The main use for spackling compounds is to repair and patch holes in plaster walls and ceilings. During the 50 years between 1930 and 1980 high levels of asbestos were used in making spackling compound. Anyone who lives or works in a home or building built during these years may be at risk for exposure to asbestos dust if the spackling compound deteriorates or if the structure is undergoing renovation or remodeling.
Spackling compound was used in heavier amounts as a decorative coat for ceilings and walls during this time as well. When used for large jobs like this, it was mixed on site, causing the workers to be exposed to the powdery asbestos. Later, workers who sanded down the large plaster areas during remodeling projects were exposed to the dust and fibers.
However, as long as the spackling compound does not get damaged or deteriorate, the health hazard is minimal because the asbestos fibers cannot become airborne. But if the spackling compound is disturbed, it can create dust filled with the tiny fibers that are easy to inhale or swallow. This can lead to mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer.