Up until the late 1970s and early 1980s, nearly all UK construction industry products contained asbestos. Most prevalent use was in the assembling of interior drywall – which contained a layer of gypsum and other materials, including asbestos – which could be easily and quickly nailed onto wall studs to give a smooth surface for skim plaster finishing.

However, seams would show where the sheets of drywall met, as well as depressions where the nails were driven into the studs. A drywall tape would be applied with taping compound over the seams and nail heads, followed by sanding the surface to a smooth finish.

The widespread lack of asbestos awareness or withholding of information by company employers meant that many workers, including builders, just did not know that the material they were working with would eventually kill them some 15-40 years later. This included drywall tape and compound as both, like the vast majority of products they were exposed to every day, contained deadly asbestos fibres.

The long period of gestation from first inhaling the fibres into the lung cavities meant that when the delayed asbestosis symptoms or first signs of mesothelioma cancer would appear, often only a few months were left to live. The subsequent responsibilities of pursuing a mesothelioma claim with former employers or insurers would be left in the hands of the family and asbestosis lawyer.

It seems that from the time when drywall board was invented in 1916 and right through most of the 20th century, drywall tape was exposed to high levels of asbestos dust in the workplace from a variety of sources.

Amongst the many material sources and working processes responsible was mixing drywall compound and taping compound, which actually contained powdered asbestos and the cutting and applying of asbestos treated tape to drywall seams. In addition, the sanding and cutting of asbestos containing products released asbestos dust into the air to be breathed in by builders and contract workers in close vicinity of each other whilst drywall was being cut, sanded and fitted to the walls.

Amongst the various asbestos containing building products that would have posed an asbestos exposure risk to builders applying drywall tape are: sheetrock, gypsum board, drywall, asbestos plaster, taping compound, drywall tape.