Asbestos in Joint Compound

Joint compound, or “mud,” is used by workers when installing drywall. It seals seams, fills gaps and holes, and is used for the interior walls of homes and buildings. While useful, joint compound made before the 1980s contained asbestos — a material that can lead to mesothelioma and other cancers.

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Asbestos in Joint Compounds

Joint compound is a plaster-like substance, typically white in color, used to seal the joints made between two sheets of drywall.

Common joint compound uses include:

  • Concealing dimples made from the drilling of screws
  • Fixing blemishes
  • Patching and repairing damaged drywall
  • Sealing holes around fixtures
  • Coating an entire wall or ceiling

Joint compound came in two basic forms: traditional dry mixture and the ready-mixed product.

Between World War II and the early 1980s, asbestos was universally added to both forms of joint compound-this improved safety and made products less flammable.

Companies known to manufacture asbestos-containing joint compounds include:

  • Bondex
  • CertainTeed
  • Flintkote
  • Georgia-Pacific
  • Kaiser Gypsum Company
  • Kelly-Moore Paco
  • National Gypsum
  • Synkoloid
  • United States Gypsum

The asbestos content in joint compound varied but was generally between three and six percent.

Asbestos In Joint Compound Today

After the dangers of asbestos became common knowledge, the general public and regulating bodies struggled to remove the deadly products from the market.

While many manufacturing companies attempted to find a substitute for the asbestos in their mixtures, others did nothing.

Asbestos bans did not take into account products already on the market — products like joint compound have an unlimited shelf life, and many retailers and contractors held onto asbestos-containing products long after the bans came into effect.

Modern drywall and taping compounds do not contain asbestos. In general, any joint compound used in a drywall project after the 1990s will not contain asbestos.

Who Was Exposed to Asbestos in Joint Compound?

Workers were mixing, sanding and taping joint compounds and breathing in asbestos fiber concentrations that far exceeded the levels permitted by U.S. Government regulations.

In 1979, a study in the American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal estimated that 75,000 American construction workers were employed in the trade of installing drywall.

The activities that exposed workers to the highest levels of airborne asbestos fibers include:

  • Sanding (widely acknowledged as the most hazardous activity)
  • Mixing joint compounds
  • Taping
  • Demolition

Additionally, any other tradesperson working in the same area as the drywall installation would have also been exposed to asbestos fibers.

Mixing Joint Compound

Factory workers who handled, mixed and packaged bags of raw asbestos fiber are also at risk of exposure to the airborne fibers.

The dry-mix joint compound was usually packaged like sugar or flour in heavy paper bags. These bags could leak or break open in transport or storage, which exposed delivery and retail workers to the hazardous material.

There have been cases of mesothelioma (cancer caused by asbestos) in family members and pets of people who work closely with asbestos products — the fibers cling to clothing, hair and skin and can be carried to a secondary environment where they can be just as deadly.

Did You Know?

Is Asbestos Always Harmful?

While joint compounds containing asbestos pose a serious health risk, they are not necessarily harmful in homes. If the material remains intact and in good condition, the danger of the asbestos becoming airborne is quite limited.

Asbestos is relatively safe when it is left undisturbed-the joints are often taped and then painted over, so the surface is not usually exposed or vulnerable to wear.

It is only when the joint compound is disturbed, damaged, or begins to deteriorate, that the asbestos begins to pose a health risk. It is essential to consult a professional before undertaking any renovation project in a home built before 1990.

Health Risks of Asbestos in Joint Compounds

Microscopic asbestos fibers are invisible and undetectable without specialized equipment. Once inhaled or ingested, they become embedded in the lung or abdominal tissue and are impossible to remove.

Over time and with enough exposure, the tiny fibers can cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous tumors known as mesothelioma.

People who worked with joint compound in the seventies and eighties may still develop mesothelioma — the disease has a long latency period and can develop decades after initial exposure to asbestos.

Seeking Justice for Asbestos Exposure

Many people have developed mesothelioma as a direct result of working with or around joint compounds. These people struggle not only with their disease but also with high medical expenses, lost wages, and stress.

If you or a loved one previously worked with an asbestos-containing joint compound and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our Justice Support Team.

Call (888)360-4215 or request our FREE Mesothelioma Justice Guide for information about how we may be able to help you receive the financial compensation you deserve.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Stephanie KiddWritten by:

Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie Kidd grew up in a family of civil servants, blue-collar workers, and medical caregivers. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from Stetson University, she began her career specializing in worker safety regulations and communications. Now, a proud member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

View 6 Sources
  1. Bullseye Precision Analytics & Environmental Services, “The Confusion Over Asbestos Containing Muds” Retrieved from http://www.bullseyelab.com/Bullseye/Blog/Entries/2014/7/13_The_Confusion_over_Asbestos_Containing_Muds.html Accessed on August 2 2018
  2. Canadian HAZ-MAT Environmental Ltd., “Drywall Containing Asbestos (Also Known as Plasterboard, Wallboard, Sheetrock, Gypsum Board)” Retrieved from http://www.haz-mat.ca/asbestos-removal/asbestos/drywall/ Accessed on August 2 2018
  3. Fischbein, Alf, Arthur N. Rohl, Arthur M. Langer, And Irving J. Selikoff. "Drywall Construction And Asbestos Exposure." The American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal 40, No. 5 (1979): 402-407.
  4. Inspectapedia, “Asbestos Content in Drywall & Joint Compound” Retrieved from https://inspectapedia.com/hazmat/Asbestos_in_Drywall.php Accessed on August 2 2018
  5. Integral Building Specialists, “Asbestos in Drywall Compound” Retrieved from http://www.integralconsultants.ca/blog/asbestos-in-drywall-compound/ Accessed on August 2 2018
  6. Metro Vancouver “Asbestos and Gypsum Drywall” Retrieved from http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/solid-waste/SolidWastePublications/GypsumDrywallDisposal.pdf Accessed on August 2 2018
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