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Spackling Compounds

Asbestos in Spackling and Other Building Materials

Also known as "spackling paste," this building product is a type of patching material similar to plaster. Like the various types of plaster, spackling paste is used to fill cracks, holes and other minor damage and imperfections on building surfaces such as wood and drywall.

Originally, "Spackle" was a proprietary brand name for a dry mix product first marketed in the late 1920s by the Muralo Company of New Jersey (the company is still in operation). The name itself is most likely derived from the Yiddish term spaklieven, meaning "to fill holes [in a wall]." By the 1940s, the term had become generic and was applied to a number of similar patching compounds.

Because of the uses for which it was intended, most spackling pastes and compounds contained asbestos fiber in the early and middle 20th century. During the first eight decades of the 20th century, it was virtually standard procedure to add asbestos to almost every type of building material. In addition to fire and heat resistance, asbestos provided tensile strength and durability. Asbestos continued to be a significant ingredient in spackling compounds through the 1970s.

Hazards Associated with Spackling Products

When marketed as a dry mix, Spackle® products posed a serious health hazard to painters and construction employees who worked with it. Later forms of the product were pre-mixed into a wet paste and therefore posed little to no danger to respiratory health. However, aging spackle that has long dried out and is in a crumbling, deteriorating condition can be friable – meaning it can release loose fibers into the immediate environment, where they can remain suspended and easily inhaled. Renovators and demolition workers should use caution as these old spackling materials may still be part of the walls, ceilings and woodwork of older structures.

Sources

Sources

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

N/A. "History." Muralo Paints Corporate Website
http://muralo.com/about/company_history.php. Retrieved 5 Jan 2011.

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