Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of a rare cancer called mesothelioma. Before 1980 asbestos was widely used in a number of industries like construction, manufacturing, and shipbuilding. Because of this millions of people have been exposed to asbestos. Many have died from mesothelioma and many others are experiencing the serious side effects of asbestos. An industry that was particularly hard hit by the hazards of asbestos was homebuilding and woodworking. Commonly used wood fiber plaster was often made using asbestos.
Even after that dangers of asbestos became know, contractors continued to use asbestos-containing plasters for woodworking applications because they were cheap and fire-resistant. During the years of heavy asbestos use, these wood fiber plasters were made with gypsum, wood fibers, and asbestos. This combination made it thick so that it covered the surface easily. It was also strong and long lasting. Wood fiber plaster is not as dangerous after it has dried as it was when it was being applied.
Those at most risk are the people who worked in woodworking at the time and applied the wood fiber plastic. However, the plaster is also dangerous when it becomes damaged or worn with age. When this happens, the product can create asbestos-containing dust that can easily be inhaled, where it can cause serious respiratory problems.