Asbestos is a hazardous material that has been used since the 20th century. A lot of people are still exposed to the substance even though its side effects are publicly known and its use is discouraged. It is very important for workers who are being exposed to this dangerous material to know the necessary precautions needed to prevent direct exposure. Construction workers are at a particular risk for exposure, asbestos being a very common additive to construction materials to increase their strength and resistance to fire.

Plasterers are construction workers who, as the name suggests, work with plaster, either for functional or decorative purposes. Their duties include not only mixing and applying the plaster, but also sanding and polishing it. In addition to surfacing, plaster may be used to create decorative moldings on ceilings or walls or scratched into to create a type of decoration called sgraffito. The plaster may be used indoors or outdoors, for such applications as stucco work and roughcasting.

Asbestos and Plastering

During the mid-twentieth century, plaster was made using a great proportion of asbestos and its use was mostly for residential construction purposes. Times have changed and asbestos is no longer used in the composition of plaster, but the risk to asbestos exposure is there when workers are involved in renovations of old construction sites. Most states have worked on the problem and have formulated regulations for removing products that contain asbestos, but those regulations are usually not imposed or followed in residential homes.

The purpose of adding asbestos to plasters was to improve its durability, stability and resistance to fire. There was also a trend of using plaster for decoration of walls and ceilings, which also proved to be a great amount of asbestos exposure for the plasterer. Not all plasters used asbestos; some also used asbestos-like substances, such as Monokote or Zonolite, which were equally harmful. Sanding of the plaster is especially dangerous, since it creates dust that is easily inhaled, allowing asbestos fibers to get into the lungs. Plasterers come in the exposure range not only while laying plaster on the surfaces of ceilings or walls, but may have also come into contact with asbestos within boards made of cement, insulation or even adhesives using asbestos.

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