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Asbestos in Putty and Other Building Materials

Putty is a generic term that is applied to any number of products that are similar to clay or bread dough in consistency. Putty is used for a number of different purposes; it can be used to fill cracks and holes in walls and ceilings; as a sealant for glass panes and pipes; as wood filler; and as an insulator.

Some types of putty are intumescent. This means that when exposed to heat, the material swells, increasing in volume but decreasing in density. This makes them very useful as a form of fireproofing, protecting the surfaces to which they are applied from heat damage. These types of putty were the most likely to contain asbestos.

The form of asbestos-contaminated putty most likely to be used by homeowners is window putty. In the early and middle 20th century, window putty was often made with asbestos fibers to add strength and fire resistance to the material. The other common use for asbestos-contaminated putty was aboard U.S. naval vessels as well as civilian merchant ships; putty was used in many maritime applications.

Putty Products Containing Asbestos

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

Product Name Start Year End Year
Bondex Penncraft Water Putty
Bondex Reardon’s Water Putty
Bondex Wards Wood Putty
Bondex Water Putty (Wood Putty)
Hercules Sta-Put Stainless Putty

Hazards Associated with Putty Products

Asbestos fibers in putty were unlikely to become friable (give off loose fibers), though workers in plants where putty compounds were mixed could be at considerable risk for asbestos disease. Putty in good condition is probably not dangerous, but putty which has become worn or abraded, or damaged by heat or fire, may be “friable”, meaning that the asbestos minerals contained in the putty can enter the atmosphere and be inhaled by people in the vicinity. Inhalation of asbestos fibers is linked to the development of serious lung diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and pleural mesothelioma.



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

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