Dust from Drywall-Joint-Compound Mud May Be a Serious Lung Hazard!

Impact Volume XVI, No. 1 May 1998


A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has shown that “nuisance dust” from joint-compound mud used in drywall work can contain toxic materials.

And, there can be dangerously high amounts of dust from sanding and other drywall work.

NIOSH conducted a Health Hazard Evaluation of dust and toxic exposures to 10 renovation workers at 2 sites doing drywall finishing. Measuring the air the workers were breathing, NIOSH found 9 of 10 total-dust samples at higher levels than limits set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). More important, 2 of 13 samples of respirable (breathable) dust were above the limits OSHA says are safe. Two samples contained respirable silica. Silica can cause crippling and fatal lung diseases.

“The health effects associated with long-term chronic airborne exposure to the dust or particulates generated during drywall sanding are not known,” the report said, adding that even when the dust amounts are within recommended limits, they may not be safe. This is especially true when parts of the dust are known to have a “biologic effect.”

Besides silica, another material in the dust that may be unsafe is Kaolin. Found in clay, kaolin causes pneumoconiosis, or permanent lung damage.

For the study, NIOSH also bought drywall-joint compound at stores in Ohio, to test for minerals and examined 8 of the workers for health problems. The researchers found the workers’ main complaints related to the dust were eye irritation and nasal congestion.

The report recommends engineering controls (such as local exhaust ventilation), wet-finishing techniques, and personal protective equipment to limit exposures to dust during drywall.

Dust in your ductwork and home is a serious hazard.

Call Disaster Recovery today for an evaluation, especially if you’ve had work done on your home, like remodeling or an addition. Call us at (307) 686-0078.