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Asbestos Adhesives, Bondings and Sealers

Asbestos was commonly utilized for adhesives, bondings and sealers for nearly a century. Though today these products may be made with a variety of materials, like silicone and various plastics, the heavy past use of asbestos in these materials remains in thousands of buildings today, putting workers and the general public at risk of exposure.

Adhesives, Bondings, Sealers and Asbestos

Because the naturally occurring mineral is so durable, and also offers resistance to high temperatures, the mineral became a rather standard ingredient for many of these products. Researchers estimate asbestos was used in adhesives and similar products from the late 1880s until the mid 1980s.

Asbestos was used in adhesives, sealers and bondings like black mastic, mortar, spackle, putty and joint compound tape. With such a wide variety of uses, these bonding products were used for floor tile and floor covering, wall panels, ceilings, fixtures, roofs, pipes, furnaces and more. When added to these adhesives for any use, asbestos helped strengthen them and give them a longer life expectancy, which is why many of these products can still be found in older commercial buildings and homes.

Depending on what the adhesive or sealer was used for, these products could contain anywhere from 1% to 25% of asbestos. Many of these products, particularly fibrous adhesives and mastic adhesives, were first created by dumping loose asbestos fibers into the solvent to create the solution. Workers mixing these products would create a cloud of asbestos dust, making it dangerous for anyone in the area.

The need for sealers and bondings continued to increase with the efforts of World War II, as these asbestos products were used heavily on naval vessels to seal the walls, fill any cracks and help insulate the interior. Veterans, particularly Navy veterans, make up about one-third of mesothelioma diagnoses today because asbestos was so widely used on ships and throughout the military branches.

Adhesives and Asbestos Exposure Concerns

In addition to putting workers who made these solutions with raw asbestos at great risk of exposure, various occupations are still at risk today because the products were long-lasting and remain in thousands of buildings and homes today. Homeowners can also be at risk of exposure if they own a home built before 1980. Any crumbling or cracking joints and seals from old age, as well as any asbestos materials disturbed during any home renovations, could pose a concern for exposure.

Though asbestos adhesives, sealers and bondings pose a threat for many, there are several occupations that face a particularly high risk, including:

  • Construction workers
  • Drywall tapers
  • Demolition crews
  • Masons
  • Bricklayers
  • Painters
  • Shipyard workers
  • Plumbers
  • Welders
  • HVAC workers

If these asbestos materials are in good condition and undisturbed, they are technically safe and do not pose an immediate threat. There are regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies in place that help protect workers from potential exposure, as well as laws that state how asbestos can be handled. Asbestos abatement should only be done by certified asbestos professionals to ensure all asbestos-containing materials that pose a health hazard are properly and completely removed.

Author: Tara Strand

Senior Content Writer

Tara Strand

Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli

Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their Families

Jennifer R. Lucarelli

Environmental Protection Agency. U.S. Federal Bans on Asbestos.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Asbestos Construction.

Paustenbach DJ, Sage A, et al. Occupational exposure to airborne asbestos from coatings, mastics, and adhesives. Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology. May 2004;14(3):234-44.

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