Does Spackle Cause Cancer? 

Have you ever been attracted to more DIY household repair projects? Or do you want to consider purchasing an abandoned old house and turning it into the nice and warm, inviting, well-designed home of your dreams?

While home renovation may sound exciting and creative, there are risks associated with the tools or materials used in these projects that can increase your risk of exposure to certain potential health risks. Spackle is one such item.

Spackle is a commonly used product in the United States for fixing small drywall holes. It is usually sold in pre-mixed tubs or squeeze tubes. It has been in use for many years and is usually composed of plaster and glue, which makes the compound stiffen when mixed with water to fill in holes in plaster walls and ceilings. 

However, nowadays, the ingredients of spackle products differ slightly from product to product. They may include gypsum (calcium sulfate dehydrate), asbestos, hydrocarbons, ethylene glycol,  talc, calcite, mica, limestone (finely ground calcium carbonate), or quartz (silica or silicon dioxide) that is frequently mixed with clay. 

The substances like crushed limestone, ground sea shells, muds, regional clays, and tree resins that were used back in the day are also still utilized in certain products nowadays.

Identifying potential health risks in your spackle can help you reduce your chances of exposure. As a result, in this article, we will answer some frequently asked questions in order to help our readers understand the significant health risks contained in some spackle products and take the necessary precautions. So, let’s get started! 

Does spackle cause cancer?

The answer is, unfortunately, yes, spackles do cause cancer. 

As already mentioned above, some spackle products contain hydrated silica (silicon dioxide) as a low-density filler, and the dust emitted from them can cause cancer, more specifically lung cancer. 

As per the research data from the United States Gypsum Company, exposures to breathable crystalline silica, a human carcinogen, are mostly not likely while using normal spackle. However, proper worksite hygiene checks must be taken into consideration. 

Continuous, lengthy, repeated, and severe exposure to free breathable crystalline silica in the atmosphere results in lung cancer and/or lung disease (silicosis). This can in turn lead to the danger of other health consequences, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, etc. 

A highly informative article by The New York Times also reminds DIYers who repair their own plaster or plasterboard walls to be aware that some widely bought and sold spackling compounds contain asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral that can also cause severe lung diseases and cancer as well.

If for some reason, you decide to eat the spackle, read this guide

How toxic is the wall spackle?

Wall Spackle often can contain Asbestos which is a dangerously toxic substance.

Modern wall spackle products, bought and sold nowadays, often contain liquid chemicals like ethylene glycol or hydrocarbons that are extremely poisonous organic compounds. 

When exposed to ethylene glycol for an extended period of time, it can cause serious harm to the user’s kidney and liver.

However, since the quantity of these liquid chemicals filled in the spackle is so limited, the possibility of inhaling a toxic amount is lower. 

To be certain, however, visit the Poison Control website or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. You will be provided with proper assistance 24/7, whether you log on or call.

What precautions can be taken to avoid health issues caused from spackling? 

Here are few precautions tips to help you avoid health issues caused from spackling: 

  1. Scraping or Sweeping the Dust Off: After the spackle gets dry, it solidifies and can pose a choking hazard. To avoid this keep a keen eye out for crumbles and sanding dust that has accumulated on the surface and scrape or sweep them off before you complete the repair task. When dry sanding a NIOSH-approved dust mask. 
  2. Keep Away from Children’s Reach: Spackle can appear to children as food or a toy. Oftentimes, they also become extremely curious when they come across a spackled wall. In such cases, there’s a high possibility of exposure to inhaling the toxic chemicals or materials mixed in the spackling compound. So keep the area closed off while spackling and, after you are done with your spackling project, tightly close the bucket or can. 
  3. Take Help of Poison Control Experts: Spackle consumption is normally not dangerous, despite the fact that it is not supposed to be taken orally. If any individual, child or adult, has mistakenly tasted, swallowed, or gotten spackle in their eyes, please consult the POISON CONTROL experts via: 
  • Online website:  
  • Call at 1-800-222-1222. 
  • You will receive 24/7 support and guidance.

Other safety tips for using spackle:

  • Keep the lid of the spackle compound bucket or can firmly shut. 
  • Keep caustics and oxidizing agents aside from this product.
  • Must be kept away from extremely hot temperatures, freezing temperatures and excessive handling. 
  • Store at temperatures no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. 

What exactly is asbestos, and why should you be concerned if it’s mixed into a spackle product?

Asbestos is a catch-all term for a wide variety of organic silicate minerals. Actinolite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, and grunerite are examples. The fibrous substance was widely used in building-related projects and sectors due to its high durability, fire-resistance, and longevity in cement.

In the years 1930, 1970, and 1980, significant amounts of asbestos were used in the manufacture of spackling compounds, required in larger quantities as an interior decoration coat for ceilings and walls. 

When used for huge projects such as this, the compound had to be mixed on the job site itself, thus exposing the workforce to the powdery asbestos. Workers who sanded down open spaces of plaster all through renovation projects could eventually be subjected to the dust and fibers.

Such spackle products containing asbestos can be extremely lethal to a person’s health if the structure is renovated or remodeled or if the spackling compound crumbles, degrades, or gets damaged all of a sudden.

During such a stage of deterioration, asbestos dust is in the air, and inhaling it can be extremely dangerous. The fibers become jammed up in the linings of your lungs and other organs, but there seem to be no initial symptoms. This can lead to mesothelioma. 

Mesothelioma is a fatal form of cancer. The disease impacts the thin tissue lining around your lungs. The symptoms are frequently misdiagnosed, and those who worked on construction projects before the 1980s are at a high risk of developing chronic mesothelioma.

Thus it is safe to know that anyone who works, lives, or has recently purchased a home built any time before the year 1980 has a greater chance of being exposed to asbestos dust and thus must take necessary precautions as listed in answer to the previous question.  

Just keep in mind that if the spackling compound is deteriorated or damaged in any way, it can produce dust containing tiny deadly fibers that are quick to inhale or swallow. So, by not altering or affecting the compound in any way, it will prevent the asbestos fibers from becoming airborne and thus reduce the possibility of health risks.

How to hide Spackle Spots : Read here

What is the purpose of asbestos? 

Asbestos is used Even though asbestos was and is still in the process of being removed from building projects due to its toxicity, it does serve some purposes because of its strong resistance to chemicals, electricity, and fire. This includes:

  • Using asbestos throughout the manufacture of floors and tiles. 
  • Blending it further to use as both a floor bonding agent and a wall plaster. 
  • Most common usage, 9 x 9 floor tiles, because of the convenience.

What are the precautions taken regarding asbestos? 

If not used correctly, it can become a lethal chemical with severe consequences for the human body. There is no properly established way to dispose of these fibers after having already been exposed to them.

For this very reason, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have regulatory guidelines in place to ensure that asbestos is being used suitably. 

If you are considering a renovation project in an old or abandoned residential building, consult with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified contractor first to decide if it contains asbestos or not, and remove it if found.

Aside from that, you can work with your contractor to develop a dust control plan to reduce your risk of airborne exposure of asbestos fibers. 

The dust control strategy could include: 

  • Tenting or sheeting the entire house with hazardous chemicals or materials
  • Sealing or ventilating the affected areas of your renovation project.
  • Removing or covering all furniture from the interior of the home.

Is drywall joint compound dust dangerous?

Inhaling dust from drywall joint compounds can lead to chronic airway and throat irritation, coughing, discomfort, phlegm production, and respiratory issues like asthma. Smokers and workers with nasal congestion or breathing constraints could face much more serious health issues.

Tiny quantities of drywall dust are not poisonous to human bodies and will not cause any long-term health problems. However, since most normally found drywall joint compounds are composed of the chemical gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate), it will certainly irritate areas of the body, such as the eyes and the throat. 

What are the various health risks associated with drywall dust?

In the year 1999, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) concluded that:

Drywall sanders have always been subjected to up to ten times the OSHA’s (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) PEL (permissible exposure limit) of 15 mg/m3 for total dust.

The OSHA PEL for inhalable dust (5 mg/m3), which consists of very tiny particles which can enter the lungs, was also outperformed.

The inhalation of drywall dust can produce rapid uneasiness. The following are the most common drywall dust symptoms: 

  • Irritation of the nose, throat, or lungs
  • Choking
  • Silicosis

If an individual experiences any of the above symptoms after being exposed to drywall dust, they must be moved to an area with a fresh environment. In case the symptoms persist, the individual must seek immediate medical attention and be examined for more chronic diseases like asthma, lung cancer, silicosis, etc. 

Is silica present in drywall mud?

Silica can be found in two forms: crystalline or noncrystalline. Crystalline silica can be found in asphalt, glass, spackle, topsoil, and other substances and building products like brick, concrete, and mortar, as well as drywall mud. 

What would be the most widely known silica type?

The most obvious type of silica is quartz, and the word quartz is frequently used instead of the more broadly used term crystalline silica (NIOSH, 2002).

Is silica present in plaster?

Yes, silica is present in plaster. Aside from that, plaster and plaster dust could very well constitute hazardous substances such as asbestos, lead from lead paint coatings, and, on rare occasions, mold spores.

Where does silica come from?

Crystalline silica is an important organic substance found in stone, soil, and sand. It can also be found in concrete, brick, mortar, and other building components. There are several types of crystalline silica, the most common of which is quartz.

Can silica dust be removed by the lungs?

Exposure to large amounts of fine crystalline silica particles is harmful to one’s health as it can result in a range of chronic illnesses. The majority of these diseases result in respiratory problems. The lungs do try to eliminate some of the dust we inhale. It does this in two ways. coughing and bringing up phlegm. 

Is silicosis caused by all sorts of silica exposure?

The majority of people develop silicosis as a result of occupational exposure to silica dust. Jobs in industries like mining, construction, dentistry, oil and gas extraction, etc. could put you at risk. 

Is gypsum carcinogenic?

Yes, Gypsum is definitely cancerous or carcinogenic. It is used to make drywall, drywall compounds, cement, concrete, and concrete products. 

  • GHS-US Hazard Statements: Inhalation of H350 has the potential to cause cancer. 
  • H372: Long-term or constant exposure induces organ failure by inhaling through the lungs, respiratory system, and kidneys.

2 thoughts on “Does Spackle Cause Cancer? ”

  1. I’m very happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the accidental misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this best doc.

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