Taping compounds are used to create the seamless wall effect when drywall is used. Walls were made of plaster before the invention of drywall and making that type of wall was very time consuming. Finished walls could be completed in half the time using drywall. Drywall is also known as gypsum board and sheetrock. As its name implies, it is a layer of gypsum that is surrounded on both sides by sheets of heavy-duty paper. When it was invented in 1916, it caught on quickly in the construction industry because it was easy to work with and durable.
Sheets of sheetrock were easily nailed to the wooden frames of walls. This created a new niche for specially trained workers called “drywall tapers.” The seams where the sheets of drywall came together had to be taped over and then covered with taping compound. When it was dry, the taping compound was sanded to make it smooth.
This process began during the period in which asbestos was used in so many construction products, including sheetrock and taping compounds. The drywall taping compound was one of the most dangerous of these. It started as a dry mixture containing asbestos, which the drywall tapers had to mix causing asbestos fibers to rise into the air where they could be inhaled. Workers were exposed again when they sanded the dry compound, raising their risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.