Discovering how common asbestos is in drywall is not just a matter of historical interest but a concern for anyone looking to maintain a safe living or working environment.

This topic gains even more urgency if you’re planning to sell your house fast, as the presence of asbestos can significantly impact your property’s value and your ability to close a deal quickly. Understanding the prevalence of asbestos in drywall, its risks, and how to handle it safely is crucial for homeowners, contractors, and real estate professionals alike.

In this article, we discuss the history of asbestos use in drywall, learning why and how this hazardous material found its way into homes and buildings. You’ll learn how to identify asbestos in drywall and become familiar with the health risks it poses.

Additionally, we’ll provide guidance on the safety measures you should take when handling drywall that may contain asbestos. Whether you’re renovating an old home, involved in construction, or looking to sell your house fast, this article will help you handle drywall safely.

History of Asbestos in Drywall

Why Asbestos Was Used

Asbestos was integral in the construction industry due to its affordability and functional benefits. It made drywall lighter, stronger, and notably more fire-resistant.

Builders widely adopted asbestos in commercial, residential, and military buildings for these reasons. Its ability to add strength, while keeping materials light and flexible, made it an ideal additive in drywall products like sheets, tapes, and joint compounds.

How Common Is Asbestos In Drywall – Timeline of Usage

The use of asbestos in drywall began intensively around the 1930s. By the 1940s, asbestos was commonly found in joint compounds used in construction. This widespread use continued until the 1980s when regulations started to limit asbestos use in building materials. Notably, in 1977, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission enacted a partial ban, specifically prohibiting asbestos in patching compounds used by consumers.

Transition Away from Asbestos

The shift from asbestos-containing materials began earnestly in the 1980s following new asbestos regulations. These laws prohibited the production and use of asbestos-containing drywall and joint compounds in the United States. However, buildings erected before these regulations may still contain asbestos. The discovery of asbestos health risks prompted this transition, steering the industry towards safer building materials and practices.

Identification of Asbestos in Drywall

Identifying asbestos in drywall panels is important to ensure the safety of your living space, especially if your home was built before the 1980s. It can’t be seen by the naked eye.  Here’s how you can go about it:

How Common Is Asbestos In Drywall: Visual Indicators

Asbestos-contaminated drywall often resembles modern drywall on interior walls, making visual identification challenging. Standard sizes were typically 4 x 8 feet, similar to plywood.

If your home features older, unlabeled building materials showing signs of wear, consider them suspect. Remember, asbestos fibers are microscopic and cannot be seen without magnification, so visual checks alone are insufficient.

How Common Is Asbestos In Drywall: At-Home Testing Kits

For a more definitive approach, consider using DIY asbestos testing kits available online. These kits involve three steps: collecting a sample, sending it to a lab, and waiting for the results, which are communicated via email or mail.

Ensure you select a kit from a reputable manufacturer to guarantee accurate results. Always use protective gear, such as gloves and a HEPA filter respirator, when handling suspected materials.

How Common Is Asbestos In Drywall: Hiring Professionals for Testing

If you prefer a thorough and expert assessment to see how common is asbestos in drywall, hiring professionals is advisable to make sure your current construction materials are in good condition.

Certified asbestos inspectors can provide a more comprehensive evaluation of your home. They will take samples safely and have them analyzed in accredited labs, ensuring that all safety protocols are followed. This method is particularly recommended if extensive renovation or demolition work is planned.

By following these steps, you can effectively identify and manage asbestos in your drywall, contributing to a safer home environment.

Health Risks Associated with Asbestos in Drywall

Asbestos exposure, even in small amounts, can lead to severe health issues. Understanding these risks is a good idea, especially if you’re dealing with older drywall that might contain this hazardous material and in older buildings. Avoid the risk of asbestos exposure by understanding how harmful asbestos drywall can be is a good first step to understanding the health risk.

Diseases Linked to Asbestos

When considering how common is asbestos in drywall, it is important to understand the risks. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, significantly increasing the risk of several cancers. Mesothelioma, a rare cancer affecting the lining of the lungs or abdomen, is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure.

Lung, ovarian, and laryngeal cancers are also common among those exposed to asbestos. Non-cancerous conditions like asbestosis, which scars the lungs, and pleural plaques, which are calcium deposits on the lung membranes, can severely impact your health.

How Asbestos Affects the Body

When you breathe in asbestos fibers, they can become trapped in your lung tissue, causing inflammation and scarring. This damage can lead to chronic respiratory issues and significantly impair lung function.

Over time, the continuous irritation from these fibers can lead to the development of tumors. Symptoms like fluid buildup, coughing, and chest pain might not appear until decades after exposure, making asbestos-related diseases particularly dangerous. For more information on the cancer risks caused by asbestos, check out this great article from the National Cancer Institute.

If you suspect your home contains asbestos, it’s crucial to handle any renovations or demolitions with extreme care to minimize your risk of exposure. The only way to avoid medical bills from the health hazard of asbestos is to take safety precautions.

Safety Measures When Handling Drywall

Protective Gear

When handling drywall that may contain asbestos, wearing the right protective gear is crucial to minimize exposure to harmful dust and fibers. Protective equipment can avoid lung damage from asbestos-containing drywall materials and asbestos-containing products.

Ensure you wear a NIOSH-approved respirator, safety goggles, and gloves. Depending on the extent of exposure, you might also need disposable coveralls, boot covers, and sometimes gloves to prevent any contact with asbestos.

Safe Removal Methods

It’s important to follow safe removal practices to prevent the release of asbestos fibers into the air. If the drywall contains asbestos, consider wetting it before removal to reduce dust. Use a HEPA vacuum to collect any debris and dust. Remember, do not attempt DIY asbestos removal—always engage a licensed professional who is trained in handling asbestos materials safely.

Disposal of Asbestos Materials

Proper disposal of asbestos-containing materials and asbestos products is important to avoid environmental contamination and health risks to you, construction workers, or anyone else at risk of being exposed to microscopic asbestos fibers.

Asbestos materials should be disposed of in accordance with local regulations. Work with a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to ensure that these materials are safely removed and transported to an approved disposal facility. Always double-bag asbestos waste and clearly label it to prevent any accidental exposure.

By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that asbestos is handled safely, protecting both your health and the environment.


Understanding and managing how common is asbestos in drywall is important, especially in older constructions, to ensure the safety and health of all occupants. We’ve talked about the historical use of asbestos in the 20th century, its dangers, and the best option for its safe identification and removal.

Proper awareness and action can significantly mitigate the risks associated with asbestos, making our living and working environments safer for everyone.

We should maintain safety measures when dealing with materials suspected of containing toxic asbestos fibers. Engaging professionals for testing and abatement ensures that asbestos is handled correctly, protecting not only our immediate health but also contributing to the long-term well-being of our communities.

Let’s commit to staying informed and vigilant, prioritizing safety in every aspect of our construction and renovation projects.


1. How prevalent is asbestos in plaster walls?
Asbestos was commonly used in both interior and exterior plaster walls from the 1920s until the 1970s. Therefore, if a house was constructed or underwent renovations before 1980, there is a high likelihood that it contains asbestos in the walls.

2. Is the dust from drywall mud harmful to health?
Yes, inhaling dust from drywall joint compounds over time can lead to chronic throat and airway irritation, coughing, phlegm production, and breathing difficulties that are similar to asthma. Individuals who smoke or have pre-existing sinus or respiratory conditions may experience more severe health issues.

3. What are the health risks if I am exposed to asbestos?
Exposure to asbestos fibers can significantly increase the risk of several severe health problems, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Additionally, asbestos exposure is linked to an increased risk of digestive system cancers, such as colon cancer.

4. Is it likely for a house built in 1976 to contain asbestos?
Homes built before 1980, including those constructed in 1976, are likely to contain asbestos in various materials such as walls, ceilings, roofs, and floors. Although older homes typically do not come with a detailed list of asbestos-containing materials, these components are commonly present.