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Asbestos in Plaster

Asbestos in plaster was a significant source of asbestos exposure for workers involved in its manufacture, installation, and maintenance, as well as for homeowners. Plaster was widely used in residential and commercial construction until the 1940s.  

Plaster was the primary material in interior walls and ceilings in most commercial and residential structures until the advent of drywall. People who are exposed to asbestos in plaster are at risk of developing mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other cancers decades after the first exposure.

What is plaster?

Encyclopedia Britannica defines plaster as a paste that is used to coat walls, ceilings, and partitions, which hardens as it dries. The use of plaster is an ancient building technique. A form of plaster identical to today’s plaster of Paris was found in the Egyptian pyramids.

Plaster of Paris was typically used for decorative purposes such as moldings and cornices. It was one of the four most common types of plaster. The other common types are plaster comprised of gypsum, cement, and lime.

When were plaster walls used in the United States?

Plaster was used as a wall material in the United States from the 1700s until the end of the 1940s. After the late 1940s, drywall quickly became a more popular option because it was more economical and faster and easier to install.

How was asbestos plaster used?

Plaster containing asbestos had multiple uses in interior and exterior building construction.  

Asbestos Plaster Walls

Plaster was spread over wood, metal, or rock lath to form walls and ceilings. It required several days to dry and set. Asbestos was included in plaster because of its fire-retardant and insulating properties. The insulating properties of asbestos were ideal for thermal insulation and soundproofing. The tensile strength of asbestos also strengthened the plaster.

Popcorn Ceilings

Popcorn ceilings were comprised of a thick layer of asbestos plaster. Also known as acoustical ceilings or stucco ceilings, popcorn ceilings were bright, easy to install, and had soundproofing benefits. This became the standard for bedrooms and hallways from 1945 until at least 1980, according to a study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. 

plaster worker

The study detailed the case of a woman who developed asbestosis and lung cancer from the asbestos in her popcorn ceilings. In 1993, her popcorn ceiling became damaged due to multiple water intrusion incidents. When the ceilings dried, asbestos dust flaked off the ceiling and covered the apartment, even appearing on the subject’s clothing.

She moved out in late 2012, but it was too late. By 2005, she had developed a persistent, productive cough and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010. The asbestosis was discovered in 2012, around the time she moved out. She had no history of smoking.

Wall plaster asbestos was non-friable, which means it would only be released into the environment if the material became damaged by mechanical methods. By contrast, popcorn ceilings were composed of friable asbestos, which can easily be damaged by touching them. 


Plaster is a popular component in stucco, which is used on building exteriors and ceilings.

Is asbestos plaster still used today?

Although plaster is still used today, it does not contain asbestos. However, older houses and buildings may still contain asbestos in plaster due to the difficulty and expense of safely removing asbestos products.

Plaster Brand Names Commonly Sold

Precision Contracting Services, a company that provides home construction services, has found asbestos in the following well-known plaster brands:

  • W.R. Grace – Used asbestos plaster from 1945 to 1972
  • Georgia-Pacific – Used asbestos in acoustical and patching plaster from 1950 to 1976
  • Synkoloid – Also known as Synko; used asbestos from 1950 to 1976
  • Keene – Used asbestos from 1963 to 1971
  • Gold Bond – Used asbestos from 1942 to 1972
  • United States Gypsum – Produced asbestos plaster from 1920 to 1975

Plaster Companies That Exposed People to Asbestos

The following asbestos companies manufactured plaster products with asbestos, supplied asbestos products, or required workers to work with asbestos in plaster:

  • Ace Hardware Corporation
  • Domtar Industries
  • Grand Rapids Gypsum
  • Kaiser Gypsum
  • Keene
  • Kilnoise
  • Sears, Roebuck & Company
  • Synkoloid
  • Tellepsen Corporation
  • The Cleveland Gypsum Company, also known as Ceecorp and formerly The Cleveland Builders Supply Company
  • The Sherwin-Williams Company
  • United States Gypsum
  • W.R. Grace

Occupations with Exposure to Asbestos in Plaster

Workers that manufactured, processed, or repaired plaster products or damaged plaster products while carrying out their duties may have been exposed to occupational asbestos. This includes the following occupations:

  • Building inspectors
  • Carpenters
  • Construction workers
  • Demolition workers
  • Drywallers
  • Electricians
  • Furnace workers
  • Hod carriers
  • Insulators
  • Maintenance workers
  • Plasterers
  • Plumbers
  • Renovation workers

How are people exposed to asbestos in plaster walls?

Workers and homeowners may be exposed to asbestos in plaster walls when they cut, puncture, sand, or drill into the plaster. Plaster walls or ceilings in very old buildings may flake or fall apart, at times in large chunks. This can result in significant asbestos exposure.  

Asbestos exposure in plaster dust represents the primary danger of asbestos exposure from plaster. When plaster is sanded or drilled, it forms airborne dust, which can be particularly dangerous. When popcorn ceilings become damaged, dust can fall from the damaged areas or penetrate the air, often without being noticed.

asbestos in plaster

What should I do if I suspect I have asbestos plaster in my home?

There is no need to panic if you suspect asbestos plaster in your home. You should hire a licensed testing contractor to confirm the presence of asbestos. If confirmed, your air quality will also be tested. If the plaster is in good repair, it is possible that it is not creating a hazard. In this case, you may be advised to leave it in place.

If the asbestos is causing a hazard or has the potential to cause a hazard, you may be advised to have it encapsulated or removed. These activities should only be carried out by licensed asbestos abatement professionals.

If you have plans to renovate or other reasons to disturb walls or ceilings with asbestos in the plaster, you should have it removed before you begin the work. If your walls or ceilings do contain asbestos that is in good repair, it is important to avoid hanging pictures with nails or puncturing the walls for any other reason.

Can I sue for asbestos exposure in plaster?

If you have contracted an asbestos-related illness after being exposed to asbestos in plaster, we may be able to help you pursue significant asbestos exposure compensation, whether you were exposed at home or at work. The companies responsible for your exposure to asbestos in plaster are liable for the resulting harm.

You may be able to pursue compensation through a mesothelioma lawsuit against the liable companies. Some of these companies have filed for bankruptcy and established asbestos trust funds through which to file a claim for compensation without going to court. If you were exposed on the job, you may also qualify for an asbestos workers’ compensation claim.

Do I need a lawyer for my asbestos exposure claim?

Asbestos exposure claims involving plaster asbestos are complex because the companies responsible are massive and have access to substantial resources. They hire the best lawyers money can buy, and so should you. The Lanier Law Firm is an experienced law firm that has won more than $20 billion in settlements and verdicts for our clients.

We are familiar with the supply chains involved in the plaster industry, and we can identify all the responsible parties to help maximize your compensation. We will handle all the legal details while you focus on medical treatment. We will also ensure your lawsuit, trust fund claim, or workers’ compensation claim is filed in a timely manner. 

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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