Resources for Patients and their Families

Painters and Exposure to Asbestos


The earliest evidence of the painting profession has been traced back to twelfth century English guilds. Across the Atlantic in the United States, the first suburban homes that were constructed after the advent of the automobile were rarely painted by the homeowners themselves; rather, they relied upon skilled tradespeople who possessed specialized knowledge of paints, compounds and techniques.

Today, professional painter's responsibilities extend beyond painting and include surface and area preparation as well. Painters must engage in all aspects of cleaning, priming, taping, patching, filling, caulking, scraping and sanding surfaces in advance of the actual application of paint. These tasks can pose significant health risks for painters, as asbestos-containing material (ACM) is found in many residential and commercial buildings which, when released into the air as dust particles and inhaled by the painter, can result in harmful and sometimes deadly asbestos-related disease.

Painters Are at Risk for Asbestos Exposure on the Job

Before its dangers were widely known in the 1970's, many of the products that painters worked with and around were made with asbestos, primarily due to the fact that asbestos possessed excellent heat resistant and fireproofing properties and was inexpensive to produce. Before 1978, asbestos-containing materials were manufactured and utilized in everything from paints, joint compounds, and surface coatings to wallboards, wallcoverings, shingles and siding. Some quantities of silver paint have been known to contain asbestos in concentrations of up to 7% (OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Association, considers over 1% to be above the permissible exposure limit).

While it is a regular practice to paint over asbestos-containing materials in order to enclose them, great care must be take to not disturb any existing asbestos in the process of preparing the areas to be painted. Furthermore, if any preparation of these areas involves sanding, cutting, drilling, sawing, or other actions that can compromise the material in any way and cause asbestos fibers to become airborne, painters should take great caution to wear respirators or other protective gear to prevent the inhalation of these toxic particles. Even painters' family members can be at risk if they breathe in asbestos dust carried home on unwashed clothes, skin and hair. It is for all of these reasons that an assessment must be made before even the simplest of remodeling projects can be undertaken, to ascertain whether asbestos-containing materials are part of the existing structure. If so, asbestos-removal professionals must be called upon to ensure the safe handling of such materials before any potentially dangerous work is started.

Painters Use a Variety of Asbestos Products

The following is a more specific list of asbestos-containing products to which painters may have been exposed (where known, the years during which the product was manufactured is listed in parentheses):

Paints, Compounds and Protective Coatings: A.P. Green Thermo-Flake Coating (1963-1965), Celotex Primer, Celotex Corporation Noah's Pitch Plastic Compound, Eagle-Picher Spray Mastic Coating (1960-1974), Eagle-Picher Industries Hi-Temp Corrosion Resistant Paint (1969-1971), Eagle-Picher Industries Insulstic - Brush Grade (1942-1959), Flintkote Flintrock Joint Compound (1960-80's), GAF/Ruberoid Coverkote, GAF/Ruberoid Weather Coat Emulsion, National Gypsum Company Craftco Cement Paint (1938-1952), National Gypsum Company Gold Bond Exterior Stucco (1930-1949), National Gypsum Company National Gypsum Gold Bond Joint Compounds (mid 30's-mid 70's), National Gypsum Company Gold Bond All-Purpose Joint Compound (1935-1975), National Gypsum Company Panelectric Groove Fill (1969-1972), National Gypsum Company Perfect Spray (1959-1972), National Gypsum Company Thermo-Weld Compound (1935-1976), National Gypsum Company Two-in-One Compound (1935-1976), National Gypsum Company Vinyl Topping Compound (1935-1976), United States Gypsum Company Durabond Joint Compound (early 60's-mid 70's), United States Gypsum Company Spray Texture Paint/Finish (1959-1976), USG Super Hard Spray (1968-1969), and USG Texture Paint (1930-1976).

Tape: Raymark Allbestos Tape (1941-1981), Raymark Gatortape (1963-1982), Raymark Pyrotex (Tape) (1938-?), Raymark Tape (1929-1982), United States Gypsum Company Imperial Tape, UNR Industries, Inc./Unarco Insutape, and UNR Industries, Inc./Unarco Super Insultape.

Wallboard, Wallcoverings, Lumber: Fibreboard Corp./Pabco Gypsum Board (1954), Pabco Flamcurb Board (1951-1960), Johns Manville Corporation Wallboard Products, Keasbey & Mattison Monobestos Asbestos Lumber, National Gypsum Company Gold Bond Asbestone, National Gypsum Company Gold Bond Natcor (1944-1946), National Gypsum Company Humiguard, and National Gypsum Company Ripple-Tone Panels.

Roofing, Shingles and Siding: Carey (aka Philip Carey Manufacturing Company) Careystone Roofing and Siding, Celotex El Rey Asbestos Fibred Roof Coating, Celobric Insulating Brick Siding, Flintkote Rexalt Roof Coating, Flintkote Roofing Products (1940-1983), Flintkote Roofing Shingles (1940-1983), Flintkote Siding (1940-1983), Flintkote Asbestos Cement Siding & Roofing (1950-1974), Ruberoid Grain-Tex Asbestos Cement Siding (early 50's), Ruberoid American Thatch (early 50's-?), Ruberoid Asbestos Panelstone (early 50's-?), Ruberoid Dura-Color (late 50's), Ruberoid Aristo Insulating Siding (early 40's-late 50's), Johns Manville Corporation Roofing Products, Johns Manville Corporation Siding Products, Keasbey & Mattison K&M Shake Shingle, National Gypsum Gold Bond Asbestone (mid 50's-early 80's), National Gypsum Gold Bond Siding (mid 50's-early 80's), National Gypsum Gold Bond Plasticrylic Panels (early 60's-early 80's), National Gypsum Gold Bond Asbestos Panels (mid 50's-early 80's), United States Gypsum Company Glatex Asbestos Cement Siding, USG Siding Shingles (Generic) (1937-1975), and USG Roofing (Generic) (1937-1975).

Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer and Asbestosis are Common Diseases Contracted by Painters

Asbestos inhalation can lead to both fatal diseases - such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis - and non-fatal diseases such as pleural thinking, pleural effusion and pleural plaques. In many instances, decades can elapse from a painter's initial asbestos exposure to the time when symptoms of asbestos cancer appear - from ten years or so (typically for lung cancer) to over fifty years in some cases of asbestosis and mesothelioma. This long latency period leads experts to anticipate that these diagnoses will increase in the next ten to twenty years. If you or a family member have been exposed to any of the above-listed products or have worked in or around painting projects, you should take care to become more familiar with the specific threats of the following diseases:

Malignant Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a malignant cancer found in a membrane known as the mesothelium, which forms the lining of many body cavities. The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Pleural mesothelioma appears in the chest (in about three-quarters of all mesothelioma cases), and when it occurs in the stomach it is called peritoneal mesothelioma. In the infrequent cases when mesothelioma appears in the lining near the heart, this is known as pericardial mesothelioma. Wherever they occur, malignant mesothelioma tumors are extremely aggressive and can rapidly spread to other parts of the body, leading to a poor mesothelioma survival rate. Approximately three thousand patients are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year in the United States.

Pleural Mesothelioma

The lining of the chest consists of two layers, between which is a minute quantity of lubricating fluid that permits one's chest and lungs to expand and contract during inhalation and exhalation. At the onset of pleural mesothelioma, this chest lining thickens and scars, clogging the space between the layers and frequently producing large amounts of additional fluid. Common symptoms of malignant pleural mesothelioma include loss of appetite, unwanted weight loss, shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, lower back pain, coughing and difficulty swallowing. This disease is often in its advanced stages when its symptoms are initially diagnosed.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

As with the lining in the chest, the abdominal cavity is also covered by a lining. At the onset of peritoneal mesothelioma, a tumor develops within this lining, causing it to thicken around the abdominal organs. Fluid production increases greatly, which in turn leads to abdominal swelling. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include loss of appetite and/or weight, weakness, nausea, and abdominal pains.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

A scarring and cancerous tumor in the tissue around the heart, pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest of the three kinds of mesothelioma cancer and only accounts for less than ten percent of its incidences. Chest pain, palpitations, a persistent cough and shortness of breath are all symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma. Like other mesothelioma tumors, pericardial mesothelioma can quickly metastasize and spread elsewhere into the body.

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari
Mesothelioma Treatment Guide

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