Asbestos Drywall and Finishing Products

Expert Fact Checked

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Jennifer Lucarelli Lawyer and Legal Advisor

For the last century, drywall and joint compound have been standard construction materials. Until the 1980s, companies like Kaiser Gypsum and U.S. Gypsum Company added asbestos to their drywall products. This asbestos use led to exposure for many workers and residents. Anyone exposed to asbestos is at risk of mesothelioma.

01. Asbestos Use in Drywall Products

Why Was Asbestos Used in Drywall Products?

For decades, construction manufacturers produced drywall materials with asbestos. It was an affordable way to make drywall lighter, stronger and more fire-resistant. Builders used these materials in many commercial, residential and military buildings. Homeowners may also handle these asbestos drywall materials during do-it-yourself repairs or renovations.

Before the 1980s, companies used asbestos with drywall materials in various ways. Asbestos was often part of the drywall mixture itself.

It was common to add asbestos to drywall finishing products like tape, patching plaster and joint compound. Drywall boards often contained layers of these other asbestos materials. These drywall-related products often led to asbestos exposure.

The mineral was also used in materials like joint compounds. This is either a pre-mixed paste or a powder that water is added to. It is used to seal the seams between drywall panels. Construction workers may also have used joint compound for smaller wall patches and repairs.

By the 1980s, asbestos regulations limited the use of asbestos in materials like drywall. Companies in the United States could no longer produce or use asbestos-containing drywall or joint compound. But existing buildings constructed before the 1980s may still contain asbestos construction products.

Asbestos Drywall History at a Glance

What Types of Asbestos Drywall Are Banned?

In 1977, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) set a partial asbestos drywall ban. The Commission banned patching compounds containing asbestos for consumer use. At the time, asbestos was in about half of all patching compounds. The product labels did not disclose this risk to consumers. The ban did not extend to all types of drywall products.

Dangers of Asbestos in Drywall and Finishing Materials

Anyone who handles asbestos products or materials faces a risk of asbestos exposure. Activities that disturb asbestos fibers increase the risk of exposure. This includes making, installing or repairing drywall boards and finishing materials.

Workers often cut, mix, sand and sweep drywall materials. This can release asbestos dust, leading to exposure. Testing shows the primary type of asbestos in drywall materials is chrysotile. This type comprises 90% – 95% of asbestos used in buildings in the United States.

Some research from the 1970s to the 1980s has shown asbestos air fiber measurements in drywall to be above regulation limits at the time of their usage. These measurements were above regulation limits at the time of their intended usage. This research also showed typical asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma, in drywall construction workers.

A 2012 study found that demolishing or repairing wallboard may disturb asbestos joint compound. The study stated these materials continue to be potential sources of exposure. Any craftspeople or homeowners can discuss suspected asbestos drywall exposure with their doctors.

02. List of Asbestos Drywall Products

List of Asbestos Drywall-Related Products

Many companies that manufactured construction products once used asbestos. The mineral’s heat resistance and durability made it popular for materials like drywall and its finishing products.

All the various types of drywall materials and layers may have contained asbestos. The most common asbestos drywall components include:

Many well-known manufacturers once made these asbestos drywall products. For years, these companies put people at risk of asbestos exposure. After regulations began, they stopped using the mineral in their U.S. product lines. Homeowners and construction workers may still face these risks in older buildings and homes.

03. Drywall & Asbestos Exposure

Who Is at Risk of Asbestos Exposure From Drywall Materials?

The use of asbestos drywall materials may have led to occupational exposure for many people. These workers were often involved in the construction industry or a related field. For example, both carpenters and painters may have been exposed to asbestos through drywall materials, like joint compound and wallboard. Veterans of all military branches may have experienced exposure in barracks and other buildings. Homeowners have also experienced non-occupational exposure to asbestos drywall materials when doing home repairs or renovations.

By the 1980s, new drywall products did not contain asbestos. But older drywall materials still present an exposure risk. Workers, homeowners and renters may all face risks when renovating or repairing older buildings. Asbestos exposure may lead to mesothelioma and other asbestos cancers.

Occupations at Risk of Exposure From Asbestos Drywall and Finishing Products

04. Asbestos Lawsuits

Asbestos Lawsuits, Settlements & Other Compensation

People who have been exposed to asbestos drywall materials may have legal rights. Mesothelioma lawyers can review exposure details and help victims understand their best options. These options may include mesothelioma lawsuits, workers’ compensation claims and bankruptcy trust fund claims.

Many construction companies that produced asbestos drywall have asbestos trust funds. These funds exist to set aside compensation for current and future asbestos claims. Based on their work and exposure history, victims may be able to file bankruptcy claims against asbestos companies. Asbestos drywall companies with bankruptcy trust funds include:

  • Bondex International
  • The Flintkote Company
  • Kaiser Gypsum Company Inc.
  • National Gypsum Company
  • U.S. Gypsum Company
  • W.R. Grace / Zonolite

Compensation Following Exposure From Asbestos Drywall-Related Products

People may develop mesothelioma after asbestos exposure through drywall and finishing materials. Many victims have received mesothelioma compensation from lawsuits against asbestos drywall companies. This financial compensation may come from mesothelioma settlements or verdicts. Some successful lawsuits for mesothelioma and asbestos materials, like joint compound, include:

  • A 2012 lawsuit against a construction company called Tishman Liquidating Co. (Tishman). The mesothelioma victim worked with drywall at two of the company’s projects in New York from 1975 to 1977. The jury found that the joint compound contained unsafe levels of asbestos, which Tishman should have known. The company failed to use reasonable care and acted with reckless disregard. The jury awarded the victim $19 million.
  • A 2009 lawsuit against Georgia-Pacific and other drywall product manufacturers. The mesothelioma victim and her husband ran a construction business for decades. The victim’s main work duty was applying joint compound between drywall panels. Then she would sand, reapply and sand again. This process created asbestos dust that the victim inhaled regularly. A jury awarded the victim and her husband $6.2 million.
05. Asbestos Drywall Removal

Safely Removing Asbestos Drywall Materials

Asbestos may be present in buildings constructed before the 1980s. Homeowners or workers may be renovating or repairing drywall in these buildings. Some specific protocols to follow when working with potential asbestos drywall materials include:

  • Only asbestos professionals should test for asbestos presence.
  • For suspected asbestos drywall, homeowners or contractors should consult with state-accredited asbestos inspection firms.
  • Homeowners should not handle or remove asbestos themselves.
  • Asbestos abatement professionals are available for hire. They will follow laws for handling and disposing of asbestos drywall materials.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also created specific asbestos work practices. These practices are part of the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). These standards establish processes to help release fewer asbestos fibers during construction activities.

If demolition or renovation impacts a wall system, the EPA requires a composite analysis. This wall system analysis includes drywall components like joint compound, tape and wallboard. If the analysis shows more than 1% asbestos, the project must follow the EPA’s NESHAP guidelines.