Bitumen adhesive: Is there an asbestos risk here?

Again and again the question arises whether bituminous adhesives can contain asbestos. Where this can be the case, and what risks exist in such a case, read our article. In addition, how to rehabilitate an occurrence.

Bitumen and coal tar

Basically, you have to distinguish between two products:

  • Bitumen and
  • tar

These two substances are often confused, although they are completely different substances. They look very similar.

Bitumen is the substance exclusively used today. It is harmless, not harmful to health and contains no harmful fibers.

Tar is no longer used for many years because it is carcinogenic and also exhales dangerous substances. Tar was formerly obtained mainly from hard coal. In former times he took over many functions for which bitumen is used today. Tar-containing substances may no longer be used today.

exposure to asbestos

Older tar products may occasionally contain asbestos fibers.

  • Tar felt, tar paper (NOT bitumen board!)
  • Glue for laying wooden plasters (only in commercial premises)
  • parquet floors
  • Adhesive for so-called Floor Flex panels (PVC), which themselves are also asbestos-containing.

A risk to asbestos-containing substances may exist in buildings where such floors have been laid between about 1960 and 1980 at the latest. Thereafter, no asbestos-containing adhesives or fabrics were in use.

Parquet was then often glued with tar adhesives. In these cases one can assume that there is a higher risk.


The verification of whether an adhesive is asbestos-containing, can only be done by a material analysis. Specialist companies have to take samples and analyze them. Even when taking samples, precautionary measures must be followed professionally, so they must never be done by yourself.


A removal of the pads must necessarily be carried out by a suitably licensed specialist company. The remains must be disposed of accordingly. As a rule, fiber-containing materials are burned in a special way to destroy the fibers.

The cost of a professional asbestos removal can be quite considerable, but it is absolutely necessary to avoid health risks.

Tips & Tricks

When renovating should always be paid to tar-containing primer and Tarpappen. They may also contain fibers and should be completely removed anyway because of their tar resistance. Get the best advice from a construction specialist and renew as completely as possible, if possible.

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