Plaster

Asbestos in Plaster and Other Building Materials

Plaster is a mortar-like substance that is used for a wide variety of purposes including building construction and finishing, medical care, and even modeling and the arts (including theatrical and film sets). Plaster comes in three main varieties: gypsum (also known as Plaster-of-Paris), lime (employed by visual artists) and cement.

The use of plaster to add fire-resistance to walls and other surfaces was widespread. Plaster acts as a flame retardant by releasing water vapor when exposed to flame. It is also an excellent heat insulator, preventing the transfer of heat to inner surfaces.

In the past, asbestos fibers were frequently added to plaster mix. These fibers were added to improve the flame retardant properties of the material, as asbestos is extremely heat-resistant. Most often, the asbestos used was a type known as white chrysotile.

Tremolite is a form of amphibole asbestos. These fibers are long and stiff, acting like microscopic spears once embedded inside the lung tissue. Tremolite was never commercially mined, but is a frequent contaminant of other commercial substances including vermiculite, a common ingredient found in some types of fibrous cement plaster.

Plaster Products Containing Asbestos

The following partial list of plaster products were known to contain asbestos:

Product Name Start Year End Year
Georgia-Pacific Acoustical Plaster 1950 1974
Georgia-Pacific Lite Acoustical Plaster 1958 1964
Georgia-Pacific Patching Plaster 1956 1976
Keene Uni-Coustic 1963 1971
National Gypsum Gold Bond Acoustical Plaster
National Gypsum Gold Bond Fire-Shield Plaster 1958 1970
National Gypsum Gold Bond Macoustic 1942 1947
National Gypsum Gold Bond Patching Plaster
National Gypsum Gold Bond Perfo-Lyte Acoustical Plaster 1955 1972
National Gypsum Gold Bond Plasters
National Gypsum Gold Bond Spackling Plaster
National Gypsum Gold Bond Wood Fibered Plaster
Synkoloid Plastibond 1950 1976
Synkoloid Synko Patch Rite Patching Plaster
Synkoloid Synko Plaster of Paris
United States Gypsum Cement Plaster Regular 1943 1947
United States Gypsum Firecode Plaster
United States Gypsum Gypsum Woodfibre Plaster
United States Gypsum Imperial Gypsum Cement Plaster
United States Gypsum Imperial Plaster
United States Gypsum Red Top Cement Plaster 1920 1958
United States Gypsum Red Top Firecode Plaster 1962 1969
United States Gypsum Red Top Gypsum Plaster 1920 1958
United States Gypsum Red Top Patching Plaster
United States Gypsum Red Top Plaster
United States Gypsum Structolite 1950 1975
United States Gypsum Structo-lite Perlited Gypsum Plaster
United States Mineral Cafco Sound-Shield
W.R. Grace Hi-Sorb Plaster
W.R. Grace Zono-Coustic 1960 1973
W.R. Grace Zonolite Acoustical Plaster 1945 1972

Hazards Associated with Plaster Products

Although the deliberate use of asbestos in plaster mix has been banned in most of the industrialized world, the use of asbestos-containing vermiculite continued for many years. Unfortunately, this type of plaster remains in many older structures, and continues to pose a health threat to building renovators and demolition workers. When intact, the plaster poses relatively little risk of asbestos exposure because the asbestos fibers are held in place by the surrounding material. When the plaster becomes worn, abraded, or scratched, however, the individual fibers can enter the atmosphere and be inhaled. Inhaled asbestos is the primary cause of asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma.

Sources

Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)

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