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Asbestos was once a commonly used material in all forms of construction, and was considered a “miracle mineral” by many people who were impressed with its fireproofing capability and highly flexible strength. Unfortunately asbestos is also the cause of a number of deadly diseases, and for that reason the substance was banned for most purposes in the late 1970s. Many buildings and structures are now contaminated with asbestos-containing materials, and those materials can pose a major threat to health and safety.

Asbestos in Caulking Products

Building caulking is a very common source of asbestos exposure, particularly in structures built before the early 1980s. Although the U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission banned the use of asbestos in 1977, these products continued to remain on the market; even today, some building compounds may contain up to 1% asbestos.

Caulking compounds used in building construction prior to the 1980s may have contained up to 25% asbestos fiber. The primary purpose was to give the material more strength and durability. Aging caulk may become friable, releasing fibers into the atmosphere and posing a serious health risk; therefore, any removal of the substance should be undertaken by a professional asbestos abatement service.

Caulking is a type of sealer commonly used in plumbing applications. However, in a broader context, the word refers to any process used to seal joints between pipes, planks, wall sections, etc.

In building construction, caulking is the process of applying some type of flexible sealer (usually silicone) in order to close gaps between panels or pipes. The usual purpose is to create a water-tight seal, but it can also be used to keep out various contaminants, insect pests (such as termites) and even the outside air itself.

Caulking is a process that has long been used in shipbuilding. Since the days of the earliest wooden sailing ships, caulking has been used to seal the gaps between the strakes, or planks that form the hull. When iron and riveted steel ships began to appear about the time of the American Civil War, ship builders modified their techniques but still used caulk in the seams between metal plates. A similar process was used in boilermaking.

Caulking Products Containing Asbestos

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

Product Name Start Year End Year
3M Caulk 1935 1986
3M Sticky Tar Caulking 1935 1940
H.B. Fuller Gray Caulking Compound 95-08
Johns Manville Asbestos Caulking Putty
Johns Manville Industrial Vent Caulking
Mobil Oil Dum-Dum Caulk 1964 1973
National Gypsum All Weather Caulking Compound 1953 1974

Hazards Associated with Asbestos Caulking Products

Asbestos poses a danger to human beings because its fibers, when inhaled, readily lodge into the soft tissues of the body, particularly the mesothelium, a thin layer of cells that surround and protect the heart, lungs, and stomach. These lodged fibers in turn stimulate a strong immune system response which leads to the formation of tumors, causing asbestosis or asbestos cancer, also known as mesothelioma. Anyone exposed to asbestos in construction or consumer products should be aware of the risk of developing mesothelioma, a risk which can persist for decades after exposure.

Learn More about Compensation for Asbestos-Related Injury

Because mesothelioma and other diseases are strongly associated with asbestos exposure, there may be legal recourse for those who have been exposed to these products. The manufacturers of many asbestos-containing materials knew of the dangerous properties of asbestos, and a skilled mesothelioma lawyer may be able to help mesothelioma victims receive compensation for their injury. To get a comprehensive packet with information on both the legal and medical options that are available to mesothelioma victims, just fill in the form on this page and we will rush you a free copy.



Colvin, Fred. The Railroad Pocket-Book: A Quick Reference Cyclopedia of Railroad Information. (New York: Derry-Collard, 1906)

Wilson, Alex. "Focus on Energy: Insulation That Won't Make You Sick." Journal of Light Construction, June 1987.

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