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How Dangerous to Your Health Is Drywall Dust?

Drywall dust can contain harmful chemicals and particles that can lead to serious health complications.

Construction workers are exposed to several hazards on the job, but one of the most common ones is drywall dust. This dust can contain harmful chemicals and particles that can lead to serious health complications. Let’s discuss the dangers of drywall dust and safety practices that construction workers can use to protect themselves.

st. louis worker hanging drywall

Is Drywall Dust Toxic?

Drywall installation and renovation projects expose workers to substantial amounts of dust, which is a byproduct of sanding and cutting drywall panels. Workers should understand the components of drywall dust and the potential health risks associated with exposure.

Components of Drywall Dust

Drywall, primarily made from gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate), also contains a variety of other substances, depending on its manufacturing process and intended use. Some types of drywall and joint compounds may include silica, talc, mica, and other additives that enhance performance but can pose health risks when inhaled.

Health Risks Associated with Drywall Dust

The inhalation of drywall dust can lead to several health issues, prominently affecting the respiratory system. Prolonged exposure to gypsum dust may cause irritation of the throat and lungs, leading to coughing and shortness of breath. More concerning is the presence of silica in some drywall compounds, which can cause silicosis, a serious lung disease, when inhaled over time.

Workers may also experience eye irritation when dust contacts the mucous membranes, leading to redness and soreness. Skin exposure can result in dryness, itching, and dermatitis, particularly if the skin is exposed repeatedly or for extended periods.

Safety Measures to Mitigate Exposure

To protect against the hazards of drywall dust, workers should adhere to several safety practices:

  • Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): It is crucial to wear masks or respirators approved for dust suppression, as well as goggles and gloves.
  • Ventilation and Dust Extraction: Employing ventilation systems or using portable dust extractors can significantly reduce airborne dust particles.
  • Wet Sanding Techniques: When feasible, using wet sanding methods can help minimize the generation of airborne dust.
  • Regular Cleaning: Frequent vacuuming with HEPA filters can prevent dust accumulation in the work area.

Understanding and implementing these safety measures can help protect construction workers from the potentially toxic effects of drywall dust, promoting a safer work environment.

Respiratory Problems

The most serious danger posed by drywall dust is its potential to cause respiratory problems. The dust can contain harmful irritants that can irritate the lungs and lead to respiratory infections, asthma, and other lung complications. Wearing a respirator when working with drywall can help prevent these hazards. 

Skin Irritation

Another danger posed by drywall dust is its potential to cause skin irritation. The dust can contain harmful chemicals that can cause skin allergies, redness, itchiness, rashes, etc. As such, construction workers should always wear gloves and other protective clothing when working with drywall dust.

Eye Irritation

Drywall dust can also cause eye irritation, which can lead to serious health issues such as eye allergies, conjunctivitis, etc. To protect yourself from these dangers, wear safety goggles or a face shield when working with drywall.

Fire Hazards

Drywalls can also contain harmful ingredients that can easily ignite and result in a fire. Construction workers should always take steps to prevent fires, such as avoiding smoking/using open flames around drywalls and keeping flammable materials away from the work area.

Chemical Burns

Contaminated or substandard drywalls can also emit toxic elements that can cause chemical burns. The best way to protect yourself from this hazard is to avoid contact with the dust and use protective gloves and clothing.

6 Safety Tips for Employees Who Handle Drywall

Be Extra Careful When Lifting Heavy Sheets of Drywall

Drywall is very heavy. Therefore, you should be careful when lifting it. Make sure you use proper lifting techniques, that is, using your legs, not your back. Better yet, get help from someone else when lifting heavy sheets.

Lift One Layer of Drywall Sheet at a Time

You may be pressed for time or want to complete the job as quickly as possible, but it is very important to take your time when working with drywall. Lifting more than one sheet at a time can strain your body and increase the chance of injury.

Don’t Install Drywall by Hand

One of the most common mistakes people make is trying to install drywall by hand. This is extremely dangerous as it increases the risk of falling and injuring yourself. Instead, use a lift or some other type of machinery to install the drywall.

Wear a Dust Mask When Sanding Drywall

Again, the dust from drywall can be very harmful to your health. You should always wear a dust mask when sanding it down. And it’s not just your lungs that you need to worry about. The dust can also get into your eyes and cause irritation.

Wash Your Hands and Clothes After Working with Drywall

Even if you wear a dust mask, some particles will still end up on your skin and clothing. That is why it is important to wash your hands and clothes after working with drywall. This will help remove any harmful particles that may be on your body.

Take Breaks Often

Working with drywall can be taxing on your body. That is why you should take breaks often. A break from all the lifting and sanding will help your body recover and reduce the chance of injury.

Were You Injured While Installing or Working With Drywall? 

If you have been injured on the job as a construction worker, you may be entitled to workers’ comp benefits.

To ensure you get the benefits you legally deserve, it’s highly recommended that you work closely with a St. Louis workers’ compensation attorney. An experienced attorney can help you file your claim, navigate the complex workers’ comp system and help collect the evidence you need to prove your claim has merit.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Attorney

At the Law Office of James M. Hoffmann, we have years of experience helping injured construction workers throughout Missouri get the benefits they deserve. Give us a call 24/7 for a free case evaluation.

Speak With a Workers Comp Attorney

Give us a call 24/7 for a FREE Case Evaluation

Call (314) 361-4300