, the asbestos is effectively locked underneath and shouldn’t pose a health risk.

However, we always advise removal of any asbestos products because a safety risk could eventually occur. It only takes something like floor or ceiling tiles getting damaged and exposing the adhesive underneath and you have an instant health risk.

Don’t try and remove asbestos adhesive yourself either. It is tough and requires specialist equipment and processes to remove properly and safely.


[1] – GOV.UK – Asbestos General Information

The content on this page/article was last updated on the 6th December 2023 by our team and was reviewed and fact checked by William Wright, DipNEBOSH on the 6th December 2023.

William is a qualified health & safety consultant who holds NEBOSH & IOSH certifications.