Emulsion adhesive has been used for tasks such as placing roofing tiles or floor tiles in a home. It is used as an agent to bind materials to wood or other surfaces. This adhesive is known for being durable, strong, and also heat resistant. It is also used in the construction of many buildings in the United States for both exterior and interior applications. It can also be used in manufactured furniture and other products such as decorative veneers.
The emulsion adhesives used today are considered safe by government regulatory standards. However prior to current times many of the compounds from in this adhesive contained asbestos as a primary ingredient. Many manufacturers, contractors and construction workers favored asbestos due to its heat resistance, ease of use, versatility, and durability. In a semi-liquid form the asbestos particles in the adhesive itself were basically inert and could not be inhaled.
However when the renovation and removal of tiles that were installed using asbestos-based emulsion adhesives began to occur, the dry adhesive was disturbed and it flaked into tiny airborne particles that were dispersed into the air and then inhaled. This resulted in many construction workers, residents, and workers in the buildings being exposed to the dangerous asbestos. Some of them subsequently developed asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma and other health conditions. Even after the removal and renovation was complete the asbestos still lingered in the air and settled into surrounding materials waiting to be disturbed.
In 1977 the United States banned the use of asbestos in any newly manufactured products. However stockpiles of products such as emulsion adhesive were still used in the construction of both residential and commercial buildings. This meant that any building constructed prior to the 1980s might contain asbestos-based emulsion adhesives. Precautions must be taken if any renovations are performed on these buildings.