Black mastic is a substance that was used during the early to mid part of the 20th century as a flooring adhesive. Most often put into play with tiles or linoleum, the black goop was made with organic materials from a special tree, making it inexpensive to purchase in large quantities. As you can imagine, the price tag was enough to make people flock toward black mastic, and so America's floors began featuring the economical product. Little did homeowners know just how much the mastic could actually cost them.
What makes black mastic scary?
To be short, some variations of the stuff contain asbestos fibers. Asbestos was added into the black mastic with the intention of making it more durable and flame resistant. Sounds innocent enough, right? Impressive, even. The problem is that exposure to asbestos can cause a number of harmful symptoms and diseases, including mesothelioma. These diseases can even be terminal. And to think people were incorporating asbestos beneath their floors, in the paint on their walls, throughout their entire homes! It seems ludicrous now that we understand just how dangerous it is!
How do I know if I have black mastic in my home?
Here's the tricky part...you can't know unless you actually begin to remove the flooring. Upon doing so, if you find a smooth, black substance underneath your tiles or linoleum, evacuate the room quickly. Don't try to remove it without consulting a professional first as it is not only dangerous but can be difficult to rid your floor of too. Trying to wash it or sand it away will not work and in most cases will make the problem worse.
What's the best way to protect myself from black mastic?
As stated in the previous paragraph, you should leave the infected area as soon as you realize that there is black mastic in your floor. The other thing you could do is just leave your floor alone to begin with. If the black mastic remains sealed beneath the floor it's already holding on to, you have nothing to worry about. The danger is hidden out of sight and out of mind. It is only if you expose the mastic that you need to caution yourself.